Leap Day, 2016

Dates often have significance for me, and some dates more than others.  But seeing Elise Swearingen’s (former  All Souler, and daughter of Lon Swearingen) charming video for Providence, RI on the topic of what are you going to do on Leap Day, triggered a lot.  First – check out the video: https://youtu.be/68aXbW1zAcg

It was four years ago today that I resigned my membership at All Souls, something spoken of elsewhere on this blog site.  In the interest of dramatic use of serendipity, I chose Leap Day 2012 to take my leave, or to take my leap of faith in a new direction.  I didn’t land in my new and current religious home until 1 April 2012 (it was a long leap, but I wanted to land just right, with solemnity and silliness in equal measure).

While I contemplated my leap, during the leap, and even after landing (though I continue to bounce), I have periodically posted in this space, named All-Soulo to honor All-Souls, to keep in mind an existential loneliness I find ever-present, to highlight a sense of exile, and to call to mind the Feast of All Souls (2 November) in the Catholic calendar, a day to remember the oft-forgotten souls, the broken souls who have not yet made it into the presence of God (whatever that might mean), as opposed to All Saints Day (1 November) a day of celebration for those who have so made it.  As a kid, I put a lot more time and thought into All Souls Day — the saints didn’t need my help, or my attention, but lost souls, well — maybe my attention and thoughts might have some effect there.

And now, at SMUUCh, I am part of the Ministerial Search Committee.  At SMUUCh, we have leapt from settled minister to interim, and we look forward to making that leap forward from interim to new settled minister.  So this leap day has some significance all its own.

But, in leaping forward, I always look back, and the ghosts of my past are never far away. I often reflect on William Faulkner’s line (at least it was attributed to him) that “the past is never  dead.  It’s not even past.” (from Requiem for a Nun).  For Faulkner, that line largely referred to the troubled history of the South (and this nation) and how old issues linger on.  I love the line.  At times I share its melancholy, but in its beautiful play of language, I see an opening for better times and a more joyous and useful embrace of the past as we move ahead.  Like Lot’s wife, I find myself looking back, but I like to think that I (and we) can find better use for that salt, to season our lives, to preserve our cherished memories, and to sow into those fetid fields of bitterness that too often flourish and to check them.

As I’ve jumped from one side of the state line to the other to be in community, I sometimes notice that the very superpower of leaping — before he could fly, Superman could “leap tall buildings in a single bound” — which power appears to make mockery of boundaries and borders and barriers, doesn’t last.  I’m thinking of those big fat bullfrogs now — you can tell that they can leap, some quite far, but most of the time, they’re just chillin’ on a lily pad and seem more immovable.  And in that restful state, just chillin’ on my lily pad, boy do those borders and barriers become hightened and highlighted.  And I think — crossing the state line or crossing some other boundary just seems too much work, and I croak out a ribbet and just sigh.  But I then dream and remember, to paraphrase a favorite song about footwear, that “these legs are made for leapin’ and that’s just what they’ll do…” Having leapt away does not mean I can’t leap back for a visit — I have made such hops, and will so hop again.  Borders can be a good thing, and people with a poor sense of boundaries are often unsafe.  But when borders turn to barriers and barricades, well, the leaper in me won’t stand for that — one way or another, I believe, we shall overcome, or and least come over, by leaps and bounds as we are able.  So, I hope you’ll jump over for a visit from time to time.  During this time of search, I’m afraid I have not been at SMUUCh much.  And so, though you are all always and, I hope, in all ways, are welcome at SMUUCh, I’m likely to miss you if you visit before May.But, if you come after May, if all goes as we hope in the search, you will come into a place always welcoming, but energized and reinvigorated in joyful anticipation — oh, it will be a hoppin’ place. Even in the off-chance of a failed search, hop over.  In that case, you will find a place more subdued, but still welcoming. I shall be glad, in either case, to see you again.

I know that the previous sentence had the sound of a coda, but nowadays in movies, it is common to have teasers to possible sequels, so consider the following just such a teaser, a reward to those who stayed through the credits.   This teaser will have the form of a prayer — some of you have heard me say I’m not a praying man, and so are probably thinking Huh??? —  I can only say, it’s leap year, so and prayer feels right for a leap of faith.

The covenant we speak at SMUUCh, and which the church entire (so far as I can tell) loves and cherishes deeply, concludes with the words “so that all souls may grow into harmony with the divine, thus do we covenant with one another.”  The first time I heard, and saw, and spoke those words I saw All Souls and it caused some cognitive dissonance within — for I had left All Souls, and divine is a word that causes some there discomfort. But my connexion to all souls predated my signing the book at All Souls, and it survives my transferring membership across the state line.  And every time I speak that covenant, which has taken on the tone and timbre of a plainsong chant for me, I see and hear, and feel both all souls and All Souls.  In that moment, I am mindful of the world beyond, of all in need, of my part in a greater whole, and of friends and family at 4501 Walnut, all at once.  That’s a long prelude to a shorter prayer (feel free to replace prayer with hope, dream, vision, open-ended promise):

May the coming years remind us that the lines on a map need not confine us, need not separate us, one from the other.  May the coming years recall us to our common humanity, and may it remind us of our uncommon specialness, that definitions are always imperfect, and that there is a porous quality to that which separates us.  May the coming years, on this holy Leap Day, remind us we are more than our labels, and we can all leap to transcend our often self-imposed limits, leap to the defense of those in distress, leap to drumbeats of our hearts.  Finally, let us remember that Unitarian Universalism is a movement more than an institution.  What say you, All Souls and SMUUCh?  Shall we leap together into the future?  I, for one, hop so.


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