I am connected to this First Parish community. This one, right here. In the “crisis” times – the deaths, divorces, illnesses – I am more aware of our First Parish family. The emails and cards of support, offers of meals, rides to the doctor, are so tangible of our values, our care and respect. But, the special part I value most is the daily support I feel. Every day, I feel a safety net below me of interwoven arms of all the people in this community. For 17 years, First Parish has been the constant in my life of changes.
Recently, I re-listened to what that net – you! – had been saying to me and how it had been encouraging me to be vulnerable. Sometimes, my safety net pats me on the back, and says “Well begun is half done” (okay, that was Mary Poppins, but my safety net is pretty cool). Other times, my safety net catches me, but with a groan, as if to say “Did you REALLY just say that?” Or, my safety net will call me out and say “Why didn’t you speak up for that person?” There was a teen at CVS laughing about someone I know; and I was late to work. As I walked out, my safety net reminded me what my son said he learned at First Parish: “Plant seeds. Act responsibly.” I went back into CVS, explained that Bubblegum Bob is an important part of our town, and gave Bob a ride home.
Many of us at First Parish Medfield share our joys and sorrows, our triumphs and defeats, as part of our Sunday ritual. It’s a component of our faith, part of who we are, to care for and nurture each other. I didn’t share very much the first few years I was here unless it had to do with my children. Never about exposing anything about me. It wasn’t until later, when I went to the training for the teen sexuality education class Our Whole Lives, that I realized how many of our Unitarian Universalist values I had incorporated into my own life. I felt very vulnerable – I didn’t know anyone, and although we had never met before, Chris Flaherty became my favorite best friend when he arrived to do the training as well. We were encouraged to sing, and to dance, and some of you may find it difficult to believe, but I really did not want to sing and dance to the “Healthy Sexuality” song. And that became a “learnable moment”. I let that safety net of intertwined First Parish arms hold me up, help me acknowledge my vulnerability, and just… trust. As a result, I did more than just survive that training, I embraced it.
When I was divorced, not only did I become a single parent but I also became a daughter (rather than a daughter-in-law) of an aging parent. And I certainly let that idea of vulnerability, and trust, go for a few years! I was tough. I was strong. First Parish had my back. And, you did, as much as I allowed you to. After Mom died, I stopped being tough and started learning about being vulnerable again. In a subtle way, you were nudging me to pick up where I had left off in that learnable moment at the Our Whole Lives training years before. It wasn’t just the UU faith moving me along, it was your voices echoing the values of our faith. I felt a sense of belonging once I became more vulnerable and trusted that safety net. Being vulnerable doesn’t diminish my individuality. It allows me to grow spiritually in trust, and truth.