Years ago I asked a colleague where the culture of UU clergy vacating the pulpit and many churches essentially closing their doors in the summer came from. I was told that it came from New England when nearly entire congregations there left the heat and humidity of the cities to take up residence in cooler climates like Maine. But here is the clincher: they often took their minister with them! Now, there are many ideas of hell but one of them surely must be going on vacation with one’s minister. And vice versa.
How do we balance the call of summer with the invitation of long days and light to live in with keeping the flame of our chalice burning? What about the rejuvenating power of resting, taking space, resetting one’s life by vacating its patterns, and finding ways of renewing? What about the lesson I relearned last summer when my time away from congregation taught me that sometimes, for me to be present with and to them as their minister, I must go very far away from them?
I think the answer lies in the wise words of a parish nurse I knew. When a parishioner said to her that she had lost her faith, she replied, “Then I will hold your faith for you until you can find it again.” Isn’t that what we do for one another in beloved community: hold the faith for one another both in sorrow and in joy? Sometimes we hold the chalice flame and keep it burning and other times, someone else must hold it for us until we can return to it.
As we approach summer, let us enter it with a two-pronged awareness: it is a season of play, rest, and renewal as well as a season that knows no reprieve from human need. Let us take turns in this and every season of holding one another’s faith that the chalice flame may burn continuously bright.
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