Cycles govern our lives: day and night; the seasons; closeness and distance in relationships and, in the context of our congregational lives, the liturgical or worship year. But cycles, as we experience them, are not just circles, but recurrently begin with moments of newness. That is the beauty, as I see it, of Jewish tradition of linking of Rosh Hashanah (New Year) with Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement). Between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the faithful seek repentance for their breaking bonds of love and connection with others and with the “Holy One”. It is interesting that the Hebrew word for repentance, teshuvah, literally means “return”, a return to the source of divine blessing and sustenance. I think that the deep metaphor of returning elevates us to focus on actively participating in our communal spiritual lives rather than sinking us into the despondency of passively focusing on our selves and how we have let others down. A fresh returning is a profound spiritual practice, one that both helps us explore the realm of novel spiritual experience, while, at the same time, returning to the safe familiarity of our community and our image of the divine.
We UUs also have our liturgical rhythms beginning in September with our water ceremony. The act of bringing water together collected with intention from everyone in a particular congregation stands out as a rich symbol of our identity as Unitarian-Universalists. I am thrilled that I am joining you at Starr King UU Church as your intern minister, a couple of weeks before this keynote service. For me, the timing of this entry also couples newness with return. I am commencing a new vocational life and identity shifting away from my job over the past thirty years as a psychiatrist and a professor, but returning to an active vision of the spiritual life that I have yearned for since a child.
As a half-time intern, I will be sharing two years with you and, thus, two cycles of water communion. I am eager to learn about you and from you during my first year and to come back, for the second cycle, with a deeper understanding of the Starr King UU community.