Tag Archives: roots

I am ready. Are you?

Today, Neshoba Church celebrated our 20th anniversary.  The actual anniversary happened in January.  Or maybe March.  It depends on what you count as the beginning.  The 1st service was held in January of 1992.  The charter, officially designating us as a member of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations in North America  (also known as the UUA), was signed in March of 1992.  The reason we celebrated in April this year was due to scheduling issues.  The church’s first minister, Rev. Jean Rowe, who retired to North Carolina 7 years ago, was going to be in town this weekend, officiating at a wedding for a Neshoba family, so it made sense to tie the church’s celebration to the date that was convenient for her.

Because we are in transition, and don’t have a settled minister yet, our minister emerita was asked to lead the service.  A long-time member, Anthony Culver, helped plan the details, and Rev. Jean gave a lovely sermon that helped paint a picture of Neshoba’s past while reminding us that we need to continue working on a vision for the future.  Members of the youth group helped with parts of the service, making it truly multi-generational.

Jean spoke of three charges she gave the congregation at that very first service 2 decades ago. What she told them then holds true today as well.  First, we need to remember to hold each other with “care-full” compassion.  We are a family, and as such are bonded together, for better or worse, so we need to care for each other as we learn and grow.

Secondly, we need to heed the words of hymn #311 – Let it be a dance by Ric Masten.

Let it be a dance we do.
May I have this dance with you?
Through the good times
And the bad times, too,
Let it be a dance.

Let a dancing song be heard.
Play the music say the words,
Fill the sky with sailing birds.
Let it be a dance.
Learn to follow, learn to lead,
Feel the rhythm, fill the need.
To reap the harvest, plant the seed.
And let it be a dance.

Everybody turn and spin,
Let your body learn to bend,
and, like a willow with the wind,
Let it be a dance.

A child is born, the old must die,
A time for joy, a time to cry.
Take it as it passes by.
And let it be a dance.

 Morning star comes out at night,
Without the dark there is no light.
If nothing’s wrong, then nothing’s right.
Let it be a dance.
Let the sun shine, let it rain,
Share the laughter, bare the pain,
And round and round we go again.
Let it be a dance.

Together, we should always let our church life be like a dance – joyful and full of purpose – through the good times and the bad times too.

The third charge was to allow ourselves to occasionally step back from leadership roles, trust in each other, and go along for the ride.  As the line in the hymn says, we need to “learn to follow, learn to lead, / feel the rhythm, fill the need.”  There are times when we need to step up and take on responsibility for various aspects of the church and there are other times where we need to trust in the leadership of our fellow Neshobans.  Let others be the guide while we just help paddle the boat.

Hearing about the beginning of Neshoba has renewed my commitment to this special place.  The people who started Neshoba had a dream.  They worked hard to plan and build and grow from a seed planted 20 years ago into the community we are today. On this Earth Day weekend, it seems appropriate to continue that metaphor.  The roots of the church are strong, and the body is growing.  We need to feed the soul of the church, prune her branches where necessary to remain healthy, and protect her from the storms of life that threaten to do damage.  With care, she will continue to grow strong and stable and will shelter generations to come.

20 years into our story, we are at a crossroads, getting ready to bring in a new minister.  There are exciting opportunities ahead of us. We need to continue to work hard to achieve the vision the founding members set forth.  I am ready.  Are you?

Looking for Myself: Part II

In the summer of ’93, I took a road trip from Virginia to Prince Edward Island, Canada, trying to reconnect to my past.  I spent about 2 weeks visiting friends and family, and sightseeing on PEI – a beautiful location that I hadn’t seen since I was 3 months old.  After touring the island and speaking to the nun who had facilitated my adoption almost 29 years before, I felt somewhat more connected to the place of my birth.  Although I hadn’t taken any steps towards finding my birth family, I thought I could return home feeling more settled about who I was.  But there was still a restlessness within my heart.  There was still a part of me missing.

My trip back to Virginia was somewhat more direct than my trip North.  I only made 3 stops – a hotel in Bangor, friends in Boston and an aunt in New York.  The stop in Boston is what ultimately made the whole trip worthwhile.  I had two friends from college who lived there – one of whom was out as a lesbian when we were in school together.  When I called to let her know when I would be arriving, I found out the other one had come out too and they were, in fact, dating!

I spent the weekend getting reacquainted with them both.  They were the first female couple that I knew (well, the first that was open about it) and I was able to talk to them about my confusion.   They took me out to the end of Cape Cod – a beach village called Provincetown, known to be a gay-friendly area.  While walking around, we saw couples – same sex couples – holding hands, pushing strollers, generally living their lives, completely comfortable with who they were.  It was eye-opening and liberating.  I felt like I had come home.  I realized that I could accept myself and that it was possible to find others who would accept me too.

While the process of acknowledging my feelings had been a long one, once I was willing to admit to myself that I was gay, I couldn’t wait to figure out what came next.  I was still scared – I had been turned down the one time I had expressed an attraction to a woman, so how would I know who I could trust, who else might be gay?  The friends I was visiting explained a concept to me known as “gaydar” – a sense I would develop over time.  In the meantime, they suggested I look in the local gay paper for support groups for those coming out.  They also said that there were likely to be social groups centered on common interests – I should just find something that I enjoyed doing and join a group for that activity.

When I got home to Virginia, I was a changed woman.  But I still felt lonely.  I wasn’t sure who I could trust with my new-found knowledge.  So I took the advice I had been given and sought out a support group.  I tried a few on for size before settling on one about 20 minutes from where I lived.  I got to know a group of women who were going through a similar experience, trying to come to terms with their identity and facing the coming out process with friends and family.  I was at a meeting one week when a woman stopped by with flyers for a lesbian bowling league that would be starting up the next month.  I remembered the suggestion that I find an activity I enjoyed in order to meet more people, so I decided to show up.  It was at that bowling league that I met the woman who I now consider my wife!

While I was feeling more and more comfortable with myself over the course of that Fall, I was still feeling unconnected to others.  I tried to keep myself separate from friends and family who didn’t know my secret.  I still wasn’t sure how people would react and I was scared of being rejected.  So I avoided my parents, my close friends, anyone outside of my support group and the bowling league.  In hindsight, I realize I was scared of saying something that would “out” myself before I was ready.

Over the years, I have grown to realize that I wasn’t doing myself any favors, trying to live 2 lives.  I slowly started coming out to family and friends.  The first person I told, outside of my new circle of friends, was my brother’s wife.  We have always been very close, but I was still scared.  Her reaction – “so?  Is that supposed to change the way I feel about you?” – gave me courage.  A few months later, I told my parents.  Although they had a hard time with it at first, they never rejected me or made me feel unloved.  16 years later, they are completely supportive, accepting my partner as part of the family.

This summer, I took another trip.  This time, I went to visit my brother’s family and while there got to reconnect with one of the friends from Boston who is now living in a different city.  I think that reunion is what got me thinking about that trip from 17 years ago.  It was truly a life-changing event.  I discovered the freedom to be myself and my life has never been the same.   I left on that journey seeking roots, and what I found were wings.