Triumph Takes a Village
Ellsworth, Maine
March 28 homily part III

Let’s bring everyone in
it takes a village and this is
palm Sunday
that Sunday when Jesus entered Jerusalem,
on the back of a donkey,
before it all fell apart, and then
came back together
in one short week.

we are all villagers
and we share this experience
of adversity, of triumph and fall,
and resurrection
it is part of the human experience
it is part of how we became human, the grief,
and the story of re-emergence is the story of our triumph

what makes it work,
what makes humanity work,
what makes this talon-and-fang-less existence work is our brains,
but not the way we think.
what makes it work is the village, the collective, the connections, the cooperation.

What makes it work
is that not only does it take a village
but we are capable of being that village.

When I do the new members class,
what comes up over and over
is that we don’t want to leave people out.
We know that what we want most is for everyone to be included,
and the very hardest times are when what is best for the group
is not including some individuals.

We tread frighteningly close to Machiavelli–
with whom getting the right results justifies any method you use to get them.

We won’t do just anything,
but as is often the case we are caught between fantasy and reality,
between what-would-be-nice
and what-actually-is.

It would have been nice if Congress could have been a bit more cooperative about health care reform.

But they weren’t.

We don’t have a national history of cooperation around civil rights. We’ve gone to war over it. We’ve dragged out dogs and fire hoses. We’ve made death threats.
Apparently we’re still making death threats.

Drawing boundaries–
saying that death threats are not acceptable,
that hate speech is beneath us,
that we expect everyone to meet basic standards of decency–
is not violence.

It’s not wrong.
And it makes the circle meaningful. It means that we have made some effort to be safer inside the village than outside. It means that we have created a place of welcome, of nurturing, of hope.

And now we want to share it. now we want to draw everyone in. Everyone who wants to be here and who will honor the space we have worked so hard to create is welcome. Our hope is that everyone will want to. Our dream is that our village will expand to hold the world, that our lives will become compelling examples of what can be when our values of respect and cooperation and transformation are widely held.
It takes a village. It takes a village to make a village, to keep it safe, to welcome and honor guests, to keep the circle strong, to share the love.

Our stewardship campaign is beginning. We are preparing for our future by raising the money we need to be in the world. There are some churches, some places, some institutions that rely heavily on one or two major donors. Everyone else can skate on their coattails, participate a little, but not worry too much about giving. Someone else has it covered. Someone else will take care of it.

That’s not how we do things around here. That’s not the Maine way. Whether we were born here or not, we’ve all got a bit of Maine about us–we’ve chosen to make this place home. And around here, everyone has to pull their weight. No one can survive around here long without kicking in. We carry stuff, we check on each other, we show up with food, we pull each other out of ditches. Just last weekend our own Zoe Weil got some homemade roadside assistance when three people offered to help after her car broke down. And I know that Zoe will stop for someone, or call someone, or get a door or watch a pet for someone.

We are a village, and we live in villages, so we understand villages around here. No one expects someone else to just take care of it. We and our forebears built this community, we’ve raised this building, we’ve connected with each other, we’re doing good things in a good place, and we’re going to take good care of it: the building, the community, each other, and our future: the babies like Katie and Charlie, the children, the youth, and the people who haven’t gotten here yet because we haven’t found them and told them how much they’ll get from being here. We value what we’ve done, and we value where we’re going.

We have a long history of adversity and and equally long history of triumph: We opened our doors in 1835 but had to close them again due to financial difficulties. We recommenced in 1865, with somewhat more success. There were several times when the congregation was in dire financial straits but we recovered, and survived. In 1971 we moved from High Street to this location with a small congregation and a very part-time minister, and we began rebuilding again. Our presence–this presence here–is our living triumph. As we continue to strengthen, to interconnect, to draw people into our loving and beautiful village, we are offered by our very vision an historic challenge: we are changing our relationship with money. Rather than being controlled by it, we meet it on equal ground. It is not our adversary nor our benefactor–money is our partner. We are an abundant and robust financial community–a place where we have enough and give generously. Our congregational charitable giving this year has met our goal. Thanks to the generosity of the congregation and the dedicated leadership of past Stewardship chairs–most recently Evelyn Foster and Kay Wilkins–we have steadily increased our support for this congregation, this village. The more we do here, the more we know we can do, the more we know we are needed, the more we are connected, the stronger and more vibrant we are, the more people are welcomed in, the bigger the circle grows. We love one another here, and that love makes us strong. It makes us powerful. And it makes us generous. Love opens us up and challenges us and calls to us.

I found out this morning that my dear friend Darby has multiple sclerosis. She lives in Portland, Oregon. She has three kids, whom she has mostly raised on her own. The twins are somewhere around ten or eleven. Her daughter is older. She has a serious and dedicated girlfriend, and she has a loving community gathered around her. It’s not that she doesn’t have people. But when I found out, when I read her note on Facebook–because she couldn’t bear to tell the story over and over–I immediately wanted to do something. I don’t know what I can do. I have to trust her to tell me. She will tell me. She knows well that I can’t read her mind. But my love for her raises up a fierce wanting, an almost desperate wanting to .do. something–fly out there, wrap my arms around her, go for a long walk and listen, listen, listen. Meanwhile, I wrote her a reply. Meanwhile I told her I love her. Meanwhile I am here, and she knows that I am here.

And you know the other thing I wished for her? I wished she had a church. I wished that with every bone of my body. Because we are the places where people go to be connected, to be lifted up, to be in quiet prayer, to sing and dance and drum out the stuff of our lives, to sit in intimate circles and share, and to be stronger, to be wiser, to be more able to be our very best in the world because of all of the ways we are fed here.

We are drumming and making music and having discussions and hosting workshops. We are renting and sharing our space with violins and nursery school and twelve-step groups. We are having parties and sharing food and loving each others’ company. We are sitting in touchstone circles and informal groups and long-standing small groups, and we are holding each other and we are planning and plotting and we are growing our circle. We have so much. We are so much. We have a whole community: babies and old people and parents and people in love and people in grief and farmers and fishermen and retirees and teachers and social workers and librarians–we are a village. It takes a village, change starts with a village, a better world starts with a village, and we are that village. We are already that village. Let’s bring everyone in. A dollar a day will do it, a dollar a day more from each of us will get every person inside the circle. Save it or earn it, maybe you can do an extra something on the side, even just once, your own personal fundraising project for the church, so we can bring everyone into this circle, because we have such a gift, such a blessing here, It takes a village, and we are that village. We can do it. We are doing it. Let’s bring everyone in.