Our spiritual lives are our craft. They are like pottery: feeling our way forward with the clay we have before us on the wheel. They are like woodworking or sewing: carefully observing and measuring to know what we should do next. They are like knitting: letting our busy minds quiet as we find the breath in rhythm and repetition.
Our spiritual lives also stretch beyond these metaphors. Our souls are open to the presence of something greater, a big love, a spirit that moves us, the source of our inherent worth and dignity. And we live our spiritual lives in community, with each other at First Unitarian Church and with our neighbors in Worcester County.
All to say, you are my community, First Unitarian Church, and I can't wait to rejoin my spiritual life with yours as my sabbatical comes to an end next month. I am so grateful for this time away that you give your minister for deepening and renewal. I can't wait to share what I have found with you, and to join you on your spiritual journeys.
My goals for my sabbatical were to focus on my family, writing, and other creative pursuits. I have done all those things. I've been home in the afternoons when the boys get home from school. We visited my family in Michigan. Andy and I organized things around our house (an activity we love) and are fighting off a mouse invasion (less fun). All four of us are taking a short vacation over Thanksgiving to enjoy some time together.
If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you've seen some of my writing. For the past four years, I've been on a fitness journey that has focused on weightlifting and strength. I've been writing about that journey and putting together a book proposal on strength and spirituality for women. Stay tuned for more!
Finally during my sabbatical, I focused on creativity and craft. I learned to make a Shaker-style oval box and took a beginner's pottery class at the Worcester Center for Crafts. (You'll hear more about that in my first sermon on December 8.) After doing some basic sewing with instructions from my mom, and hearing my best friend from childhood rave about sewing her own clothes, I bought a sewing machine and I'm learning how to use it. I feel connected to my own past-I remember wearing homemade dresses as a child-and to generations of women who have worked with fiber for utility and art.
Craft with my hands connects me to my body and my past, grounds the writing I do in reality and reminds me that we are all bodies, all pronounced good, all worthy. Our theology says that God loves us just for who we are, and that out of our gratitude for that love we expand our capacity to love each other. Life is hard; suffering is all around us; we need each other to work for goodness and justice for all.
If you want to explore how to put your spiritual life into the craft of sermon-writing, you are in luck. I am offering my popular "Shared Pulpit" class again this year. Join a small group of fellow First Unitarians to explore spiritual writing in an environment of trust. You'll learn how to craft a sermon and a worship service. At the end of the class, you'll be invited to lead a summer service (which is completely optional, by the way). The first class will take place on Monday, December 9th from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. in the Mirick Room, and will continue to meet on second Mondays going forward. Sign up here class size is limited to 8 people.
I am very much looking forward to seeing you all again, worshiping together and rejoining you as my spiritual community. Thank you for the gift of this sabbatical and for being a wonderful church.
Rev. Sarah C. Stewart