Sermons & Other Thoughts from Rev. Brian Chenowith

Tag: community

Something Surprising, Something Beautiful

Our reading for this morning was titled The Grout by Marcus Hartlief.

There is a great story about a church that was falling apart.  It comes to us from the Rev. Molly Phinney Baskette – a wonderful name for a minister.  And the story originates when she was serving First Church in Somerville, Massachusetts, a United Church of Christ congregation.  She begins the story very simply.

The church was a mess.  Membership was bleeding, the grounds, the very little bit of grounds they have mind you – were unkempt, the church was crammed with junk in every nook and cranny, no one took care of the church other than an overworked custodian, and it was dark, damp, in need of repairs, and not a place you’d want to be on Sunday morning.

No one put away the dishes in the kitchen – they expected the holy spirit to do it for them, tables were never put away, floors were never swept, the list went on and on.  Outside of this unending list of things that didn’t happen, one thing was clear, the people of First Church in Somerville either didn’t have pride in their church or they failed to remember that they were the church and, as a result, that it was theirs to take care of. Read the rest of this entry »

The Sound of One Voice

Our reading from this Sunday was titled “You Reading This, Be Ready,” by the poet William Stafford. This sermon also drew heavily on “10 Ways to Build Resilience” from the American Psychological Association.

I remember my first evening as a chaplain – it feels like it was a very long time ago.  There is no way I could ever forget it.  When you study to become a Unitarian Universalist minister, you are required to serve as a chaplain in a hospital for a semester, a summer, or sometimes even a year.

It is often a mix of emotional boot camp with the normal duties of a chaplain – visiting patients, talking with families and doctors and nurses, being there in times of great joy, and more often than not, being there in moments of complete and utter sadness. Trauma, despair, confusion, death, and the breadth of human sadness with bits of bittersweet mixed in.  The particular hospital I was serving at was the very same hospital I as born in, a fact that somehow terrified me even more in the work that waited me as I began my first overnight shift on the floor with my supervisor. As we left the chaplain’s office she said, “Let’s go hang out in the emergency room.  It hasn’t been too busy today.”  Famous last words.  Before I knew it it was nearly five in the morning. Read the rest of this entry »

Rise and Fall

My reading today comes to us from my Congregationalist colleague, Rev. Lillian Daniel, who serves in Glen Ellyn, Illinois.

The young women will dance for joy, and the men—old and young—will join in the celebration. I will turn their mourning into joy. I will comfort them and exchange their sorrow for rejoicing.”  So says the book of Jeremiah.

In my first year at Bryn Mawr College, one of the five Seven Sisters schools that remains single-sex, I could hardly believe how excited a bunch of jaded, sophisticated, feminist intellectuals got over dancing around a Maypole. But May Day was the highlight of the school year, celebrated the Sunday after classes ended.

The seniors woke the college president outside her home with songs, and then we were off to early class breakfasts and a parade full of medieval pageantry. Women who would never be seen in a dress suddenly appeared in white ones. Thus began an all day party that culminated in each class dancing around the Maypole, weaving the ribbons tighter around the pole as they ducked and weaved, collapsing at the middle, giddy and dizzy, from the circular athletics.

This holiday is associated with Roman, Celtic and Germanic festivals, all of which predate Christianity. When Europe was Christianized, many abandoned the holiday. Unlike some other pagan festivals, May Day did not get a Christian holiday dropped on top of it like a cherry on a sundae.

When my son was in the third grade, he came home as excited as could be with some big news. For a school assembly on dances from around the world, he had been chosen to dance around the Maypole. There on the hot tarmac of an urban public school playground, a diverse group of parents from all over the world watched a rainbow of children dance around the Maypole behind the basketball hoops.

The people on the sidewalk looked on in amusement at the scene. The children forgot all their instructions to skip daintily and merrily and instead tore around like bees in a beehive, laughing and shrieking. But remarkably the ribbons braided themselves beautifully around the pole. An ancient dance from another time wove us together across the ages.

Read the rest of this entry »