Growing up in a UU household that was a bit “allergic” to a lot of traditional religious language, early in my ministry I didn’t like or use the word “blessing” much. It seemed to me to be one of those words that invested clergy with magic superpowers that we’d love to wield but simply don’t have. Over time, my attitude shifted and I’ve grown fond of the word, as is evident if you’ve heard me say at the end of services something like, “In the week ahead, may we be blessed… and may we be a blessing.” It’s shorthand for saying “May our eyes be opened to the good and beautiful and true things that fall unbidden into our paths or that often surround us even though we don’t pay attention… and may we somehow- through a mix of intent and luck and grace and just by being who we are- bring something positive and good and true into the world and the lives of others.”
I like what Marilynne Robinson says about blessing- that “It doesn’t enhance sacredness, but it acknowledges it.” Anyone can acknowledge sacredness- and can do so out loud! Thus, UUs say that we believe in the “priesthood of all believers”.
This month, we’re invited to “celebrate blessings”- to acknowledge with joy the sacred nature of our relationships, of the land and waters, of our animal companions, of the food that sustains us, of our bodies, etc.—all these different elements of our seemingly mundane, daily lives. One of the suggested spiritual exercises this month is to choose a blessing or two from your life and then meditate on or imagine what your life would be like without it. We’re invited to then articulate our thoughts somehow- to share them at dinner, journal, draw, or just tell your friend or kid or favorite tree that you’re glad they are in your life.
On Sunday, we’ll have some fun welcoming non-human creatures into the pews. We’ll acknowledge their sacredness as unique living beings and part of the interdependent web. Kids are invited to bring stuffed animals. If your pet or farm animal doesn’t travel well, you’re invited to bring a photo to bring up front or put on the windowsills. The same goes for pets who’ve died, especially in this past year… the ones who were a blessing, just be being who they were.
See you at the Meeting House (or on the Zoom screen),
P.S. I was happy to be asked to speak at the second annual PRIDE flag raising for the Town of North Andover last Thursday. I was also proud to share with the crowd that North Parish put out a PRIDE flag about 19 years ago- in 2003, I believe- when the Andover UU congregation was the only other congregation in town with one. Remember those days? Now you can see them outside a number of local houses of worship. Remember what Margaret Mead said? “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.” (#561, grey hymnal)