October – From the Minister

Some years ago, I joined Jill Schwendeman, our Youth Director, in guiding our 7th and 8th graders through a whirlwind tour of the bible. We met with them on Sunday afternoons, packing plenty of pizza to wander with them through the desert of the ancient world to see how these sacred stories speak to their lives as young Unitarian Universalists.

Jill, their teacher, gave them a beautiful gift in the first session: she translated the meaning of each of their names into ancient Hebrew, and spoke their names in that beautiful, strange language. She wrote each one out for them to copy from right to left on their name tags.

In the second session, she told them their names in ancient Greek, and again wrote out the elegant, unfamiliar letters. They were enchanted by this, to hear that Gavin may come from “Gabriel, ” which means “angel of God, ” or that Rachel means Ra’quel, or “ewe, ” the mother of lambs that give life to the people, or that Vada indicates “the gathering of great wisdom, ” or Erin, which means “peace” in Gaelic, the language of her ancestors, must translate to “shalom. ”

It was like giving them a blessing, this naming, reflecting back to them a bright glimmer of who they are, who we see when we look at them. It’s what all our work with youth and children tries to be about. It’s what all our work— yours and mine—tries to be about. Who tells you who you are? Your parents, your people, your mentors and friends, your spirit within, the Spirit of Life. I remember the first time that someone (now a young woman) called out in the night a word her mouth had never spoken and my ear had never heard— christening me with a beautiful and terrifying brand-new name: Mama. We are named by every covenant we choose to make and keep and honor.

As we enter October (which one member here calls “The Holy Month of October, ” because it is so jaw-droppingly beautiful in Minnesota, because it is the season when he comes most alive), our theme, Celebration: the practice of naming, feels right. We’ll hear the stories of recent immigrants and share foods from our own family traditions on Wednesday night, October 4; Annie Humphrey, Water Protector and powerful songwriter from Leech Lake, will bring the magic of her music in concert on October 7; with our feathered, finned and fourlegged companions, we’ll share The Blessing of the Animals and a potluck supper, on Sunday afternoon, October 8 (bring your dog, your cat, your horse, your chinchilla, and your friends!); and we’ll mark All Souls Day and All Saints, remembering lost loved ones, on Sunday morning, October 29. (For our common altar, please bring photos, mementoes, tangible tributes to those who have died.)

All of these gatherings, and other celebrations, too (the Auction on October 14, the Bazillions Concert and Halloween Ball on October 28, and Sunday mornings all month long) —all are celebrations, each one an opportunity to name and honor what we cherish, what we love, what we care about and share.