Grow in Wonder, Connect in Love, Engage in Service, Inspire Generosity
By Alan Sheeler
This reflection was read aloud by its author from UUFP’s pulpit on Sunday, March 10, 2019.
I believe the elements of our mission statement identifies qualities most of us already possess, and therefore, help to focus our path into the future.
Here at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Peninsula (UUFP), I am your past—just about everything—past finance chair, past canvas leader, past long-term planning chair, past treasurer, and past president (five or six times). I am currently finance co-chair, the piano tuner, and one of the grounds crew. So, let's put that “engage in service” thing to bed right now.
And “inspire generosity”? As finance chair I've given a couple of pleas that brought tears to my eyes, and some of you may have cried too (albeit maybe for a different reason).
I know. The question is why have I done all of those things. The answer is not just my stock response that Michelle was nominating committee chair. I could have just said, “No thanks, Hon, I'm too busy.”
The real answer is in here, in the heart.
Forty years ago I became a Unitarian Universalist (UU). About 45 years ago, I became a backpacker. Many of my initial outings were on the Appalachian Trail. Although you could, and still can, walk the trail for free, I joined the Appalachian Trail Conference (ATC) to help support something I valued, the Trail. At some point, I had the opportunity to purchase a lifetime membership for $200. Although I knew I would be a lifetime member, I did not take the offer for two reasons. First, I wanted to continually support the trail, and second, $200 wasn't in the budget of a second year teacher.
I believe it was good old Pennsylvania, middle class work ethic, practiced and taught by my parents and their parents before them, that was the reason behind my actions. That ethic has been magnified by my becoming a UU and is now written in the mission statement of the UUFP.
Fast forward to now. I've probably paid in the vicinity of $2,000 dues to the ATC. Some would say that I've wasted $1,800. Some would say I've wasted $2,000. I, however, feel that I've done my part, helped support that footpath, and I've helped to make it what it is today.
Now, a different type of path, not a footpath but a path through life . . . a way of living. I harbor the same attitude toward this path as toward the Appalachian Trail. I became a UU in 1979. I signed the book in Wilmington, Delaware, and I have been an active UU ever since. Michelle and I signed the book here in 1999.
Though we here at the UUFP are a very diverse group, at this moment, in this place, we share the same path through existence. Not that we all came from the same place, not that we’ll necessarily continue from here as a unit, not that we share any dogma, but at this instant, our paths have come together . . . here.
So at this instant you can look back on the path you have taken, the route that brought you here. And you can look forward. Perhaps your future is becoming defined, and you can look around.
Some of those you see will use their time with this community as a stepping stone to their future. Some will refresh here and continue their journey. Some will stay for a while, and then move on. Some will stay.
I feel this time, this place, this community is an important part of my journey in life. I suggest, maybe it is for you too. We have this opportunity because people, like Richard Hudgins, came together and shared a similar moment some years back. They had the foresight to create the UUFP. They formed a society strong enough to endure to this day.
I submit that we owe future UU's and society the same opportunity. This is the challenge going forward.
In closing, let me share the benediction of the late Rev. Dr. Robert Doss, minister emeritus of the First Unitarian Church of Wilmington—words that I've heard many times, by the way, as they constitute #700 in our Singing the Living Tradition hymnal.
“For all those who see God, may God go with you. For all who embrace life, may life return your affection. For all who seek a right path, may a way be found . . . and the courage to take it, step by step.”