One of the blessings of our Unitarian Universalist faith is that we draw inspiration, wisdom, and insight from many sources. From the writings of prophetic people to our personal experiences of awe and wonder, from the great lessons of the world’s sacred texts to the great lessons of what it means to be human on this precious earth, we draw song, ritual, poetry, meaning, and connection.
This week, we draw on the sacred writings and rituals of Judaism as we celebrate this holy week, known as the Days of Awe.
For some among us, the rituals and celebrations of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are at the root of religious experience; for some, this may include elements that a younger self rejected and for others it may be the one thing that still connects adulthood to childhood. Celebrating them together, at CUUC, may offer a new experience of the rejected or lost religion of their youth; in her Wall Street Journal article “Religion for Adults Means Embracing Complexity,” Sarah Hurwitz argues that “mature forms of religion don’t traffic in simplistic or implausible answers” and that “seen through adult eyes, [these rituals] reveal layers of unexpected meaning."
For others among us, the Days of Awe are a mystery, or misunderstood, or seemingly “not for us.” As a gentile myself, I was never invited into the mysteries of these holy days. Yet my Unitarian Universalism invites me – and others – to learn and experience these rites and prayers that show us what it means to forgive and be more gentle to each other and ourselves. Celebrating the Days of Awe in a spirit of honor and covenant with those for whom the Days of Awe are central allows all of us to draw wisdom and solace from them and strengthen our collective spirits.
Our service this week is the first of many that will explore our sources – traditions, texts, rituals, perspectives, ways of making meaning. As the Committee on Ministry continues its study of CUUC’s spirituality and theology, these services will invite you to both experience and interrogate your connections to the various sources from which we draw wisdom.
Additionally, in our Friday Faith Formation series, we’ll explore this further – through spiritual practice and other exercises, we will seek spiritual deepening. I hope you will join us on third Fridays from October through March.
Now… some of you may be wondering why this Days of Awe service is my first with you all; it’s admittedly an unusual start for me too. In other sabbatical ministries, I start with some fun, and some pie. And I can assure you there will be fun and pie next week. But there is something special about celebrating the Days of Awe with you right from the start – after all, it’s a new year (5780 in the Jewish calendar), and so we get to start off anew, letting go of old ways of being, old grudges, old attitudes, and open ourselves to new ideas and new experiences.
By starting this sabbatical period (and here’s a tip: it’s your sabbatical too) on a new year, we get to create anew an atmosphere of excitement and wonder when great things happen, and generosity and forgiveness when things go… differently than expected.
But most of all, this Sunday we get to make an important connection: for the next six months, as written in the Book of Ruth, “your people are my people.” I am honored and excited to be starting this time with you – to learning about you, your ministries, your spirituality, your joys and sorrows, your faith.