Tuesday, September 16, 2008

testimonial time

I was asked to do a testimonial for the service this Sunday. I don't want to 'waste' any UU writing so here it is:

Why do I come to Eastrose? What do I 'get' from Eastrose?

The simple answer is that I like church. I like being involved in an institution that is about community, about values, about caring, even sometimes about the mysteries of our existence on earth.

It is an extra institution in all of our lives. Everything else we do has an easy utilitarian explanation. We work for money and identity. We marry and socialize with our families for love, protection, and nurture. We have friends for entertainment and out of affection. We even join organizations, like my kayak club, for entertainment. While these all make sense from a utilitarian point of view, church doesn't.

Being involved with Eastrose connects me to the world and mystery through public worship with a community. For me the community creates meaning. Unitarian Universalists, you and I, all of us together, we create meaning here in our little fellowship. We say, by sharing our lives, that human life is important.

Our human lives are important and complicated. Sometimes sad, sometimes filled with joy. All of it, the births, deaths, marriages, defeats and joys is intensified by sharing. Even the most pragmatic, prosaic person cannot explain the pain and joy of being human. We make meaning out of that experience by gathering here.

Well that is all very high falutin! but true. When I think about why I am at Eastrose that IS the reason. I am also a logical sort of person and If I believe something is important I support it. Because of that Michael and I give generously to Eastrose. Because of that I find myself putting together the budget for Eastrose last year and this year, even though financial matters don't interest me much.

Generosity is the theme, topic, consuming passion of the canvass this year. Generosity too is one of those extras that show up in human culture. Why church? Why generosity? They are both about meaning. Giving yourself to something in an open ungrudging way gives it meaning. Generosity is a choice you make about what is important in your life. As part of the canvass I've been almost forced to think about generosity and I've decided that this year I am going to try and do all my giving to Eastrose in a generous spirit. That means money giving, that means putting on the Strategic Planning meetings, that means putting together the budget in a generous spirit. It should be an interesting year.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Emotion breaks out

My parents took my sibs, my in-laws and me on a cruise to Alaska. It was a preemptive move of generosity. They were celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary and I guess they didn't want to do a reception. Didn't want it real bad!

We had fun of course. I knew we would -- a bunch of middle-aged people with a shared wit and one older couple looking on and joining in. But I was a bit leery too. My family is allergic to emotion and the whole idea of 60 years together is dripping with emotion. Celebrating a good marriage is an emotional thing especially when you are looking at its end.

My parents are finally old. They weren't old at 60, or very much at 70 but now at 80 they are old. They don't walk as well, they don't even think as well. I could see the change on this cruise and it was hard for this middle-aged lady to see.

They have been the kind of steady, capable people we all relied on. Sure, we are independent with our own homes and families but when you needed a hand it was always there. And never with an "I told you so", always gladly.

Still the cruise seemed like a huge distraction. Don't think, don't feel, enjoy, make a joke.

I don't always want to live out the family mythos, even as benign as it is.

Therefore, I was glad emotion broke out on fore deck 12, in the Port room on Thursday at 2:00pm on their actual anniversary. We had reserved the room and gathered the family. NCL wanted to know if we wanted cake and balloons. No, we said, we have eaten enough. We did buy a bottle of champagne. While we drank the champagne we read poems of our own creation. They were all different. One came from my sister in-law about the impact Joan and Dave's easy, loving marriage had had on her when she was a girl and first met my mother. Her parents were not like that. We started to leak. We turned away so we could finish our awkwardly rhymed sentences. We knew we loved each other. We knew we loved these old people who were our parents.

Brother David brought out his guitar and we sang "What a wonderful world." It was a perfect moment, if not a perfect chorus.