Answering a Call Rev. Linda Goodman A call has been sent out to the Tree of Life Interfaith Community for a Presiding Minister to take up the Tree of Life Temple duties of our founding Minister, Rev. Dr. Stephanie Rutt. Though this seems a daunting undertaking, we can find some relief in knowing that there will also be an associate minister to share those duties and to provide a structure for a smooth succession going forward. That being the case, I have no excuses for ignoring the nudgings of spirit to answer this call. I have been attempting to hush the little whispers that said this would one day be my assignment since I entered Tree of Life Seminary in 2014. For those of you who love the Temple and are concerned for the future of the Temple with someone other than our beloved teacher, minister, and mentor Stephanie at the helm, let me offer some reassurance. Most importantly, she is not going away. She will still offer worship, classes, mentoring. She will be available to us, perhaps even moreso without the everyday duties of Temple leadership. You may be asking, “So who do you think you are?” That is a question I have certainly asked myself often enough, though much less frequently after years of mentoring with Rev. Stephanie. I would like to share with you who I am. I am a minister. Even before Seminary I have served as substitute or guest worship leader in Unitarian Universalist churches throughout New England. It has always been my joy to weave together music, readings and ideas into a meaningful cloth of spiritual understanding. I am a frequent worship leader at Tree of Life and I have accepted the assignment of scheduling weekly worship services from our bountiful supply of gifted ministers and seminarians. I am a singer/recording artist on Robert Gass's chant series of world faith tradition spiritual music and on Shawna Carol's Goddess Chant recording. Together with my life partner and “accomplice in ministry,” Joe Pollock, we offer music ministry to Tree of Life and to the UU churches where I am guest minister. I am a spiritual mentor, Reiki Master, and sound therapist with an office sublease at the Temple. As such, I can offer a consistent presence at the Temple with open office hours and a note on the door saying “The Minister is In.” I feel that this would make us more accessible to seekers who wonder what we are about. I am a collaborator, with connections in several other area churches who might work with us on joint projects and collaborative worship such as our solstice spiral and upcoming Beltane service complete with maypole. I am a creator. Instead of wishing something might be created, I believe in acting as if it were a done deal. What steps would we take if our community were to grow? If we were more accessible to the larger community? If we collaborated more with other faiths in our community? If we wanted to put on an artistic event, a fundraiser, a concert? Okay, let's take a step, and the next, and another. I am committed to serving the Temple. So far I have served as a music minister, a worship leader, a Leadership Council member, the scheduler of worship, a Seminary Guide, Weekly Update editor and the co-chair of the Silent Auction and Art Fair fundraiser. I am ready to serve as Presiding Minister. In these challenging times it is going to take us all to make a change. But I believe that is exactly why we are here now. We were meant to find each other, to learn from and support each other, to combine our strengths and gifts in such a way as to make a difference. We were meant to change the world, one encounter at a time. In 2005 Rev. Dr. Stephanie Rutt wrote the What If poem that launched the idea that brought us to where we are today. I am including that poem in conclusion with my personal prayer response between the stanzas in italics. What if What if there was a place where we could practice respecting religious differences while honoring sameness? Perhaps then we could... recognize the face of our brother and sister beyond color, dress, or language. May I serve as a living example of one who serves God/dess in all his unique and powerful manifestations, in all of her beautiful and loving incarnations.
What if there was a place where we could practice celebrating each person's unique expression of the Divine ?while honoring our common heartbeat? Perhaps then we could understand that each of us has a role to play - a gift to offer. May the words that I speak, the music and vibrations that I share, the deep and compassionate listening that I offer, provide a space for all to recognize and celebrate their own unique Divinity within this community of connected souls.
What if there was a place where we could practice engaging the difficult issues while together forging new Pathways to peace? Perhaps then we could... begin to build a world family and learn to love our neighbor as our self. ? ?May I cultivate peace within, that I might better address difficult issues from a place of love. May I share the skills taught to me by Better Angels training that allow us to bridge our deepest divisions and recognize the face of God in our brothers and sisters, as in ourself.