First Unitarian Church of Providence
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A message by DRE Cathy Seggel delivered at the First Unitarian Church in Providence, RI, September 11, 2011

Message for All Ages

What a fine morning to be worshipping together, children, youth and adults, some here for the first time, others, not so much. We gather for a traditional opening, called Homecoming, In-gathering, Water Communion, taking place in UU congregations, all over the continent. Of course, excellent worship services have been happening all summer long.

This season, our gathering has an important and serious tone. Today marks ten years since the 9/11/2001 NYC World Trade Center tragedy. Over 3,000 people and more, the undocumented, lost their lives. Countless others took heroic action to save, treat and comfort the bodies and spirits of the wounded, their families and friends. It was a scary time, 10 years ago, some of you weren’t born, others were very young and then, there are the rest of us. It is important to remember, to honor hard times as well as happy ones. Which of you sat in these same pews, that Sunday. I was here, speaking from this same spot. I remember I asked those children to look at the adults in the room. Let’s do it now: You might see your parent, who is responsible to love and care for you. And, you’ll see others who sit here because they care to be in a community that values all life, helping the world get better by waging peace and justice. I asked then, and do so now, that adults please look at the young people in this room. And, envision the children in your heart, not physically here. We are responsible for them and all children. They are our future.

All ages, swimming together, in this living faith community, a place where, as we experience great happiness and great hardships in life, we can celebrate, grieve and heal together. Today, we remember, we honor and spend precious time, sitting beside one another, human beings, trusting, caring and hoping, to transform our own lives and recommit our efforts to change the world.

Focusing on sources of hope and success fuels positive change. Stories of individual and communal compassion have bubbled up over the last 10 years. Have you heard of the Wish Kids, who lost parents in the 9/11 tragedy? In their parents’ honor, they have pledged to be better people, working for peace by speaking out about bullying, forming interfaith peace circles and more. And how about “14 Cows for America, “ a true story of a Maasai student in New York who witnessed the horrific events of 9/11. When he returned to his African village, he brought with him the sad story from America. The tribe’s grief at the news quickly turned to a plan to help as Kimeli Naiyomah’s people offered the most precious gift they could think of to those who lost so much: their cows. In Kimeli’s words, “to heal a sorrowing heart, give something that is dear to your own.” This story spread a message of hope and healing across the world, and continues to inspire acts of compassion, everywhere. We don’t have to look far to find the work of Standing on the Side of Love for marriage equality and Immigration reform and the RI Peace Flags Project and September declared a month of peace in Providence. I’ll bet you know acts of kindness, close to your own lives, like standing by someone who is having a hard time or speaking up when you see something that is unfair.

I believe that our coming together, like we are now, adults, youth and children, to sing, to listen, to speak and sometimes, to cry, helps us to find the strength we need to practice compassion, choose peace over retaliation and share love, every day.

Today we practice a soothing tradition, the water communion, blending water we bring, or pretend/symbolic water, as a healing stream, flowing through this new season, changing things as it flows. We join with people across the world, with differing perspectives, marking the events of September 11th, 2001, sounding a loud call to work together, crossing boundaries and building bridges, at home, in school and workplace, making waves that ripple across the planet.

It will be good to stay connected, here, brimming with hospitality: young and old, new and old-timer. This place and these people are here for you.

My friend wrote some words to a song, to cope with her fear after events of 9/11/2001. She sang it to calm herself and feel hopeful. It works for me, too. The kids and teachers know I love it. It goes like this, “When I breathe in, I breathe in peace, when I breathe out, I breathe out love.”

Will you say those words with me? ….