A reflection for Ingathering Sunday September 10, 2017 First Parish Dorchester Rev. Tricia Brennan

Good morning. It is good to see you all, in fact as I gaze out upon the all of you, I harken back to the opening words that Myles offered: that we rest for a moment on the forming edge of our lives, and resist the head long tumble into the next moment until we claim for ourselves awareness and gratitude, and take the time to look into one another’s faces and see their communion.

I have a good vantage point for looking into one another’s faces, best seat in the house, but let’s all take a moment and in whatever internal way is yours to best claim awareness and gratitude or whatever way feels at ease in looking into one another’s faces- please do so.

“Tradition is to the community, what memory is to the individual” said John O’Donohue.

It is a tradition here at First Parish and in many UU churches to perform a simple ritual with water on Ingathering Sunday, the Sunday that generally comes after school starts, after Labor Day, when any travelers are likely to be back, when fall’s approach is felt in the air.

A simple tradition of water gathered from many parts, carried here to this sanctuary, poured into a common bowl, (the bowl itself used by tradition and of the community’s past,) with few words shared as to the significance and origin of the water.

Like any good ritual it is sturdy enough to hold various meanings. Last year we considered thirst and what it was we thirsted for, individually and together. Other years you may have pondered how water changes shape- from hard ice, to soft mist, to flowing liquid- and what that shape-shifting might teach us. Or perhaps you explored how water seeks it’s settled point, finds its home, as we all must do. Or how water can used to bless, or gives life, or must be shared.

Tradition is to the community, as memory is to the individual- and so we remember, if not in our minds, then in our bones or our psyche- that this ritual shared, time after time, year after year, accumulates power and meaning over the years, much as a river picks up nutrients to carry from one place to another.
This year the meaning that speaks to me is a simple one. It is that we each have a gift to bring, that is unique to ourselves, that arises from who we are, where our lives have taken us, what we have learned on that journey. As you pour your contribution of water into the common bowl, remember that. No one can give what you can give- no one else has your unique intelligence, good heart, wisdom, vision, tenderness, quirks, bravery, or story. What is not given of ourselves is, in a sense, lost. And, as we each pour our contribution of water into the common bowl, let us remember, as the waters swirl together, that this community is wiser, stronger, kinder, more colorful and interesting for all that is shared. We truly are better together.

This year for First Parish is an important one- is it any more so than any before? Perhaps not. But it is the one this community is living in, the year of right now, a year in which we can learn much, give much, do much, and grow in awareness and gratitude. May it be so.