When we open the doors at FUUSM, we create a sacred space. We let people know they are welcome, that we value who they are, that they matter, that they will be supported on their personal journey. When I walked through the doors for the first time, a warm smile and a kind word acted as a flame that allowed me to light my single candle here.It was Jeff Stevens that first shined his light for me and now I try to reflect that back to others I see.
I don’t know if I’ve ever said “thank you” to Jeff for his first warm welcome, so I’ll take the opportunity to say it now – Thank you! Jeff’s act of kindness is what I call it a “soul ripple”. It’s when you encounter someone briefly, a friend or a stranger, and what they say or do in that moment stays with you for years – serves as a mental reference point, rippling throughout your life. The hallmark of a soul ripple is that the person who left this imprint on you, or cast the stone into the water, so to speak, has no idea that you still think about what they said or did that day. Whether an act of kindness or a turn of phrase that changed your state of mind, if you asked them about it, this person would have no recollection of that moment and would be completely stunned to know that it made a difference to you.
Raise your hand if you have been the recipient of a “soul ripple” – I see many of you share this experience. It’s amazing how this works, isn’t it? And though we don’t always have confirmation of it, each of us initiates these ripples here.
I want to share one of my own soul ripples with you. Fr. Hebert replaced the only parish priest I had ever known growing up. I really didn’t know what to make of him. Our former priest delivered a homily or sermon that would last about 25 minutes. Not long after his coming, I clocked one of Fr. Hebert’s homilies at 4 minutes flat. Everyone around me seemed stunned, but in that moment, it struck me that you could do a lot in a short space of time and that it only seemed short because it was not what I was accustomed to. Fr. Hebert didn’t spend as much time in the pulpit, but when he started making chicken dinners, people paid attention. Once he had them around a table, they started re-imagining what was possible. They renovated the church from top to bottom and opened a Montessori school in the building that was once occupied by the old St. George School. Best of all, congregants strengthened established friendships, made new connections, and reaffirmed their commitment to serving the community. The people of St. George Church helped me to see the value of community and instilled a fervent belief that a “small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world”.
The congregation here at First UU has demonstrated a strong commitment to serving the community and has a legacy of standing up and embracing those in need. What I witnessed at St. George is that when you take care of your home and make it strong, you are able to give even more to those outside your doors. Taking care of your own needs, as a faith community, and serving the needs of others, go hand in hand. I am inspired when I hear about families from Vietnam and Rwanda who were able to start new lives in the US because of the generosity and caring of this church. We come together now to sustain the work, share ideas, and ensure this church will contain our light for many years to come. The questions we ask, the dialogue that follows, and the decisions we arrive at over the next few weeks will set the course of the next chapter of our journey. More than ever, we need the doors of First UU open and our space to be welcoming to all who enter. I invite you to think deeply about the reasons you love our church and how you can participate in the “We love our Church” fund drive.
What I witness each time we come together in this place is a powerful light – a room filled with beautiful candles. The flame that lights each one of our candles here is the same that built this church and has been passed from person to person.
A place to belong, to give back, and to change the world, one act of kindness at a time. We are all on a quest to be the better versions of ourselves, but it’s the challenges that bring us there.