“Your new moons and your appointed festivals my soul hates; they have become a burden to me, I am weary of bearing them.” – Isaiah 1
God is to be sought and honored in every pursuit and not merely in something technically called religious.” – F. D. Maurice
As the person primarily responsible for worship at the White Meeting House, I think/worry about Isaiah’s proscription against worship as mere worship, as pursuits technically called religious, but having nothing to do with Isaiah’s and Jesus’ ultimate concern, the doing of good, the seeking after justice, the serving with compassion of the marginalized. I sometimes feel like a broken record, because, while I like to think about things like the divine dipolar nature, or the relativity the future and the permanence of the past, I am compelled by the wisdom and witness of the ancient sage made modern in the reading of the gospels, to preach about extravagant welcome and unearned love as the most important thing.
Sadly, one need not look far for stories: immigrant children dying in custody of ICE, the military tear-gassing Mexicans at the border, guns claiming the lives of 14,634 people in our country last year, racism tearing daily at the fabric of our society, an opioid epidemic taking 130 lives a day, poverty right here in our own town such that folks are living without running water because they have no heat to keep their pipes from freezing. It’s a complicated difficult world, and while our time in worship is meant to be restorative, it was never meant to be an escape from the realities of our world.
Because you know that, and because you have created a space where our worship tries to be more than navel gazing, we are a place of refuge, not only for the work-weary, but the work-hungry, not only the news-consumers, but the news makers. I can’t tell you how many times, people from all walks of life have said to me upon leaving the sanctuary, or in a follow up correspondence the next week, “Thank you for being a place where I feel/felt welcome, or where I could/did worship without fear.” Those comments raise the hair on the back of my neck and feed my soul.
And it is not just worship. The other night, upon leaving, someone was picking up her CSA food share. She took the time to thank me for our hosting Pete’s Greens. For her, I gathered, it was not just a transaction, but a place of welcome, even though, to my knowledge, she’s never worshipped in our sanctuary.
Yes, we all get weary of the year-in and year-out special efforts at balancing the budget through fund-raisers. But even those become and indeed are, opportunities for folks to rest a bit here, to feel the warm welcome we put out and the effort we make on their behalf. It is a gift, and like many gifts, it comes with a burden. May the blessings of the gift outweigh the burden we feel, that we may continue to be a beacon of hospitality and kindness, beauty and love to our community.
You are all to be thanked for helping make this place a light on a hill. To be specially called out for this thanks are the others on your church staff – our musicians, Mary Jane Austin and Erik Kroncke whose musical insights and high artistic standards and skills have given us so many awe-inspiring, sublime moments during worship. Worship is more than words, more than stories – it is the deep dive into the non-verbal soul. Sir Thomas More said it best and I try to remember it each week as I put a service of worship together, “When the imagination is allowed to move to deep places, the sacred is revealed.”
I am grateful to Tom Stevens for his continued efforts to provide a church school program that is neither too “churchy” nor to “schooly” but just the right experience for young souls longing to be taken seriously and longing to take our own “serious purpose” with the weight we do ourselves.
And of course, the administration of the church would be a shambles if it were up to me to do. Thankfully, Polly Sabin is on board to keep the ship in ship-shape and the day-to-day operations smooth. She handles the numerous requests to use the building, the maintains a schedule and keeps me to it and prints and folds, every Friday, a bulletin (often with the help of Susan McCracken – thank you Sue!).
Last but not least, our custodian, Bob Lucier keeps it all clean. And that’s becoming more and more of a job as the building is more and more heavily used.
Together we will continue to offer a place of sanctuary that is both rest and beauty, and challenge and inspiration. A place that takes as its prime directive, the great commandment to love one another, as I have loved you.”
Respectfully submitted with love and affection,
Rev. Peter Plagge