Beloveds, here we have re-gathered, both in person and virtually, both just as powerful! It is so good to be together. To gather in peace, to gather in thanks, to gather in hope, to gather in strength. To gather to celebrate once again! It is so good to see you all, to see all your beautiful faces, and to see people, lovely people here with me in the sanctuary. To know that there are children playing in the playground.
On March 13, 2020, we announced that due to the COVID pandemic, we would be closing our building and conducting Sunday service via zoom. That’s around 77 virtual worship services, and almost the same amount of Wednesday meditations, ongoing Board meetings, small group ministry virtual gatherings, with the gardeners taking care of our plants and trees every single Monday without fail.
And our SoUUlful Families Ministry thrived with Lorie Miller as Family Ministry Coordinator, producing over 100 videos and developing new art and science projects on a weekly basis keeping our families connected and our children engaged. Bethany Salway created the Starr King Youth Book Club which has been a huge success, and Mama Lily and I offered weekly story time for over a year to encourage our children and youth to share their love of reading. That’s how I met Pete the Cat, the Grumpy Monkey, Liana’s wolf pack, Olly’s Izzy, Mireya and Nayela’s Mocha & Oso, and laughed out loud with the book Monster’s new undies. We’ve baked pan de muertos and remembered our loved ones, met Barky and Beverly, our youth created entire services dedicated to the trees and to celebrate pride, we’ve celebrated mothers, fathers, and all kinds of families, including our furry and four legged ones.
We managed to celebrate Easter, Christmas and Pride virtually thanks to our dedicated volunteers Lea and Lavon who delivered goodie bags to everyone. We learned about Rosa Parks and Cesar Chavez, learned new songs with Linli, Mary Lou, and Liz, with Bob on the banjo and Ray on the guitar, we’ve learned about Mother Earth and how to be Water Protectors and are proud to be in solidarity with the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band as they fight to protect their sacred land of Juristac. We have honored our volunteers and expressed our deep gratitude for all who take care of this building, these grounds, and the people that make up this community. And we have invited guest speakers who have brought us important information and reaffirmed our commitment to social and climate justice. We have mourned the loss of Michelle Lovett Fink and Brian Johnson. And we have celebrated the birth of Austin Klausmeyer and William Henry Otermat. As part of our Canvass Campaign (the most successful ever!) we planted sunflower seeds and watched as they grew and delighted in their beauty as we affirmed “Deep Hope grows here!”
As we continue to plant seeds for the earth and for the spirit, we gather to remember and to give thanks. I’m grateful that throughout this pandemic we have remained connected as a caring and loving community. I’m grateful that I have never felt alone even when it was just my mother and I in this sanctuary for months and months. I am grateful for my mother, for her faith, her prayers, and her presence in this sanctuary every Sunday lighting the candles. I’m grateful for our leadership and all our ministries that never stopped and in fact are thriving: Family Ministry, Small Groups, worship committee, pastoral care, peace & justice, Wednesday meditation, the gardening/landscaping/buildings & grounds team, music with Linli, and yes, I will include the tech team and call it a Ministry because they have been such a blessing and instrumental in making sure we remain connected. I’m grateful for all the ways we managed to show up for each other when we needed a caring presence. I’m grateful for this moment…for this breath…for each and every one of you…I hope you know how much I appreciate you…how much I love you…how present you and your loved ones are in my prayers…
We have been journeying in uncharted territory, with so much uncertainty, anxiety, fear, and yet, holding on to hope, holding on to what is life giving, holding on to love. When the days and the weeks seem to blur into each other, when the number of hospitalized people is again on the rise, when a new variant erodes the little sense of security we had managed to feel, when the health of the most vulnerable is turned into a political game… How do we return to that well of tranquility, to our source of strength, to the healing waters, to our deeply rooted hope?
We can begin here, together in community, whether in person or via zoom. Let us rededicate ourselves to our common goal of building the Beloved Community, and let us recognize this sanctuary as a sacred space where we are encouraged to bring our whole selves, our authentic selves. Please join me in this rededication affirmation:
We are Unitarian Universalists with minds that think, hearts that love, and hands that are ready to serve. Together we care for our earth, and work for friendship and peace in our world. Today, We the members and friends of Starr King congregation, rededicate ourselves to our mission and vision and express our gratitude for everyone’s continued support of our community, especially during this pandemic. We covenant to do what is within our power so that we may grow in faith, compassion, and gratitude. Together, may we continue to make this community a beacon of hope and a sanctuary for all who seek freedom from dogma and injustice.
This sanctuary has been witness to the joys and sorrows of this community for decades. And although we know that the church is the people, we also recognize this building as sacred space. As such, we rededicate it to continue being a safe harbor in turbulent times, and a place of rejoicing to celebrate all of life’s blessings.
Amen, Ashe, and Blessed Be!