On Solstice night, I realized I’d spent most of my day inside, offering my last worship service with you in the morning, followed by RVUUF’s coffee hour and a Father’s Day celebration at my dad’s house. So I set off for a walk, on the longest day of the year, with the sun still bright even at 8pm.
The first thing I encountered as I stepped outdoors was a small bush of yellow flowers, the kind I had woven into a sun wheel on the first summer solstice I celebrated as a solitary pagan, not yet a Unitarian Universalist, 18 years ago. Those first few times I celebrated the turning of the earth felt joyful and maybe a little silly, like I was playing make-believe somehow, even as I was honoring the very concrete, scientifically demonstrable change of seasons. In the beginning, my pagan practice definitely harkened back to the imaginings of my childhood, and while my logical mind at first found this suspect, I’ve come to see that this simply meant I was tapping back in to a way of knowing that I had left behind. Believing in magic, in the power of ritual, of words, of intention-setting, doesn’t feel silly to me anymore, but rather a return to a truth that has lived in my heart, even when my head was taught to discount it. As I walked this solstice night, I plucked a yellow flower and carried it with me.
Later on my walk, I encountered a blackberry bush, many blackberry bushes, mostly done with their flowering, now bursting with fruit, fruit still as green as the plant’s leaves. I was reminded of the theme of the morning’s service, “Coming to Fruition” and I couldn’t help feeling a certain kinship with those little green berries. Yes, they are berries, but they aren’t ready yet. Yes, I am a minister, but still a green one. To have you receive me and affirm me, in all my greenness, has been a gift and a blessing. I can’t help wanting to hurry the seasons of my life along, because it felt so good to work for my purpose and calling, held by and holding this community of fellow seekers on the quest for truth and meaning and lives that express the fullness of our principles. For the first time in a long time, I felt myself living a life that was whole, a life where I could braid family and community and purpose together into my vocation, my ministry. And yet, it is time now for me to pause in being a minister, so I can finish learning how to be the best minister I can be. I want to be a ripe berry now. But instead, I follow the wisdom of the seasons. To everything, turn, turn, turn… And I am still in the season of my learning.
My solstice walk reminded me of the wisdom of my Goddess, the living Earth. She is there for me, as long as I take time to look, as long as I follow Her whisperings in my own heart. She called me outside that night to remind me, yes, I have been on this journey a long time, and yes, there is still a ways to go. Over the next year, as I step away from this community to allow you to take back reigns of the ministry we’ve shared together this church year, I’ll finish my Masters of Divinity at Starr King. I’ll prepare myself to come before the Ministerial Fellowshipping Committee of the UUA and receive their blessing on my ministry, which could happen a year from now, or two, or more, depending on how the journey unfolds. I’ll try not to hurry myself, as the Earth never hurries, but turns at Her own steady pace. I’ll tend my family and my studies, my garden and my calling. I’ll miss tending our community together. I’ll miss you. And yet, I’ll trust the process. When we meet again, I’ll be a ruddier berry, less green, pink even, but still not fully ripe. There is a season, turn, turn, turn…
It is hard to say goodbye from so far away. My thoughts, not to mention my physical body, are planted now in Washington State, the lands of the Duwamish, Stillaguamish, Coast Salish, and Muckleshoot, with Tahoma (aka Mount Rainier) out my window, and my father at center of my care and tending. He’s growing stronger with the treatments and pain management he’s receiving for his cancer, and I’m grateful to be a part of his process of healing, though we are told he will not ever be cured. Even in this season of burgeoning life, Death is always present, and I’m learning to dance with Her as well, to savor the moments She gives us before taking it all away. Being unable to deny that Death is waiting, I’m learning, makes the beauty of life stand out all the more clearly. I cherish these moments with my dad, and I’ll always be grateful to you for giving me space to allow these moments to unfold. I can only hope and pray that as I grow into the fullness of my ministry, I will find a congregation that honors my wholeness as a human being as fully as you have done over these last months. I have found ways to hold you, even as I put my family first. I have found the limits of what I could do for you at this time, and you respected those limits and encouraged me to live within them. You affirmed my ongoing ministry even as I didn’t have as much to give as I had before, or as I had wanted to now. A year ago, I did not expect any part of where I find myself today. After another turning of the wheel of the year, I look forward to seeing who we all become.
Merry Meet, Merry Part, Merry Meet Again.
–Intern Minister Alison Duren-Sutherland