September – From the Minister

On the day of the eclipse I was in an airport. We were not near “the path of totality, ” but people were excited anyway, pressed to the plate glass windows, squinting their eyes and snapping pictures, sharing news from friends across the country and arguing adamant armchairastronomy with strangers. Little kids clutched snack-box pinhole cameras and grandparents traded memories of past eclipses, where exactly they were standing in 1970 and what it felt like when the world went dark at noon.

Under one sky, headed for a thousand different destinations, for a couple of hours we were all caught up together in something moving and mysterious, something larger than ourselves, rare and wondrous, beyond our control and thrilling, and fun. On board the plane, we all disobeyed the recorded request to close our window shades before take-off, so eager to experience the simplest miracle, as the bright sunny sky turned just a little cloudy. Everyone cheered—along with just about everyone in the whole country— except my seatmate, who reached across and snapped our shade down in exasperation. “This thing is SO overrated, ” he harrumphed. “Who even cares? ” he said, as he turned on the movie and his headphones.

There are many imperfect, approximate ways to describe the religious life, and in particular the way we do religion, practice faith, grow the soul, at White Bear UU Church. Seated thigh to thigh high in the air with my jaded companion, I recalled one thing for sure: that however disparate our beliefs here, however various our spiritual journeys and conclusions, we are adamant a little reverence—in fact we yearn toward it, thirst for it, welcome it with outstretched arms. We’ll take beauty, mystery, awe, amazement over cynicism any day, even when we’re not in the direct path of perfection. Curiosity about our world and one another is a sacrament for us, and the kind of holy truth that we love best is the kind that opens ever to more questions—the very kind that has enchanted scientists and mystics, poets, philosophers and little kids, since the first humans scanned the skies for signs of what it means to be alive.

The great wheel turns, and the season brings us home again to fall and one another, to our beloved church community. Here on the ground, beneath the sun and moon, the hard and holy work awaits: to grow our souls in wonder and humility, to serve the world with generosity and courage, to deepen our compassion. This is the gate at which we check the heavy baggage of numbing cynicism; we search the luggage of our lives for excessive privilege and arrogance, taking care to carry what we carry wide-awake; we stretch our moral muscles and deepen the prayerful practices that steady us through all kinds of scary turbulence, adjusting our own masks that we might help each other also. We breathe deep, with mindful gratitude, the breath of life.

As ever, I am honored to be traveling this journey with you.

-Rev. Victoria Safford