Sometimes the Universe aligns matters in a way that unavoidably resonates with what is happening in our lives. That’s how I experience the fact that our Soul Matters liturgical theme for March is Vulnerability. I recently found myself standing before the assembled mourners at my mother’s memorial service remarking on her loyalty, steadfastness, and readiness to provide a safety net whenever one was needed. I concluded by saying that with her death I felt a little less secure and a little less sure of my place in the universe. In other words, her death made me feel vulnerable in a way that I hadn’t experienced in a very long time.
Feeling vulnerable, as real as that is, doesn’t mean that we are weak. Don’t get me wrong, on one hand everyone is always vulnerable to some things that are unpleasant, harmful, and eventually even deadly. But, on the other hand we are often stronger and more resilient than we realize. On Sunday, I brought an uncooked egg to the pulpit and discussed the apparent fragility of the shell that holds the precious nutrients that, when fertilized, becomes new life; and when not fertilized supports the life of the one eating it. It turns out that when an egg is standing on end, it can bear a 130 pound weight without breaking, even though it is only one hundredth of an inch thick. On Scholastic.com, children are told that “when you stand barefoot on a carton of eggs, your foot is big enough to spread the pressure of your weight around to all of the eggs, and their arched structure keeps them from breaking!” So, while the gooey inside of an egg is indeed vulnerable, the shell that protects it is not weak.
Four years ago, UUCJ suffered a one, two punch and it hurt. I continue to be impressed with how as a group you owned your story, even though it made you vulnerable to criticism and rejection. Brene Brown reminds us that “owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy – the experiences that make us the most vulnerable.”
By owning your story and embracing your vulnerability you have made way for congregational and individual healing. Through the work that you did with interim ministers you faced uncomfortable circumstances, took stock of what you needed, rallied human and material resources, and began looking forward. It will take time to rebuild. And, I am already seeing indications of new congregational life peeking out of its shell. New programs are being offered, new relationships are being created, and, as I said on Sunday, you are attracting new members – 10 since I began serving UUCJ and more to come before I leave. Yes, you remain vulnerable. But you are also held in a strong and resilient community that shows no indication of ever giving up on love and belonging and joy! That fact alone is worth remembering and celebrating.
Rev. Lee Anne