Pastor Rick's Letter to the Congregation
This community continues to amaze me. We are blessed with such a variety of wise, generous and compassionate people. We are blessed with a congregation that has been continuing to support the mission and ministry of the Chapel in the midst of these uncertain times. We are blessed with a Benefit Shop that has been doing record-breaking business thanks to Greg Rutherig and Karen Turner. We are blest with members who are skillfully leading our zoom services when I am away, offering new perspectives, inspiration, and wisdom: in October it was Tom Bishop (Oct. 18) and Jennifer Garbarino (Oct. 25), and this month it will be Linnea Terranova on November 15. Indeed, we are a community that has more going for it than churches three or four times our size! Especially in times of crisis like these, it is amazing how blest we are. And this month as we enter the holiday seasons of Thanksgiving and Advent (yes, Advent begins in November this year) at a time when we will be re-inventing our holidays to keep one another safe, it seems more important than ever to be mindful of our blessings and of our power to bless.
I remember my first year in college and the experience of my first Thanksgiving away from home. My college was in Spokane, WA, and my home and family were in Southern California. When November came I was invited by my roommate to spend Thanksgiving with his family that was just a half-day drive from campus. Since I had been feeling homesick for weeks it was wonderful to have a place to go and to feel included. But the reality was, other than the traditional turkey and stuffing, it was a lot different than previous thanksgivings had been.
One of their holiday traditions was for the men to go out duck hunting the day after Thanksgiving. I had never handled a shotgun in my life, let alone gone hunting. They were wise enough to let me just tag along without trying to persuade me to shoot something. I think we managed to come back with one duck and no injuries. It wasn’t anything I ever wanted to do again, hunting in the local supermarket is adventure enough, but it was a new and novel experience.
In retrospect the whole Thanksgiving that year was an enormous blessing. I was welcomed into another family’s home and traditions that were as important and beloved by them as mine had been to me. I learned that not only could I survive a thanksgiving that was unlike any other I had previously had, I could actually appreciate it for the new experiences that it offered. They had expanded their table and home to include me, a stranger, the least I could do was keep my heart open to them and express my gratitude.
In the years since then I have spent many traditional thanksgivings with my family, and some with friends. They have all been different. Once I even cooked the turkey. Happy to say I was never asked to do that again. Many years ago my brother Mike and his wife started having a huge gathering of family and friends over for turkey, prime rib, and Vietnamese cuisine on Thanksgiving. Talk about fusion!
Come to think about it, every Thanksgiving I have ever had has been different. As much as we strive to maintain our traditions it is never the same. The important thing, the necessary quality that makes it feel like a traditional Thanksgiving, is that you are grateful. Grateful to be with people you care about, or with people who care enough about you to welcome you into their lives. Grateful to be sharing a meal, simple or complex, humble or haute-cuisine. Grateful to be a part of something bigger than and different from you. Grateful to be creating connections that support the awakening of the heart.
This year our holidays may not include the large gatherings, the easy affection lavishly shared between family and friends, or the welcoming of strangers into our home. It will more likely include masks, hand sanitizer, physical distance, and frequent washing of hands. And it may happen via zoom, phone calls, or small outdoor gatherings within your “bubble.” But we have had to adapt before, and we can do it again. And there are always unexpected blessings waiting, even in the challenges we face today.
I invite you to consider a new way to do the most traditional thing we can do for the holidays: with open minds and hearts, and with deep gratitude for this life which is still and always precious and blessed, let love and justice flow in all your relations.
Your partner in our shared ministry,
Rev. Rick Yramategui