THOUGHT FOR CONTEMPLATION:
“Come to the edge, Life said.
We are afraid
Come to edge, Life said.
They came. Life pushed them.
And they flew.”
PRELUDE: “What a Wonderful World” (George David Weiss & Bob Thiele)
WELCOMING WORDS: Muncie M.
CALL TO WORSHIP:
What a day is today!
Miracle of miracles.
From all our lives we have gathered here
to be together.
From homes of peace and comfort
and those with strife and struggle;
From homes where hearts are filled with joy;
and those where hearts have known deep sorrow;
From places of wonder and of weariness;
of bubbling hope and anxious worry;
We have come to be together.
It is good, so very good.
With gratitude and wonder,
We bid you welcome.
(Rev. Dr. Anita Farber-Robertson)
INTROIT: “Life Calls Us On” (by Kendyl Gibbons/Jason Shelton)
LIGHTING OF THE CHALICE: Theodore T.
We light this chalice to welcome each other.
Awake and aware, we gather in this place.
We light this chalice to acknowledge community,
All the ways in which we care for one another
We light this chalice to spark our imagination,
Of all we might do and to where we might go.
We light this chalice to remind us of love
That is here for us now to carry into the world.
(Rev. Dr. Anita Farber-Robertson)
OPENING HYMN: “No Other People’s Children” (Elizabeth Alexander)
Love is the doctrine of this church,
The quest for truth is its sacrament,
And service is its prayer.
To dwell together in peace,
To seek knowledge in freedom,
To serve humankind in fellowship,
To the end that all souls
Shall grow into harmony with the Divine.
This is our great covenant,
One with another, and with our God.
SONG OF ASPIRATION:
From all that dwell below the skies,
Let songs of hope and faith arise,
Let peace, good-will on earth be sung,
Through every land, by every tongue. Amen.
CHILDREN’S TIME: Rev. Anita
Rev. Anita places before each child a smooth flat stone. It has a pink heart drawn on it. She asks them to leave it there, without picking it up.
When each child has a stone before them, she explains that she is giving them these stones with a heart she’s drawn on it to remind them that they are loved. They are loved here, in this church, they are loved by their families, and they are held in love by the universe, by the God of love.
She wants them to remember that no matter what happens, they are always held in this love.
She then gives them a moment for this to settle with them.
“Now, I want you to turn over your stone. What’s there, on the other side? Another heart.
That heart is to remind you that with all of this love that holds and fills you, you need to share it, you need to spread that love out into the world.
It is two sides of the same thing, the love you receive and the love you give, all important, something to do every day.
Now, I have my suitcase. And since I took the stones out of it, it is empty. We all know that my time here is finished. This is my last worship service with you. I will be going to another church that doesn’t have a minister, just like when I came here to you. So I am going to need to pack up my suitcase with important things to take with me, just like I did when I came here.
Will you help me pack my suitcase? I have this bag here with the things I need to pack. (the children will help, as we identify each thing).
And now, who can recognize this bag? It is the bag from this church, the Melrose Unitarian Universalist Church, the bag we used for our house meetings. I am going to put this bag into my suitcase too, because I want to keep that, and all that I have shared with you, with me, in my heart as a go.
Pretty special. Thank you.”
She closes the suitcase, and snap its clasps shut, and invites the children to return to their families.
CANDLES OF JOY AND CONCERN
MEDITATION AND PRAYER
BRIDGING: A CEREMONY MARKING TRANSITION and COMING OF AGE
The children are invited to come forward for this most important rite of passage.
INTRODUCTION TO THE BRIDGING CEREMONY: Rev. Anita
INTRODUCTION OF ZOE V.: Mentor Patricia F.
PRESENTATION OF CREDO: Zoe V.
PRESENTATION OF GIFTS: Chuck F. and Katie Camire
HYMN: “Woyaya“, collaboration of seven South African musicians ( * )
Lyrics: We are going, heaven knows where we are going, but we know we will.
It will be hard, we know, and the road will be muddy and rough,
But we will get there, heaven knows how we will get there, but we know we will.
Woyaya, woyaya, woyaya, woyaya. (Repeat all.)
OFFERTORY: “I Know This Rose Will Open” (Mary Grigolia/arr. Clif Hardin)
Celebration and Release
The Rev. Dr. Anita Farber-Robertson
Here we are, at the edge. Zoe at the edge of High School, which, for all of its angst and challenges, at least was known. Now life is pitching her forward…forward to the not yet known.
Me, here at the edge, the edge of completion of my ministry with you, which while including days of uncertainty, was also part of a committed community of love and promise, in which the uncertainties were held in common, and the rewards, which were many, were shared. And now much like Zoe, I am pitching forward…forward to the not yet known.
And you, beloved Melrose Unitarian Universalist Church, are balanced too on the edge, the edge of completion of this ministry, which for all of its surprises and uncertainties, had a name and a face and a person, someone with whom you were in covenant to walk together. We had held on to each other and shared this experience. And now, like Zoe, and like me, you too are pitching forward…forward to the not yet known.
You and Zoe might, like me, recognize the feelings Danaan Perry describes:
“Sometimes I feel that my life is a series of trapeze swings. I’m either hanging onto a trapeze bar swinging along, or, for a few moments in my life, hurtling across space in between trapeze bars.
Most of the time, I spend my life hanging on for dear life to my trapeze-bar-of-the-moment. It carries me along at a certain steady rate of swing, and I have the feeling that I’m in control of my life. I know most of the right questions and even some of the right answers.
But once in a while, as I’m merrily (or not so merrily) swinging along, I look out ahead of me in the distance, and what do I see? I see another trapeze bar swinging toward me. It’s empty, and I know that this new trapeze bar has my name on it. It is my next step, my growth, my aliveness coming to get me. In my heart of hearts, I know that for me to grow, I must release my grip on this present, well-known bar to move to a new one.
Each time it happens to me, I hope that I won’t have to grab the new one. But I know that I must totally release my grasp on my old bar, and for some moment in time, I must hurtle across space before I can grab onto the new bar.
Each time, I am filled with terror. It doesn’t matter that in all my previous hurtles across the void of unknowing I have always made it. Each time, I am afraid that I will miss, that I will be crushed on unseen rocks in the bottomless chasm between the trapeze bars. But I do it anyway.
Perhaps this is the essence of what the mystics call the faith experience. No guarantees, no net, no insurance policy, but you do it anyway because somehow, to keep hanging onto that old trapeze is no longer on the list of alternatives.
And so, for an eternity that can last a microsecond or a thousand lifetimes, I soar across the dark void of “the past gone, the future not yet here.”
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? I know that feeling well. And it is still scary. But if I hadn’t pushed off and released the last time, I would not have been able to grab on to the trapeze called MUUC. I would have missed the joy of working and laughing and learning with you. I would have missed the sojourn we shared as we explored together. I would have missed the thrill of experiments that worked out well and the “aha” of learning that came when figuring out something that was not working for us. I would have missed watching the children grow each week in poise and presence as well as in size. I would have missed the experience of profound trust between us as we risked to try something new. You have been an amazing trapeze bar for me, and I think I have been one for you.
But the new bars are swinging, rising up before us, ready to take us off to our next experience, our next destination. And the only way to get there, is to release our grip on the bar we have been holding, the bar that has gotten us this far, but can get us no farther.
Letting go does not diminish how meaningful it all has been. I’m not just talking about our journey. I am taking about life, our lives day to day. It may be a job, a relationship, a house or a community. There are times to hold on, and times to let go; times when letting go is a way of honoring what has been. Rather than trying to make it serve in a place where it cannot, celebrate that past, that trapeze that has carried you thus far, and then, let it go.
I think that may be the secret of growth and transformation. When we have acknowledged and honored what has been, our letting go becomes a celebration of all that has launched us. There is no need to diminish what we are leaving in order to justify the claiming of something new. We can take with us the momentum that is catapulting us into tomorrow.
As we leave the sanctuary this morning, we will each take a flower from the common bouquet. It won’t last. It won’t need to. It is a symbol of all the ways in which this community, the people here, the dreams, the aspirations, and the shared experiences have launched us. They have become a part of who we are. As we hurl through the air between the past and the not quite yet, we are carried by their presence and our gratitude. I am carried by your presence and my gratitude.
Thank you all, dear ones. It has been a wonderful journey.
I love you. Go forward awash in blessings.
CHORAL ANTHEM: “Life Calls Us On” Kendyl Gibbons/Jason Shelton
LITANY OF RELEASE
President Elect Chuck F.: We are a living congregation. Here babies are born, children grow, and people join, sharing special moments, the joys and losses. The time also comes for some to move away. Others die, leaving us behind. All these events we mark and hallow, as precious in our life together.
Rev. Anita: Two years ago, I came as your Interim Minister to work with you, counsel, coach and pastor you through the changes of your lives, individually and as a congregation, helping you dream and preparing the way for a new day and a new ministry.
Congregation: You worked with us on the things we care about, helping us become full partners in ministry and service. We are grateful for your ministry among us.
Rev. Anita: You have been a devoted and caring congregation, ready to work with me as partners in a journey through lands unknown, blessing me in this ministry. We were explorers together, agreeing to be curious about what would emerge.
Chuck: We all took risks, setting aside the familiar way of doing church, and choosing the freedom to learn and to experiment.
Rev. Anita: It took fresh courage, every day, every week, as we invented church anew, drawing from your deep reservoirs of faith, commitment and creativity.
Congregation: We have grown as we journeyed, accessing gifts and skills we did not know we had.
Chuck: It was a limited journey. We all knew that this would end.
Rev. Anita: And so we made the moments count. We worked, supporting and encouraging, each other, each from our own role, our own capabilities. I am grateful for your generous hearts. Thank you for the privilege of being your minister. I ask your forgiveness for the ways in which I may have disappointed you, for mistakes I may have made, or times I let you down.
Congregation: We accept your gratitude and offer forgiveness for any failures. We thank you and ask you to forgive our short comings.
Rev. Anita: I accept your thanks and cheerfully offer forgiveness for your short comings, real or imagined. I am grateful for the time we had together.
Chuck: As good as these interim times have been, we must each move on to the next portion of our journeys.
Congregation: Rev. Anita, with our appreciation for your faithful ministry to us, and our blessings, we do hereby release you from the duties of Interim Minister to the Melrose Unitarian Universalist Church.
Rev. Anita: Members and friends of the Melrose Unitarian Universalist Church, you have been a warm, engaged and faithful congregation, a beacon of liberal faith. With tenderness and gratitude, I hereby release you from turning to me for advice, support and counsel. I offer you my blessings and good wishes as you take up a new relationship with your called minister, the Rev. Susanne Intriligator,
All: May the blessings of love, hope and generosity of spirit continue to be ours as we go our separate ways, yet together serving our common faith.
(Rev. Dr. Anita Farber-Robertson)
EXTINGUISHING THE CHALICE (read by the congregation)
We extinguish the flame but not the light of truth,
the warmth of community, or the fire of commitment.
These we carry in our hearts until we are together again.
May the long time sun shine upon you,
all love surround you,
and the pure light within you
guide you all the way home.
( * ) indicates author/composer is a person of color
 Danaan Perry, adapted from Warriors of the Heart
Please let me know if you add anything, so that I may make the final changes in the copy that I am printing. Thank you!