Sermons & Other Thoughts from Rev. Brian Chenowith

Tag: evangelism

Let This Be Our Testimony

Our reading today comes to us from a traditional Inuit wisdom teaching, translated by Edward Field, titled “Magic Words.”

In the very earliest time,
when both people and animals lived on earth,
a person could become an animal if he wanted to and an animal
could become a human being.
Sometimes they were people
and sometimes animals
and there was no difference.
All spoke the same language.
That was the time when words were like magic.
The human mind had mysterious powers.
A word spoken by chance
might have strange consequences.
It would suddenly come alive
and what people wanted to happen could happen—
all you had to do was say it.
Nobody could explain this:
That’s the way it was.

My life before ministry was working in a library. It was a work that I enjoyed. It had a balance of order and mess, depth and lightheartedness — and it attracted many different types of people, both patrons of the library and employees. It was, looking back, like its own type of ministry.

The sermons were in the books, the congregation had plenty of visitors, people pledged money by way of taxes and fines — except there really was no choice in that one, and the clergy were the dispensers of books, the librarians and clerks. I loved the work. Perhaps one day long from now I will retire to it.

I worked with a rather diverse set of people — but what was interesting to me is that many of them were Unitarians. They went to the church I grew up in, they were mostly quiet about it, but it was wonderful to learn of their existence throughout the years. Every now and then, though, we would get someone on the staff that was of a fundamentalist opinion.
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Within These Walls

I always enjoyed walking around the city of Chicago in the winter. The long stretches of concrete and skyscrapers felt more imposing and present than in the summer months. If you could withstand the sudden gusts of wind that paid no mind to how many layers of clothing you were wearing — you were in for one astonishing walk.

Blue-greys reflected off every window, steam rose from the sidewalk vents and sewers, and the people were in even more of a rush than usual — forming tight clusters of wool jackets and puffy coats all headed onward to whatever their location. I especially enjoyed these walks in the most brutal of winter months — January.

In January I had regular classes in seminary and commuted down every morning and made the mile and a half walk from the train station to the school near the lakefront. I took note of the familiar faces I would see every day. The Salvation Army volunteer always stood at the end of a long indoor tunnel handing out their magazine for donations.

An older grandmotherly type passed out resumes under the nude stone formations of the lyric opera building. And countless others demanded ones attention — beggars, street musicians, campaigners and protesters, confident evangelists, and peddlers of street market goods. All the while — everyone else just wanted to get to somewhere warmer. Read the rest of this entry »