Happy New Year!
As I write this month’s column, I am in Michigan visiting my parents for the winter holidays. It is snowing outside – a soft blanket covers the ground and the roads alike. Winter weather brings a sense of peace and respite. There is a fire in the fireplace and I have spent the last few days enjoying my family and relaxing. Wherever you are spending the first days of the New Year, I hope you are finding a similar time to pause.
We are beginning a new decade and like many people, I find myself both taking stock of the last ten years of my life and looking ahead. Since 2010, my life has been filled with changes. My kids are bigger. One is a senior in college, the other is in Middle School. I live in a new city. It would actually take me several paragraphs to attempt to list all of the changes in my life.
The same would be true if I tried to list the changes in the world. It has been a mixed bag, filled with positives and negatives. Throughout the globe poverty has decreased, literacy has increased, and childhood mortality has declined. At the same time, the United States has gone through a severe recession and experienced a resurgence of white supremacist populism and white supremacist violence. The climate crisis has grown ever more urgent. And shifts in technology and the continuing rise of social media have accelerated the pace of societal change.
Ten years from now, the world and my own life will have changed again. Given the rate of change, it is hard to imagine exactly what society will be like. The climate crisis means that the next decade will be the most crucial in human history. It will determine whether or not we, as a human species, address the causes of global warming. Depending on the choices we make, ten years from now the world could either be in dire shape or on the path to a vibrant, sustainable future. Either way, it will be very different than it is now.
The fate of Unitarian Universalism over the next decade will be determined by whether or not we live up to our commitment to be a relevant religion. We will thrive if religious communities like First UU Church equip people to confront society’s challenges and adjust to its changes. We will fade into irrelevance if we do not.
While we answer the question of whether or not we are a relevant religion on a grand scale, we will also have to continue answering this question individually, on a personal scale. No matter what happens, in the midst of all the world’s changes, some things will remain constant. The cycle of life and death, birth and aging, will continue. The Earth will orbit the sun as it always has. The Moon will bring tides to the water. And people will need to find meaning in the rich mess of our lives. They will ask questions about the meaning of life and the power of love.
First UU Church’s challenge over the next decade will be this: Can we be a religious community that is relevant to the great crisis of the hour while at the same time providing a spiritual home for people throughout the days of their lives? I think First UU Church can. And because I believe this, I also think that the brightest days for both Unitarian Universalism and First UU Church are in the future. I look forward to seeing how the next ten years unfold.
P.S. I would be remiss not to offer you a few final words of poetry. Here’s a mildly obtuse piece by Ravi Shankar that captures something of the feel of the New Year’s snow:
Particulate as ash, new year’s first snow falls
upon peaked roofs, car hoods, undulant hills,
in imitation of motion that moves the way
static cascades down screens when the cable
zaps out, persistent & granular with a flicker
of legibility that dissipates before it can be
interpolated into any succession of imagery.
One hour stretches sixty minutes into a field
of white flurry: hexagonal lattices of water
molecules that accumulate in drifts too soon
strewn with sand, hewn into browning
mounds by plow blade, left to turn to slush.