Another joy of ministry: being invited to preach in a colleague's church during a sabbatical or other arranged absence. It's an honor to be welcomed into another pulpit, a pleasure to experience the carefully crafted worship of another congregation, and a treat to meet Unitarian Universalists in another part of the district.
I hadn't had much experience with the Olympia UU Congregation, in our state capitol, except that I know their minister and a few congregants fairly well. And they have been a staunch supporter of the marriage equality movement that I have been quite involved in over the past four years, supplying large quantities of food for our yearly Equality Day at the capitol.
So when their minister, the Rev. Art Vaeni, asked colleagues in the PNWD if we would be willing to fill his pulpit during his four month sabbatical, I jumped at the chance to volunteer and signed up for Jan. 13. I also was invited to spend Saturday night at the home of some folks who had been part of my Vashon congregation before they moved to the Olympia area.
Choosing what to say as a guest preacher can be a little tricky. You want to challenge and inspire, yes, but you also know that you are filling big shoes and need to be entertaining and substantive as well. I also didn't have a lot of time to write a new sermon, so I chose one that had been successful and thought-provoking for my own congregation on Whidbey: "The Holy Fool".
After letting the worship committee at OUUC know my choice for the upcoming newsletter, I started to sweat it out. Was this going to be serious enough for a congregation known for its social activism? What if they hated the idea of joking about UUism? But it was a little late to change, so I vowed to give it my best and went ahead.
It turned out to be a huge success; everyone seemed to have a good experience, including me; they have a wonderful choir and choir director who really got into it and produced an incredible version of "A Modern Unitarian", Chris Raible's parody of a well-known Gilbert and Sullivan "Pirates of Penzance" song. They laughed at the jokes and nodded knowingly at the premise--that UUs are America's Holy Fool, willing to look foolish and stick our necks out for what we see as issues of freedom and conscience.
To top it off, I met my brother and his wife and daughter for lunch at a nice restaurant in Olympia after the service and we spent a couple of hours together. He looks wonderful after his surgery to implant a "left ventricle assist device" and may have a heart transplant in as little as four months, if the right donor is found. I am hugely relieved to have seen him, hugged him, heard his stories about the experience, and to know in my heart that he is going to be with us for a good deal longer. A few months ago it was pretty scary to contemplate.
So now I'm home again, gearing up for MLK Sunday and a service on classism, something I've been meaning to address for several weeks. MLK had strong opinions about classism and its connection to racism, so I'm looking forward to pulling it together into a sermon.