Dear Members and Friends,
I return to UU Berks from sabbatical rested, renewed, inspired – and missing you! I am eager to reconnect and looking forward to gatherings and conversations, hearing your stories and discovering what is on your hearts and minds. If you’re wondering “What I Did on My Sabbatical,” don’t miss Sunday’s service, which will include a short slideshow on just that topic.
I am more grateful than I can fully express for the sabbatical time, which my body, mind and spirit needed more than I realized. I am so grateful for the compassionate and heart-centered shared ministry during this time. I am reminded once again of what a privilege it is to serve this incredible religious community. The Board, M&O, Pastoral Caring Circle, Rev. Sage Olnick, Ebee Bromley, Melissa Medina, Erin Connolly, the pledge and finance teams, the worship tech team, nominating committee, social justice team, auction team, and so many others have nurtured, deepened, and supported church life in 2021.
I return at a pivotal time of significant transition in our church and nation. Like so many of you, I am eager for us to gather again in our beautiful building for worship and programs. The CDC’s newest guidelines offer bright points of hope. At the same time, as a church community we have some additional work to do before we return to our building safely and in keeping with our commitments to inclusivity.
And – I am excited about the possibilities that await us for the year ahead. One of the many things I reflected on during the sabbatical is the importance to “Go Slowly, Hold Lightly.” It’s a healing message that invites me to be gentle with myself and others, especially during intense times of transition and adaptation.
I am so hopeful for the many ways that we will gather, deepen the bonds of our UU faith, and embody our covenantal relationships.
Yours in love, gratitude and hope,
This past March I finished up three years worth of coursework to complete the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Music Leadership Certification program. I’ve been grateful to have the support of this congregation as I’ve worked and played my way through.
I owe deep gratitude to Susan Peña, who served as my sponsor from UU Berks, my advisor from the Association of Unitarian Universalist Music Ministries, Bailey Whiteman and to Rev Dr. Sandra Fees for playing with me over these years.
Over these past few years I have so enjoyed learning what connects us to music. Each year I was asked to develop and then refine a philosophy of music ministry. It was a time I could play with words, changing one in for another, moving a sentence, or turning an observation I had from the past year around and around until it fit better in my head.
Three years ago my philosophy started out focusing on the immediacy of music and church. Music is made in one moment in time. We are a congregation not for our walls, doors and pews but for the people that welcome and greet and connect with one another.
This is the great thing about play. It’s never the exact same twice. You’ll roll a different combination in your board game than the time before. In make-believe the story might be the same as the one you chose yesterday but today you pretend to have two dragons for pets instead of one. A song comes on the radio and the dance moves you used yesterday, well they express themselves more exuberantly today.
This year we’ve played in ways that are easier to feel as new. We’ve never had a virtual choir project before. We weren’t in the habit of recording music for worship before this past year. While we’ve used microphones in the past, the spaces we were using them in was new. And so my final philosophy of music ministry for my course work feels new.
“My call to music ministry is a call to create harmony. The practice of harmony, whether sweet or dissonant, is the act of deeply listening to one another, listening to ourselves and listening to the world we inhabit. With active harmony we communicate connection and compassion. This harmony is a practice in creating and re-creating beloved community. Over time this act is a way of finding and seeing the divine spark within each of us and core to our living faith tradition.”
So I’m hoping that we can play together, that we can dance for a long time. I’d like to ask you to play with me as our hymn #311, written by Ric Masten asks “Let it be a dance we do, may I have this dance with you…”
by nadine j. smet-weiss
i have a friend
who highly recommends
the regular practice
for grown ups
a play full pause
during the day
for the soul purpose