Dear members and friends,
As the days grow more dim and the autumn leaves fall, I find myself reminded of the importance of tradition and ritual. Fall has always been a time for me of entering into darkness, by which I mean reflection, contemplation, and consideration. It is a time full – of family, remembrances and fun – wrapped around a jumble of holidays, starting with Halloween and ending with New Year’s Day.
Autumn is a complex time. For all of its goodness, it carries equal measures of sorrow. Life is not always kind, and it is not fair. Still we show up, returning again and again with eagerness and fresh eyes. We hope that this year may be the one, the year that we all get along; the year the long-awaited letter arrives, apology is offered, or chance meeting occurs; the year that we remember our interconnectedness and humbly accept our own and others’ humanity.
This month’s ministry theme is perspective, an important theme as we continue with our annual theme of “journey”. Mary T. Lathrap’s words “Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes,” taken from her 1895 poem “Judge Softly,” are often misattributed to Native Americans. Its plea for empathy and broadened understanding remains critical. The destruction that comes from lack of understanding is evident all around us, in the personal, familial, and political realms.
I hope you will join me this month in taking the time to reflect on the role perspective plays in our lives. To that end, I offer below four weekly prompts. You can use these for personal reflection, writing, or meditation. You may also use them to spark conversation with others in the congregation, family members, or friends. We’ll offer a time for folks to gather near the end of the month to discuss what doing these practices revealed to them.
Consider these as you go through this month and focus on perspective.
Week One: November 3rd – 9th Perspective in relation to yourself
Approach each day this week from the perspective of yourself at a younger age. Perhaps you’re five on Monday, twenty-five on Tuesday, and forty on Wednesday. How would you respond to the events of the day from that perspective? What would make you laugh? What would have caused you pain? What did you love to do? Take an hour at the end of the week, think ahead to the end of your life, and write your obituary. Be sure to include the themes that ran through your life.
Week Two: November 10th – 16th Perspective in relation to others
Can you learn three new things this week from people who are different from you? Don’t worry about looking too hard for the differences. We are all diverse, just as we are all similar. Look for someone who is at a different stage in life or is a different gender or has a hobby that you are not at all interested in. First, watch them. Notice how they approach situations. Pay attention especially when you disagree with them or would do something differently from them. Rather than judge, ask a question that will help you to understand their perspective. For example, “How did you first get interested in painting?” or “Were you raised as a liberal?”
Week Three: November 17th – 23rd Perspective in relation to the holy
Author and poet Ross Gay describes experiencing the holy whenever genuine connection occurs, between himself and another person or any living thing. In that moment, pretense falls away, and we are face to face with the raw, beautiful, and powerful holiness of reality. Where do you experience the holy, or genuine connection, in your life? Can you note such a moment each day this week?
Week Four: November 24th – November 30th Perspective in relation to ancestors
Our ancestors and loved ones never die. They live on in our genes, our memories, and our days. Pick one of your ancestors and use them as your companion this week. How might they respond to what is happening in your day-to-day life? What would surprise them and what would make them angry? Is there more you want to learn about this person? How has your ancestor’s perspective influenced your life?
There are many ways we can awaken to various perspectives. These prompts are just a few. The congregational conversations around Mission and Vision are another great opportunity to be open to learning about others’ perspectives.
May your days be plentiful and sweet. May you find peace amidst life’s complexity and inspiration in all of its days.
Stay in touch, and please know that my door is always open to hear your perspective.
With love and gratitude,