by Rev. Peter Friedrichs
Each year, as we depart from the Sanctuary during our closing worship of the regular church year, I invite everyone to take a stone with them. I ask that you take your stone with you wherever you go over the summer and I invite you to leave your stone somewhere “out in the world.” This is a way of symbolizing that we don’t just practice our faith together on Sunday mornings at 145 W. Rose Tree Road, but that our faith is actively lived out in the world.
Carrying that stone in our pocket during the summer can remind us to live up to and into our Unitarian Universalist principles. Perhaps it can help us to be more patient, more kind, more loving in our interactions with others. Maybe it can serve as a “touchstone,” reminding us to affirm and promote respect for everyone, even when that’s challenging.
One summer, I remember reaching into my pocket for some change when I was stuck in a long line at a convenience store. I was getting pretty frustrated at how slow the cashier was in ringing up customers. When I pulled the change out, there was my stone. Looking at it, I was reminded to be kind. I took a deep breath and relaxed.
You might also consider giving your stone to someone whom you notice is acting in a way that reflects who we are as UUs. Imagine someone’s surprise as you tell them that you really appreciated something that you saw them do, and that you wanted to give them a “reward.” You can tell them that the stone comes from our church, where we strive to embrace everyone just the way they are. Oh, and you might mention that they just might make a great Unitarian Universalist!
Taking a stone out into the world is just half of the task that we’re charged with over the summer. The other part is to bring a stone back to church with us when we gather again in September. It might be a stone from a far-flung place or from our own back yard. I’ve found that keeping an eye out for a stone to bring back to church helps keep me grounded and in touch with our community, even when I’m far away.
Last year Irene and I were in Peru, and we were constantly looking for stones we could bring back. Our “stone search” made us feel connected with the church and everyone in it. It reminded us of the joy we share in being a part of something larger than ourselves. In a way, you were all there with us on a beach in Lima and at a rocky mountain pass at 18,000 feet. Looking for stones also helped remind us to take pleasure in the beauty of our surroundings and that our lives are a great gift for which we should constantly be thankful.
When we bring back the stones we’ve found and place them in the basket, they present us with a symbol of our diversity. Like everyone in church, no two are alike. Some are sharp around the edges while others are worn smooth and round. Some show the ravages of time, while others appear shiny and bright. Bringing a stone back to church in September is bringing a gift to others in the congregation. Throughout the year your stone will be invested with the joys and sorrows of so many. They will be taken up with heavy hearts and heavy hands, or with lightness and gladness. They will be released into the bowl where whatever they carry can be carried by us all.
May we carry, leave, and select our stones of summer with intention and clarity.
May our time apart be a time of rest, reflection and rejuvenation. Happy Summer!
From June 2014 Focus
(Photo by Joan Karasick)