Freeing Forgiveness – Exploring October’s Theme

forgive-everyone-everything“What does it mean to be a people of Forgiveness?”

As a child, growing up Catholic, my sense was that we should give away forgiveness like candy at Halloween: freely and readily, to anyone who comes asking.  As an adult Unitarian Universalist, however, I have realized that forgiveness is a lot more complicated and challenging than that image would imply.

What should we ask of those who have hurt us before we offer forgiveness – if anything? Must someone seek your forgiveness in order for you to forgive them? What if they can’t or won’t? What about self-forgiveness? Is there a point where something or someone is beyond forgiveness? What about forgiveness of a group, community, or institution? …Or life itself?

Forgiveness is connected to memory and time.  It asks us to engage our feelings about something in the past in order to change our experience in the present, and move into the future.  Forgiveness is an act of vulnerability – both from the one seeking forgiveness and the one offering it – as it reveals the risks of trying to love in an imperfect world.

In September, we have been asking “What does it mean to be a people of Invitation?” Inviting requires we make space in our lives and in our hearts – create a clearing, open our hands, and let life move freely in, and out – as it is all a gift.  And living with open hands and an open heart requires we become a people of forgiveness.

Since forgiveness is not as simple as candy on Halloween, we will offer many opportunities this month for reflection, practice and exploration of October’s monthly theme, forgiveness. This Sunday, October 4th, we will begin with a multi-sensory worship experience exploring forgiveness.  After service, we will offer a workshop on the theme from 12:30-1:30.  I will be leading Forgiveness Practice Circles on Tuesdays in October at 6 pm – come to one or all of these to literally practice forgiving – whatever or whomever needs forgiveness in your life.  Our popular evening vespers (contemplative) services return October 15th at 6 pm where we will be exploring forgiveness through song, meditation and ritual.  And finally, I want to encourage you to join our new small group that will delve deeper into the Sunday sermons and the theme, which kicks off Sunday the 18th, although after this month will run every 2nd and 4th Sunday at 12:30. You can “drop in” to experience these sermon-based reflection circles, though our recommendation is you attend at least 6 throughout the year to strengthen the experience for everyone.

It will be a rich month, and I look forward to exploring all of this and more with you.  – Gretchen

Beginning to Begin

What does it mean to be a people of invitation? 
It’s September! The weather is already shifting and the colors are beginning to turn.  School is back in session, and as of this past Sunday, our new church year has officially begun.  It is a time of many new beginnings.
As a part of the new year, we are returning to our monthly theme-based ministry, this time using the Soul Matters Sharing Circle themes, which are being used by over 120 other Unitarian Universalist congregations.  Find out more about Soul Matters here.
For September, the theme is invitation, with our grounding question: “what does it mean to be a people of invitation?”
Last Sunday, you may have spent time with one or more of our Reflection Stations in the Remembrance Garden (these stations will stay out all month, and I encourage you to spend some time walking and reflecting there in the quiet of that space).   One of the reflections there asked us to consider the poem, “Beginning to Begin” by Gunilla Norris, and then to ask ourselves what in our lives is “beginning to begin.”
As we move into this new church year, and new school year, this new season, let us ask ourselves this question: What is the invitation our lives are making to us now? What is beginning to begin? And, what space would you need to make so that this new beginning could have the room to take hold? What new clearing would you need to create in your life, in your heart?
Being a “people of invitation” means constantly making space and clearing the way for new arrivals.  It is not always easy work, and it can bring a mix of feelings of grief, and relief, and it can take time.  And so we take a deep breath, and be kind to ourselves, and keep trusting that, as Julian of Norwich said, “All will be well, all will be well, and all manner of things will be well.” 

In partnership,

Gretchen

Worship Themes 2015-2016

We are excited to be entering our 2nd year of theme-based ministry. This year, we have decided to join with a collaborative of many other UU Congregations (including all those in our immediate surrounding area) as a part of Soul Matters, a theme based learning circle, and will for the most part be following the shared themes of the collaborative.  This means we will get to share resources and ideas about how to implement the theme in religious exploration, through music, and in our small group settings.  Find out more about this collaboration at http://www.soulmatterssharingcircle.com.

Our Worship Themes for the coming year will be:

  • September: Invitation
  • October: Forgiveness
  • November: Grace
  • December: Expectation
  • January: Resistance
  • February: Desire
  • March: Liberation
  • April: Creation
  • May: Blessing
  • June: Simplicity

Do you have a favorite poem, book, or article that speaks to one of these themes? Do you have a personal story about your own reflections on one of the themes? Let me know (gretchen@foothillsuu.org) before the 15th of the prior month, and we may be able to incorporate your submission into our theme based programming and/or worship service during that month.

As with last year, we will be “kicking off” the theme on the first Sunday of the month, primarily through our worship where we will usually be sharing in an All-Church Sunday where all ages are together for at least the first portion of the service to explore a story related to the theme, and begin to share in questions and reflections.

We will also continue to hold a Theme-Based Workshop after the second service where we will go deeper into the theme for all who are interested, which is an especially useful time for religious exploration teachers and small group leaders to come and have some time to reflect on the the theme before teaching and leading it for others.

New this year, we are also beginning a small group focused on the theme as well as sermons as our texts.  This will begin in mid-October, and will meet twice a month through June.  Look for more information on all of this by mid-August with the release of our Adult Religious Exploration 2015-16 Catalogue.