Being a part of Wy'east means different things to each of us - and many things to all of us. How has this community made a difference in your life? What does Wy'east mean to you? Tim Mohler began coming to Wy'east a little over a year ago and became a member last fall. He helps to plan services as a member of the Worship Committee, and frequently serves as Lay Leader.
"What Wy'east Means to Me"
Wy'east Unitarian Universalist Congregation
July 12, 2009
Call to Worship
What brings you here today?
Whatever it may be - know that you are welcome.
Know that we are here for you - know that you are welcome.
Know that whoever you are, whatever you seek -
Whatever your hurts, your hopes, your doubts, your dreams -
Know that you are welcome here.
Come, let us Worship Together!
Birds make great sky circles of their freedom.
How do they learn that?
And falling, they are given wings.
Good morning! I'm Tim Mohler, and I'm really happy to be your speaker today.
For those of you who don't know me, I started coming to Wy'east just a little over a year ago, and I've been a member since last fall. I'm on the Worship Committee, so I get to help plan and coordinate a lot of our services. And since back in March of this year, I've also had the privilege of serving as Lay Leader for our services each week.
So as you've probably noticed in your Order of Service, the title of this little talk today is "What Wy'east Means to Me." It might be better framed as a question - "What does Wy'east mean to me?"
But before I start telling you my answers to that question, I have a question for you - What Does Wy'east Mean to YOU?
What does it mean to You, to be able to come here Sunday mornings, or maybe even just this one particular Sunday morning - to somehow be a part of what we do here, to be a part of this Congregation, this Community, to be among the people who you see, all around you, here today?
And if you're new here - as I was new, just a year ago - if, like me back then, you've maybe just walked through that door for the very first time, not really knowing what to expect - wondering who we are, what we might have to offer, whether this is what you're looking for, whether you even know for sure what you might be looking for - if you're new here, then here's your question:
What would you LIKE Wy'east to mean to you? What MIGHT it mean, what COULD it mean, if it was everything you wanted? Think about it. Tell us, if you like - we'd love to hear your thoughts. But tell yourself, for sure.
Oh, and by the way, those are actually pretty good questions for ALL of us - whether you've been a member for years, or today is your very first day. What would you LIKE Wy'east to mean to you? What MIGHT it mean, what COULD it mean, for you?
OK - enough with all the questions. We started off the service today with a another question: "What brings you here today?" And to understand what Wy'east means to me, you'll need to know a little bit about what brought me here, back when I first came.
I first walked through the doors of Wy'east just a little over a year ago - it feels like a lifetime now, but it was only June of last year. I'd walked by before, and thought of maybe stopping in, but I'd somehow always talked myself out of it, never had enough reason to push myself to go through the door and take a chance on finding out what went on inside.
And even on that day in June, when I did finally set foot through the door and when I certainly did have reasons - we'll get to those in a minute - even then, I did so with a fair amount of uncertainty and trepidation. Even as I was walking toward the door, I remember saying to myself, Well, you can always leave, if you don't like it.
So I did set foot through the door, and, not knowing what to expect, I walked up to the first person I saw inside and said "Hi, I'm Tim - I'm new." And that's all it took.
That first person I saw inside the door that day was Susan Maginn, our regular minister, the wonderful Rev. Susan. Or maybe it was Mabel Pool, wonderful Mabel, who used to be our Greeter in Chief - I can't really say for sure. I do know that I met the two of them in very short order, right inside the door, and within about a minute and a half I somehow knew that I was going to feel very comfortable here.
I filled out a visitor's card, I stayed for the service - I felt at home. I can't say why, for sure, except - it was the people. There was something special about the people, and there still is. They made me feel welcome, they made me feel at home - and they still do.
I mentioned that there were reasons for my finally stepping into Wy'east that day. What I didn't tell anyone that first Sunday was that just two days before, I had found out that I was going to need Open Heart Surgery sometime in the next few months, to replace a valve and a really big chunk of my aorta - pretty scary stuff.
I had no family in Portland, and hardly any close friends who I saw much anymore - no one I could really turn to, to help me through this ordeal - and, to be honest, I was completely terrified.
But here was a place where it seemed like maybe I could feel at home, feel safe, and feel a little bit less scared. So I came back to Wy'east the very next week after my first visit, and during Joys & Sorrows I got up and said some words that I still remember to this day.
I said "I'm Tim, this is my second week here, and I have a joy, and a sorrow, and another joy. The first joy is that I found this community and that you've made me feel so welcome already. The sorrow is that I've got this little open heart surgery thing that I'm gonna have to go through sometime soon, and I would welcome any support that you can give me for that. And the second joy is that somehow, even though I'm scared to death, I just have this gut feeling that this surgery is going to be one of those "unwanted" experiences that turns out to be "the best thing that ever happened to me" - in other words, somewhere, deep down, I just have this sense that this is going to be Life-Transforming in some way - even though I'm sure I don't know how."
I said all that, and then I sat down.
Well - I won't go into all the details, but the support and caring and concern that came to me from this Community from that moment forward, in the months leading up to the surgery, and during the surgery, and while I was in the hospital, and in the weeks afterward, and still to this day, was absolutely astounding.
I couldn't possibly begin to list all the kindnesses that I received, but please know that I will be eternally grateful to each and every one of you who were here back then, for every last one of them.
But there is one particular kindness that I simply have to mention, because it was so especially wonderful and powerful for me - and that is the Laying on of Hands Ceremony that Susan led for me.
I had told Susan from the beginning that for some reason what was scaring me most about the surgery was the moment just before going under the anesthetic, the moment before leaving consciousness, the moment of being alone.
It wasn't so much a fear of dying - I was pretty sure I'd come out of this OK, physically - but rather something about those moments just before, that I knew would feel like dying.
I wrestled with this all summer. And then finally, just weeks before the surgery, I realized something important. This is part of what I wrote to Susan:
I see now that the point, the lesson, the blessing, the hope, is that it will be a kind of dying, a dying of my old life -- a threshold moment, a soul moment, a step into the unknown darkness from whose depths I want to emerge into the light on the road to a new life. ... I want this to be a moment of rebirth. I want to go into that very moment not dreading, not fearing, not resisting, but welcoming, opening, looking forward to what my life can become and will become on the other side of it. And for that I think I'd really like to have some sort of Ceremony - a Blessing, a Sending Forth.
So - a "Ceremony of Transformation," if you will - that was a lot to ask for from a minister who'd known me all of two, maybe three months at that point! But somehow Susan - our Rev. Susan - did this, she gave this to me.
After the service the last Sunday in October, two days before the surgery, she gathered all those who wanted to participate and she led a beautiful, powerful, Laying on of Hands ceremony. If you've ever seen or been a part one of these, you may have some sense of what I experienced. If not, I will try to describe it for you:
I knelt, and those nearest me put their hands on my head and my arms and my shoulders, and those behind them reached out and put their hands on them and on me, and so on, until all the power and all the energy and all the blessings and good will of all those people, of all those hands, flowed into me while Susan said a beautiful prayer of protection and blessing and sending forth - and I felt truly, truly blessed.
(And THAT, in case you've ever wondered, is what this congregation, and this minister, can do!)
So - OK. We'll skip over all the doctor and hospital details that came next - suffice to say that I had the surgery, everything basically went well, and, as I said before, the outpouring of support and help from everyone here was simply awesome - as far as I'm concerned, that has to be one of the things that this Community does best!
But fast forward to today - What about now? Is my life really different? Did the surgery, or coming here, "transform" me, like I thought it might a year ago?
What was I looking for back then, when I first came here? Support. Community. Friendship. Help. Whatever I could find. What the World had to offer, if I would only ask. So I showed up at Wy'east - What can I say? Whatever it was that I was looking for, I found all that, and more.
What I found, in fact - quite aside from all the support that I got for the surgery - was everything that I'd been missing in my life for a long, long time but hadn't known where to look for or how to find. I found comfort, and friendship, and belonging. In short, I found a Home.
Before all this happened, before there was any inkling of impending surgery, I had very slowly, over the course of years, allowed myself to turn away from people, from family and friends, from failed relationships, and, without even realizing it, I had become pretty isolated from the world.
It was as if I had become a dried-up little seed lying on the ground, going nowhere, connected with hardly anyone - and then this storm came up, this Surgery - and it blew me through the door of Wy'east. But once inside - I found water and sunlight and Aliveness and Life that I had forgotten even existed. I began to become Myself again!
So yes, I do feel transformed - or rather, in the process of transforming, into what I can become, into what I have it inside myself to be. It's a long slow process, and there aren't a lot of guideposts, and it sometimes feels more like being lost in a fog than being inexorably guided toward some dazzling final destination.
But it's happening - I'm not the same person I was when I first came here, and I'm definitely growing into becoming something more. What exactly that something more will be - who knows? It's happening, and that's what matters.
It helps that I can come here and allow myself to be that person I'm becoming, that I can feel welcomed and supported and encouraged as I struggle to find who I can be.
It helps that I can come here and be part of worship services that offer Depth and Wonder and Meaning in so many different ways, that put us in touch, as Susan says, with How the Spirit is Moving in Our Lives.
So - What Does Wy'east Mean to Me? Here is some of what I wrote in an open letter to everyone last fall. It still holds true today, every word of it:
You have welcomed and supported and encouraged me in too many ways to count, and awakened in me more than I could ever have imagined. The amount of genuine warmth, caring, authenticity, honesty, friendship, support and open-heartedness that I have found here is incredible. I feel like I belong here, that this is what I've been looking for, that this is where I'm meant to be.
To simply walk through a door one day and find this in my life - this amazes me. I still can't get over it - the Grace and Blessing of it all.
So that is at least a part of all that Wy'east means to me. But the real question, the one I hope you'll think about some more after we leave here today, is the one we started out with - What About You? What does Wy'east mean to You?
I'd like to close today with a poem that's very close to my heart - it's almost a prayer. It has a special meaning for me partly because it's one of the poems that Susan read from in that wonderful Laying on of Hands ceremony that I told you about.
But, even beyond that, of everything I've heard or read since I came to Wy'east, this still, for me, comes closest to capturing the essence of what this Congregation, this Community, is all about. In other words - this might just be "What Wy'east Means to Me."
This is by Theresa Novak, and it's called "Saved"
Come into this place
There are healing waters here
And hands with soothing balm
To ease your troubled days.
Bring your wounds and aching hearts
Your scars too numb to feel.
Your questions and complaints,
All are welcome here.
Let the warmth of this community
When you feel stronger,
Just a bit,
Notice those that need you too.
They are here.
They are everywhere.
Weep with them
Smile with them,
Work with them,
Laugh along the way.
Pass the cup,
Drink the holy fire.
Take it with you
Into the world.
We are saved -
And we save each other -
Again, again, and yet again.
May this special place, this community, this church, this home, be always here for all of us - and may it always mean, for each of us, as much as it has come to mean to me. May it be so. Amen.