As many of you know, this has been a difficult season in my life, in which my family and I struggled to support my parents through my father’s health crises and eventual death in July. His suffering was significant enough that there was an element of relief at his final gentle passing, but we are still so sad at the loss of a man who was courageous, kind, wise, and funny, and a wonderful father, grandfather, friend, and citizen of the world. I am grateful to so many of you who have reached out, expressed your condolences, offered emotional support, and just plain showed up: through attending Dad’s service, through mailing loving notes to my family and especially my mother. I am so grateful that you are my chosen community!
Being surrounded by such loving kindness has me thinking about the power of caring community this week. Think about the people you love most. Wouldn’t you wish for them the kind of communal support I’ve just described? As my sons grow into adults, I don’t have any real sense of where they’ll live or what they do, but I sure hope the universe will bring them to live in a place where they can love and be loved in safety, where they can thrive through access to the beauty of nature as well as a vibrant arts scene, and where they can sense the abundance of love and support I’ve known for so long in our neck of the woods. Think about it: doesn’t everyone want that for their children or their neighbors’ children? Now stretch your thoughts even further: who are the people who you think don’t deserve to live in a community like this one?
As a flawed human being who seeks to follow the example and courage of Jesus Christ, I have to say that I can’t think of a single person or category of people that I would single out as being unworthy of safe, connected, and beauty-filled community. Perhaps this is why our congregation (along with non-church-folk within the wider community) is seeking to engage with CASP (Community Asylum Seekers’ Project) in their work with asylum-seekers. We don’t yet know what that involvement will look like, but I encourage all of you who love our community to keep your eyes peeled for information about how you can get involved.
The opening line of a powerful poem by British-Somali poet Warsan Shire puts it succinctly and convictingly: “No one leaves home unless / home is the mouth of a shark.” And if we wouldn’t want to live in the mouth of a shark, why should we be content to let others?
Community can be so healing, so enlivening, so joyful. In community, we learn to be accountable for our words and deeds. In community, we learn to flourish and to love the differences around us. In community, we find friendship, a helping hand, and maybe a casserole when we are sick or grieving. Strong and loving community is an inherent good, and should be available to all.
Each year, we celebrate our community through our Community Fair, so I hope you’ll join us there. Every Sunday (and then some!) at 10 a.m., many of us deepen our sense of community through open-minded and big-hearted worship, with beautiful music, courageous interpretation in an environment that fosters the freedom to question and to laugh, compassionate and honest prayer, and shared fellowship over coffee; I hope you’ll consider adding your voice, heart, and mind to our worshiping congregation. And as the opportunity arises, I hope we’ll all support the opportunities for asylum seekers to find the same beauty of community that we’ve found together.