Back when I was ordained to the Unitarian Universalist ministry, a large number of coworkers and friends who had no history with organized religion came to the ceremony.
I still remember my colleague in ministry, the Rev. Diane Rollert, addressing the crowd and saying, “I know many of you will be asking yourselves, ‘Why on earth would anyone pursue a call to ministry at a time when religious life in our culture is on the decline? Is Nicoline crazy?’”
Even now, it’s a decision I often get asked to explain.
One of the ways I answer is to say that ultimately, to me, life in religious community is for practicing how to pay attention to things that matter most.
The religions have always been counter-cultural, at heart. Their charge has been to say: ask yourself whether the values of the dominant culture are truly yours, and if not, turn away; concentrate your attention and your intention on all that makes you and others most fully alive.
Some of us in our UU movement come to church precisely with the wish to turn away from the world, so as to turn our attention toward that which matters most.
At the same time, there’s also an important strand within our tradition that urges us to do exactly the opposite: to engage with the world, and insist that the world itself not squander its many riches on things of no enduring value.
What brings UUs together, in the end, is a commitment to staying in conversation with life as it is, and life as it could be. For me this is holy work: work that the secular world engages in only partially; work I believe is deserving of a life’s worth of attention.
November is pledge season at the UUFP, and I know I’ll be paying close attention to what’s on your hearts as you mobilize to fund next year’s congregational budget. Over the years, I’ve come to understand that money, too, can be a powerful vehicle for focusing attention and extending the reach of our values. Paradoxically, it’s been life in religious community that has taught me this.
Crazy? Maybe. Or just crazily committed to serving alongside people like all of you here at the fellowship, people for whom the great potential of being here, together in religious community, still matters.
In love and service,
Rev. Nicoline looks forward to meeting you by appointment. To reach the minister: Cellphone, 518-565-6708, any day of the week. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org