There is an apocryphal quote attributed to Martin Luther, which reads:
“Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree today.”
And while it is almost certain that Luther never said this, the idea remains important to me, not just as a minister, but as a lover of this world. I believe in Unitarian Universalism. I believe we have something to say about the anger in our nation right now. I believe we have something to say about how we should live with one another as empathetic and compassionate human beings. I believe we have something to say about the looming environmental concerns. I believe.
We are called to re-sanctify and resacralize our community and our relationships with one another. And while there is an effect we can have as individuals, change really happens when the mission of resanctifying the world becomes the mission of the institutions we belong to.
We believe a more beautiful world is possible, and this world is realized through empathy and companionship.
It is important for us to be chaplains in this coming world, both for the immediate needs and into the future.
June Jordon in a poem she wrote to the women of South Africa in 1978 called out, “We are the ones we have been waiting for.”
We are not going to be saved by any politician. No one is going to plant our apple tree for us. There is more than one path into God, into the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible. I believe this is a story about our character and our faith. And I believe in you. We are Unitarian Universalists and we are called to be in this world, we are called to be chaplains and we are called to be prophets. We are not meant to be identified by our proximity to any landmark. We are meant to be identified by our vision and our actions.
The future is not known. There is no book that tells us what is going to happen regardless of whether it is written by Moses or David Korten. You have the power to bring vision to this community and this world. Our courage and our faith, together, will give our action meaning.
The following meditation offers some insight into how I believe we are called to share our leadership with the world.
Board President UUTC
I served as the Chair of the Board of Trustees at the Unitarian Universalists Congregation of Transylvania County in Brevard, N.C. during the 2016-2017 church year. The sudden death of our newly hired interim minister (on the anticipated day of her arrival) sent a wave of sorrow and panic throughout our congregation. It also sent us quickly back to the search process, only to discover that Rev. Ian White Maher had since entered his name into consideration. It only took a short conversation with the search team for us to feel comfortable in calling Rev. Maher as our interim minister. It was one of the best decisions our congregation has ever made.
Rev. Maher transformed the services into a celebration of worship and faith development. His enthusiasm for the musical portion of the worship experience gave others permission to smile, clap, and dance, as the music resonated with the entire congregation. He taught us that music does have a transcendent power.
While many ministers have the ability to deliver a good sermon, Rev. Maher’s messages were extremely well prepared, deep and contemplative. His sermons encouraged us to be an active part of a spiritual movement that could transform the world, while deepening our individual faith. The additions and changes Ian tactfully incorporated into the worship services transformed Sunday mornings into a dynamic spiritual growth experience that touched members and visitors of all ages. Never in the history of UUTC had we experienced maximum attendance at both services, however, we found ourselves scrambling for additional seating space. We never anticipated such growth and excitement. It was an exciting time for the congregation.
In the past, a worship team at UUTC had focused primarily on logistical details of the service, with lesser thought given to “partnering” with the minister to ensure spiritual growth opportunities on Sunday morning. Ian challenged the team to reexamine itself and cull those aspects of the service which were detrimental to the worship service and add elements that were seminal to our mission. This had a ripple effect in causing all members to work toward being a missional church, as opposed to being an orthodox church.
Ian’s leadership caused the members to reassess which teams were actually working toward accomplishing the mission of the church, as opposed to those teams acting on the desires of one or two persuasive members of the team. Rev. Maher showed strong leadership by actually dissolving the social action team until it could create strategies that were along missional lines, and involved a greater number of members. This was done openly (and wisely), with care and compassion for those members who were asked to reconsider the role of this team in conjunction with the overall mission of the church. Ian’s effectiveness in the pulpit and community was noticed by other denominations and their clergy. Until Ian, UUTC had little interaction with other clergy, and other faith communities. UUTC delighted in following Ian’s lead in participating in NAACP activities and other social action activities. This involvement continues today and Rev. Maher deserves the credit.
His easy-going personality and approachability had members, friends, and visitors clamoring for his personal time. Yet, he managed to find time to visit with those with serious and/or life-threatening ailments. This is indicative of his superior time management skills and genuine concern. He was a minister to ALL members of the congregation.
He has the leadership skills so desperately needed within our faith community. To us, Rev. Maher was the ultimate ambassador for Unitarian Universalists. He did an absolutely outstanding job at UUTC as our minister and I would recommend him to any congregation searching for a minister. Be forewarned that you may need to add seating capacity.