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Seeing the Big Picture

One morning in January, when I walked up to the water tower to listen to Granite Mountain, the sun was rising in the East, illuminating the clouds around it and mysteriously a patch of clouds to the north of the sun. I sat in the freezing air, which only felt cool after the steep climb, and looked out at that mountain, wondering what it had to say. As I opened my heart and mind, I heard: Look around at the big picture.

For most of my time with you, the pandemic has made it difficult to see the bigger picture. This worldwide health crisis, which brought out our creative powers, has been exhausting for ministerial leadership all over our association and among Presbyterians, Lutherans and in synagogues, and all manner of religious organization. To recover my energy as we still grapple with the pandemic, I have realized my need to connect more closely with my call to ministry, the call that sent me to seminary and finally brought me to this beautiful place overlooking Granite Mountain.

My call to seminary and UU ministry was a call to justice work. Living on the US/Mexican border at the time of that call, I yearned to relieve the suffering that was around us. Our congregation’s connections with Spanish-speaking residents has reminded me of that first call. The border is with us wherever we live and there is much to do here. At Granite Peak, I am proud of the many social justice events, directions and traditions that are thriving such as Empty Bowls and the new ones such as our Neighborhood Outreach Ministry. I have enjoyed being a voice in the greater community for the Memorial for those who died from COVID, the Women’s March, celebration of the suffrage movement, the vigil for Ruth Bader Ginsberg, the shootings in Colorado, and many others.

The structure around social justice at Granite Peak has a long and amazing history. In those early years, Paul Mitchell did groundbreaking work. The Quad City Interfaith Council (QCIC), CCJ, and UUJAZ were created out of Granite Peak! In time, the social justice position, rather than that of the minister, became seen as central to the social justice ministry. To recover the energy that flows from my call to ministry, I would like to work with our social justice ministries directly. In discussions with the Board, they agreed to discontinue the social justice coordinator position in the coming church year so that we could enter this new way. During the coming months, the SJMC and I will be looking for creative ways to work together. To keep the ideas flowing from many sources, we will also seek to deepen our connections with QCIC and CCJ. UUJAZ, under Janine Gelsinger’s inspiring leadership, will continue to connect us with the larger UU Association and their many social justice directions and opportunities. I hope that you want to join in this great experiment. We need all of our energy to make a difference in this world.

My installation, planned for March 23rd, will celebrate our almost four years of shared ministry. Let us dream up where our shared ministry might take us in the years ahead. What is important to us? Who do we want to be in ten years? In twenty years? What are our dreams for Granite Peak UU Congregation? What is the big picture of who we are and who we want to be?


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