As I write this message, Governor Kathy Hochul has announced a State of Emergency and a ban on westbound commercial travel along the New York Thruway from Rochester to the Pennsylvania line on Route 90.
Will the weather allow me to travel safely on Sunday, when we plan to welcome new members into our beloved faith community? I won’t know with any certainty until Sunday morning!
The disappointment I’d feel to miss welcoming new members helps me realize how much I’ve been anticipating it. For any minister, the ritual of welcoming new members, that takes a team to plan and implement, is something special and unique. For me, only our Baby and Child Dedication ceremonies can rival it.
Why do these rituals impact us so, eliciting these emotional responses? I believe it is because as humans, as social beings, we need to celebrate our connections with one another. Tangible events held in person, that symbolize our interconnection with others who share our faith, mark these rites of passage collectively. We stop; we pause. The pause, and the naming, the welcoming, and the celebrating all follow naturally from the day to day sharing, the care for one another, the worshipping together. All are part of it.
When we pause long enough to acknowledge the growth of our Beloved Community, we see tangibly the powerful, saving message of our faith tradition, Unitarian Universalism. Then we celebrate through ritual, through covenant spoken aloud, with song and prayer, that the congregation that gathers in northern Chautauqua County, near the shores of Lake Erie, in a concrete block building on a street called Temple, in the village of Fredonia—UUCNC—is a living, breathing entity that welcomes all of who we are, as it loves us into being all that we are called to be. May the month that says goodbye to autumn beckon the winter season forward, and allow us time to gather once again at the Solstice, the return of the light.
May it be so!