MINISTER’S MUSINGS – Rev. Pat Jobe
My Facebook page has photos and other “musings”.
Apparently there is curiosity afoot about the net good that came of giving me a sabbatical in 2016 -17. I can hardly overstate the good. Besides the obvious rest, rejuvenation, exploration, reading, writing, and time with my number one relationship, there was a deep and abiding enthusiasm for who we are as Unitarian Universalists. That is an extremely big deal. I visited congregations in Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, North Carolina, and beyond our own, here in South Carolina. It was just great! I returned with a sense that what we have in Greenville is widely practiced in other towns and cities across America and around the world.
We have 1100 congregations in our country. Many are tiny like the ones in Alamosa, CO and Kerrville, TX. Kerrville actually has two. We kept asking around as to why a town of 20,000 people in central Texas would need two UU congregations, each of about 40 people. Finally the secret came out. One of the congregations doesn’t like to sing. We had to laugh. But the electric, affirming, encouraging moment came in Santa Fe. We attended the 8:30 service on Labor Day weekend. It looked for a while like we might be the only ones around, but about ten folks finally did show up. The Santa Fe congregation is only slightly smaller than ours, but their early service is pretty sparsely attended and meets in the congregational library. Their minister, the Rev. Gail Lindsay Marriner, conducted the service.
At one point in a discussion she was leading, she said, “I did my internship with a predominantly Christian congregation in the Northeast. Most of our congregations there consider themselves Christian. My first associate job was with a minister who was a Buddhist and his congregation put up lots of Buddhist symbols and sayings. And then I came here to serve a primarily humanist congregation, but what we hold in common are shared values. We all oppose war, want there to be no hungry children. We believe in fairness for immigrants, even those here without documents, and universal health care. We oppose mass incarceration. This list just goes on and on. Regardless of our particular religious leanings, we share common values.”
I later had the opportunity to tell that story around a campfire that included Sally Sarratt and her wife, Maria Swearingen. When Maria heard that story, she started pumping her arm and doing a little chair dance. She said that minister in Santa Fe had nailed the truth we share. UU’s are part of a larger liberal moment among congregations. Sally and Maria serve a congregation that is part of the Alliance of Baptists, a group that claims Jesus, but the Jesus that shares our values. There is the United Church of Christ, Unity, many Episcopalians, the Reconciling Movement within the United Methodist Church, many liberal Jews and Muslims. And of course, my friend, Joe Mercaldo would say, don’t forget The Piedmont Humanists. UUism is a wonderful way of thinking and believing and feeling and being in the world, but it is by no means unique in its best qualities.
We have many allies; and that Santa Fe minister electrified me and Maria in an arm-pumping, chair-dancing way to realize we are so not alone as we seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with that which we find most real, most true in this strange and beautiful world. That’s what I bring home from sabbatical, besides deep gratitude for recharging my batteries, swimming in the Guadalupe River, sitting at the foot of mountains, and losing myself in the great writing of many serious thinkers, I come home with a deep love and appreciation for where UUism sits in the great work of liberal American religion. I come home with deep and abiding love for all of you.
Rev. Pat Jobe