Sermons & Other Thoughts from Rev. Brian Chenowith

Tag: ministry

With All Earnestness

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 »

Second Annual Question Box Sunday

For our second annual Question Box Sunday, we had a plethora of amazing questions.  Most of them were DIFFERENT than last year!  There were some strong themes amongst the questions this year, so, I’m going to do something a little different with the answers.  One or two of the “blocs” of the questions will become a sermon or series of sermons sometime this church year.  I will be sure to note that the inspiration for the sermon(s) was a Question Box Sunday question.  There are also a few questions I’m going to answer outright as they feel timely.  The rest of these questions will be answered sometime throughout this church year – I will endeavor to answer blocs of them and, as I did this year, send a compiled list of answers to you all before next year’s Question Box Sunday. Read the rest of this entry »

Question Box Sunday

Below are the questions submitted during our first ever Question Box Sunday.  I’ve divided them into some basic categories — including the ones we answered during the service.  Over the next few months I will answer 2-3 of these every week and make them available here on this website for you all to read.  Questions are powerful things that can create space for the unexpected to emerge.  In that spirit, you have my gratitude. Read the rest of this entry »

A Wabi-Sabi Life

Our reading today comes to us from the poet Elizabeth Carlson, titled, “Imperfection.”

I am falling in love
with my imperfections
The way I never get the sink really clean,
forget to check my oil,
lose my car in parking lots,
miss appointments I have written down,
am just a little late.

I am learning to love
the small bumps on my face
the big bump of my nose,
my hairless scalp,
chipped nail polish,
toes that overlap.
Learning to love
the open-ended mystery
of not knowing why

I am learning to fail
to make lists,
use my time wisely,
read the books I should.

Instead I practice inconsistency,
irrationality, forgetfulness.

Probably I should
hang my clothes neatly in the closet
all the shirts together, then the pants,
send Christmas cards, or better yet
a letter telling of
my perfect family.

But I’d rather waste time
listening to the rain,
or lying underneath my cat
learning to purr.

I used to fill every moment
with something I could
cross off later.

Perfect was
the laundry done and folded
all my papers graded
the whole truth and nothing but

Now the empty mind is what I seek
the formless shape
the strange off center
sometimes fictional
me.

I never cared much for mending broken wings. Sure, I loved to take my dogs for walks, watch the cat chase a toy, observe hamsters endlessly run and run and run to some unknown destination — but I never desired to put satellite collars onto hounds, or any of the other duties of a veterinarian.

That childhood passion was lost on me. I flirted, as a child, with the desire to be a grand doctor, lawyer, judge, superhero, and, I kid you not, a health inspector. But ultimately, my desires for what I wanted to be “when I grew up” rested on what I like to identify as the call of the limitless and the uttermost. And for me, as a child, I felt the call of the infinite in two vocations. Read the rest of this entry »

[BLOG] Ministry & The Seven Month Itch

I’m a newer minister.  Sure, I’ve long been called to this work but as far as practicing the craft, I’m fresh off the assembly line.  I’m in my first settlement, first year, and there are first firsts all over the place.  On top of it all, there has been and will continue to be this shared hope amongst newer ministers that what we need to learn and do will be more accessible:  Searching for a congregation will be streamlined, settling into a community will be smooth, our credentialing process will be straightforward, compensation for ministers will make sense, and seminaries will teach all of the ins and outs.  No surprises will be left.  It’s a tall order.  It’s an impossible hope.

And all throughout this hope, no matter where I turn, I feel that my colleagues and I are often repeating ourselves with, “Well, this should be here for us…and that, too.”  Some may call it entitlement and certainly part of it is.  However, entitlement or not, we’re feeling our way through a calling rooted in humanity with human systems and human flaws with human needs.  It’s an incomplete system.  It may never be as fleshed out as our hopes demand. Read the rest of this entry »

The Person Next To You

This is the second sermon delivered during Candidating Week.

A wise colleague once offered me some invaluable advice about ministry. She said it rather bluntly and without explanation, but I understood her reasoning: She said, never tell anyone what you do for a living..when you’re on an airplane.

This advice is not unique to ministry. It’s not unique to airplanes either. You hear it if you’re a lawyer, a mortician, a teacher, or, really, anything. I tried to live by this advice. I wasn’t quite sure why I needed to: I enjoyed talking with people about their views on religion, learning about where they came from, and hearing their questions – just like this past week. It’s the kind of thing I live for and am called to be present to. But, still, I followed the advice. And let me tell you, it doesn’t work.

A couple years ago I found myself on a flight to San Francisco. I was all prepared to be my most anti-social self: I had a book and my earbuds. Somehow I thought those things would help. Just after take off I started digging into my book. Not long into the flight I felt a tap on my arm and the man sitting next to me asked: Are you a Unitarian Universalist? My cover was about to be blown. Read the rest of this entry »