These are the remarks Rev. Sharon offered at the April 7th pledge drive dinner.
A little less than five years ago, this congregation voted to call me as your settled minister. We were so excited to have found each other! Everything seemed possible together.
I went back and looked at my notes on what we hoped to accomplish in my first five years with you. I won’t go over all those ideas, except to say that we’ve accomplished almost none of them. To give you a reminder of the kinds of things we were talking about, we expected that we’d have completed phase one AND two of the construction project by now.
We have found that our work together is a little more complicated than we envisioned it then. For every success, there has been a setback. For every joy, a sorrow. I have led 16 memorial services for church members in my time with you, including some for our founding members.
We weren’t thinking about loss and grief back then.
But among the things we could not know are these:
That we would have so many congregants attending marches in San Diego that we would need to rent buses for us all to get there.
That we would be so galvanized in support of migrant youth that our congregation would be well represented at meetings of the Escondido Planning Commission and the Escondido City Council.
That the congregation would choose—through a congregation-wide discernment process—would choose immigrant justice as our central social justice issue for study and action.
We did NOT know we were passionate about immigrant justice five years ago.
That we would be in relationship with organizations like the North County Immigration Task Force and UURISE—UU Refuge and Immigrant Services and Education—not just donating money, but having congregants who attend and volunteer with these organizations that directly serve and support communities at riskThat in times of trouble, we would reach out to our local Muslim community with so much support and care that they are bringing us lunch this coming Sunday at church to say thank you.
One of the main worries you had when you called me to be your minister is that you are a social club when you want to be something more: a beacon that reaches out into our local community, not a bunker where we hide from the world.
I am proud that we are much more a beacon congregation now than we were five years ago. All these accomplishments are what’s called “incarnational growth.” We are growing in our abilities to respond to a hurting world to offer care, service, and support to our neighbors to use the strength and power of our collective voice to advocate for change and to discuss political issues in light of our faith.
We may not yet be growing in numbers the way we hope to, but we are growing in other ways, maturing and deepening who we are as a faith community.
A few years ago, I asked a colleague who had served her congregation a long time what was the secret to a long ministry. And she shared that she felt that over those years, the congregation had changed, and changed again, as if she were serving different congregations over time. And that she had welcomed that and been enlivened by it.
I think that Chalice now is not the same congregation you were when I got here. And I welcome that and am enlivened by it.
I loved you then. I love you now. And I will love you as we go forward together. I am excited to think about what we may accomplish together in the NEXT five years.