Why is Chalice important? What does it mean that this band of some 200 congregants exists in this old house on Miller, tucked away in a residential neighborhood? If the congregation disappeared one day, what would that mean to ourselves, to the North County community, and the world?
This is another way of asking, “what, really is our purpose?” As I’ve said before, my favorite way to think about us is with a metaphor of the well. At our best, this congregation is a source of connection, inspiration, and resilience. As members of this “well,” we relate to it in three ways: drinking from the well, tending the well, and digging the well deeper.
Drinking from the well means being nurtured and “fed,” metaphorically. It means coming on Sunday morning and leaving feeling full up. It means being encouraged and supported in regular spiritual practices like prayer, meditation, journaling, or yoga. It means deeply connecting with one another: having a community around us helps put that spiritual practice and ethical behavior into our lives.
In times of struggle, this is not optional. A few of us recently were at a racial justice training, and we heard a useful simile: inspiration is like hygiene. In doing the work of social justice, it is not enough to be inspired once, and then do the rest of your work for social justice out of a sense of duty, fear, or guilt. Just as you don’t take a shower once and consider yourself done, you need to take an “inspiration shower” every day. This might be music that helps you feel full of purpose, it might be art, or it might be stories of resilience, joy, and inspiration. Congregational life can be a source of that inspiration.
We “tend the well” when we hold one another through crisis, and when we organize programs and resources that in turn fill and nurture others. We do this when we encourage someone else in their spiritual practice and when we offer our gifts of song, of caring, of joy, of soup-making, of teaching, and of time to others here in our community.
We “dig the well deeper” when those gifts of caring and song and inspiration spill over into the rest of our lives and into the wider community. Our religious communities are urgently needed, like water in the desert. I do not mean that we are saviors—any more than anyone else is. But it is not enough to tend our own well. Or, if you will forgive the further extended metaphor, it is not appropriate to imagine this is a bunker we can stock with bottled water and hunker down to survive.
Love calls us to un-stopper the wells wherever we are, as best we can. There isn’t scarcity, not really. I believe there is a spring rising under our feet, in a particular place and time, the one that is ready to nourish a thirsty community. We have a responsibility to dig in to this place, to this time, to open up and uncover a well of justice, joy, and love that is open to all—to the whole community, not just our band of travelers. So take a breath. Take your shovel and dig. Break open the rocks and get messy. Dig deep, and dig where you are, wherever you find yourself. Let the water come—the spring we did not create, but which people throughout history have tended—an every-flowing stream of love, and grace, and hope.
This column is adapted from Rev. Elizabeth’s Nov 27 sermon “So What?”