What a Terrible and Wonderful Year!

Friends, after this blog, I’ll be taking a break for a few weeks.  I have turned over a new leaf to write a blog most weeks, so I hope y’all have been reading ’em!  But alas, I still need a break every now and then (next Sunday will be my first Sunday off since August; oy), so this blog is a chance to look back on the calendar year.

As most of you know, personally it’s been a rough, fairly shitty year for me.  I’ve been dealing with marital separation since March, and the only good thing to come out of this will be (that I can see right now) is that it makes me a better minister, because I will always have increased compassion for people going through this, that I never would have understood before.  It’s weird.  People tend to think that since no one died, it’s not that tragic or traumatic, or something.  But of course a primary relationship dies, so indeed it is like a death, and like in the aftermath of any big loss, you have to find the friends and family in your life that truly understand, and can be an authentic support for you.  So that’s one cheery theme of my 2018, ho ho ho!

I like to be transparent with y’all.  Trust and authenticity mean everything to me in my ministry to the UU Church of Studio City.

It helps me communicate to you that your sufferings and losses mean a lot to me, too. I am here for you because I want to be here for you, not in small part because you have been there for me, and I deeply appreciate it, supporting me in appropriate and meaningful ways.  That’s what a church community is all about, living “at the corner of kinship and mutuality” (Father Gregory Boyle).  We are, at our best, an idealized familial community:  there for each other, honest with each other, saving each other.  Mutually, we live through the ups and downs, the joys and sorrows of life, week after week, year after year.

One of the biggest events in the life of the church this past year, I’m afraid, is also all about me (doh!).  You all saw fit to call me as your Settled Minister, which means I am yours and you are mine for the foreseeable.  A golden period.  Now I am weeping.  You have no idea how much this gesture and literal vote of confidence meant to me, for so many reasons I don’t need to elucidate here.  But one of them is that we are a really, really good match.  I love your quirks (you put up with mine), and I believe we are able to effectively communicate to one another in all the ways that are crucial and important.  Is there room for improvement on both our parts?  Like any vibrant and dynamic relationship, hell yes!!  There are many tasks each week that I wish I could get done, that I wish y’all would do, but we are a well-intentioned work in progress, and that’s what matters.  We are committed, and we have much to look forward to in the years ahead, as we encourage one another.

By the way, did you know we still have to have what (I think) is akin to a wedding ceremony?  It’s called an Installation Service, when we celebrate our settled, ministerial/congregational relationship going forward, with the support of our community.  I swear, it’s the same meaning as a wedding.  So weird, I know!  Please mark your calendars for February 24th, for this auspicious occasion, at 4 PM.  I have arranged for treasured mentors to participate from three corners of America:  Michigan, North Carolina, and Texas.

Finally, speaking of auspicious occasions, it was QUITE an affair to celebrate our 75th anniversary as a congregation this past October with a Gala of beautiful original music (thank you Dan Cragan!), local dignitaries, a premiere documentary about us truly (thank you Tracy Martinson!), and top-notch nosh (thank you Cindy Eson)!  All our volunteers went above and beyond the call of duty, demonstrating how much this community means to them, and we raised nearly $15,000, as a testimony to our faith and commitment.  Thank you so much.  How far we have come in our history, from a Unity Church built by the minister’s own hands (bless you Herbert Schneider), to a healthy Unitarian Universalist church that has weathered many storms and come out with A New Hope (our potential Annual Fund Drive theme; sneak preview!!).

While I could take credit for being that new hope, the truth is that it’s all of YOU who have carried this flame of hope, through thick and thin.  With countless volunteer hours, blood, sweat, and tears.

Back in the day, the Christians were considered radical for gathering and practicing their faith.  But I like to think that, along with our historical ties to Christianity via Unity, and our present ties to Judaism via Congregation Beth Ohr, whom worships in our sanctuary, we too carry on the great religious traditions of radical kinship (which I’ve been preaching on the last two weeks and will again this Sunday): with our perseverance to not only survive but thrive as a religious community, where “service is our prayer” and where we “dwell together in peace.”

How grateful I am this holiday season, and I hope you are too, for this living tradition of a community, in which we love and are loved.

Thank you, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year!

With love, Rev. Hannah