Sermons & Other Thoughts from Rev. Brian Chenowith

Tag: disconnection

The United States of Otherness

Our reading this Sunday came to us from the African American poet and Unitarian Universalist, Adam Lawrence Dyer, from his poem, “We are Jazz.”

I’m not much of a neighborly person. I know it’s a terrible thing to admit. You’ll see me about to step outside only to wait until people go away, keep my interactions to a short nod and smile, and assume the most suspicious plots when a neighbor strikes up a conversation.

I don’t think I have anyone to blame but myself for this behavior. But I did grow up in a rather gossipy neighborhood and I never liked that. On top of it I had a family that was always contrasting ourselves with people that were not “us” – people that were the other. I was reminded constantly of that belief and raised to be wary of anyone that was the other.

Set aside the racist subtext of this upbringing, it was a rather isolated view of the world. Fast forward to present day, we are now a year and a few months in our new home here in Lexington and I still carry some of that same attitude about neighbors – at least the part of being suspicious of them at all times. Read the rest of this entry »

Are You Invited?

Our reading today is adapted from the words of Kenneth Untener, the former Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of Saginaw, Michigan.

It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view. The Beloved Community is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision. We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is work we are called to. Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying that the Beloved Community always lies beyond us.

No statement says all that could be said. No covenant fully expresses our faith. No confession brings perfection. No pastoral visit brings wholeness. No program accomplishes the congregation’s mission. No set of goals and objectives includes everything. It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way…. We may never see the end results…. We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own.

This is what we are about. We plant the seeds that one day will grow. We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise. We lay foundations that will need further development. We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities. We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.

One of the things I loved most about living in New England for a year is that it became immediately clear that Massachusetts was a place that prized its history. It held dear its many stories, it cherished the artifacts of the past, it saw itself as a cradle of American history, and of particular note to me, it treasured the conflicts and disputes of the past as well.

It was often joked at the church in Concord that while the church itself was over 375 years old, it’s conflicts did not need to last that long. It certainly felt like some of them did. I do not share this as if it was a bad thing — it was all charming, it was all part of my personal and ministerial growth, and while I am a lifelong Chicagoan —

I know that a part of my heart carried away some New England Yankee. Having only lived there a year, I feel that it was never truly home, but its uniqueness and the many stories I was witness to will be with me for some time. Many of those stories are things we still deal with in some way today. Read the rest of this entry »