Called to This Faith (Installation of Director of Religious Education Christina Branum-Martin and Director of Music Philip J. Rogers)

By Rev. Terry Davis

Delivered at Northwest Unitarian Universalist Congregation on October 1, 2017

When each of us stepped through those front doors just beyond our Sanctuary for the very first time, I imagine that the word “calling” may not have crossed our minds. “Curiosity” perhaps. Or “seeking.” Or “hopeful.” But did something or someone really “call” us to a Unitarian Universalist congregation and this faith?

If I think of a calling as a beckoning, as Rev. Natalie Fenimore suggests in our first reading, then called to this faith we all may be.

For those of us who arrived to Unitarian Universalism from another faith tradition, perhaps we felt beckoned from within to find a community where we could be more theologically or philosophically authentic. Or, perhaps we were looking for a spiritual home that seemed to live into the ancient and timeless teaching to treat one another the way we wish to be treated.

And, so we arrived at the doorstep of Northwest and we crossed the threshold, hoping to find acceptance, connection, and a community we could celebrate.

For those of you like Christina who were born into this faith, I imagine your decision to remain here reflects a beckoning, too. It seems that Unitarian Universalism offers a lifelong invitation to develop your own understanding of what is most holy and to discover how it grounds your spirit and shapes your engagement with the world.

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No matter how we arrived at Unitarian Universalism – or why we stay – it seems that Rev. Rebecca Parker’s question “What will you do with your gifts?” is one that both our life and this faith tradition compels us to confront. And I believe Parker’s recommendation – that we “choose to bless the world” – provides not just guidance to our life’s purpose, but also offers insight into why our faith exists in the first place.

In short, if the best thing we can do is to choose bless the world with our gifts, then it seems that the highest purpose for Unitarian Universalism is to call us to do just that.  

Borrowing the words of Rebecca Parker, Unitarian Universalism can and does calls us “to feed the hungry, bind up wounds, welcome the stranger, praise what is sacred, do the work of justice, [and] offer love.”1)From “Choose to Bless the World,” by Rev. Dr. Rebecca Parker. And, at Northwest, we answer this call when we collect canned food for the hungry at our Hungry Ear concerts . . . when we donate money to our community partners who are binding up the wounds of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria . . . and when we open our doors on Sunday mornings to welcome the stranger, regardless of age, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender identity or expression, abilities or theology.

We answer the call at Northwest when we praise the holiness we find in nature, when we work for social and eco justice, and when we practice compassion and forgiveness.

When we choose to bless the world with our gifts and with our participation in this faith community, we are choosing to help create the Beloved Community and the flourishing planet we dream about.

“None of us alone can save the world,” Parker says. “Together – that is another possibility, waiting.”2) Ibid. Which brings me to Christina and Philip.

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Christina and Philip were called to this faith. They were called to serve it with their gifts of leadership. And, by doing so, I believe they bless the world.

In Philip’s case, he comes to Northwest as a Christian man who says he felt called to be with us. Music – that intangible, prized, “‘thingless’ thing”3)From The New York Times, “Why Music Makes Our Brain Sing,” by Robert J. Zatorre and Valerie N. Salimpoor. that fires up our brains and moves our souls – is Philip’s passion. His ability to lead choirs and help individuals be their best singing selves are the gifts he brings.

When we first met, Philip told me when that he enjoyed trying new things with choirs, but never at the expense of helping others gain confidence in their abilities.

That comment made me think that Philip might be someone who has a heart for both excellence and for people. That seemed like a beautiful blessing to bring into Northwest’s music program.

In Christina’s case, I gather she is a lifelong UU who feels deeply called to pay her own deeply meaningful youth and young adult religious education experiences forward. Over the years, she has taught, led and coordinated RE programs for children of all ages, from the congregational to the district and national levels.

Christina also has a heart for social justice and has long acted on that passion both professionally and in her personal life. She’s bringing creativity, organization and other skills to Northwest’s RE program – and our increased student enrollment says that she’s doing something very right.

While both Philip and Christina have chosen to bless Northwest with their gifts, “None of us can save the world alone. Together – that is another possibility, waiting.”

Which is where you and I come in.

Today, I’m inviting you to answer the call to support their ministries, too.  I’m inviting you to say “yes” when Christina or Philip tap you on the shoulder and ask if you might be willing to help. And, I’m also asking you to approach them and let them know you would like to serve in some small way.

You can tell them in the receiving line right after today’s service.

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I believe we were each called to this faith to be affirmed and to grow. Unitarian Universalism offers us an opportunity to discover more deeply what we were made to give to this beautiful and broken world . . . and then challenges us to go out and give it!  

Let’s continue to answer the call in this faith community and in our lives with courage, hope and love.

May it be so. Amen.

 

References   [ + ]

1. From “Choose to Bless the World,” by Rev. Dr. Rebecca Parker.
2. Ibid.
3. From The New York Times, “Why Music Makes Our Brain Sing,” by Robert J. Zatorre and Valerie N. Salimpoor.