July/August Message from Rev. Telos Whitfield

Dear Ones,

It was wonderful to gather under our tree and sing together on a balmy evening for our Solstice Singalong on June 21st! Thank you to Daniel K., Sharon and Stephan for their inspiring music. We were able to sing out familiar songs, and dance in the grass and I for one, needed that evening so much! Community members joined us and church folks and it seemed that it was just what each of us needed – to sing and be together outdoors, especially to welcome in Summer. And then just two days later, I listened to the gathered community at General Assembly sing We Would Be One and sung along in my kitchen, I was moved to tears. It was beautiful, it is beautiful to remember that we will be singing this hymn at our worship services and that congregations all across the country sing this familiar and powerful hymn. And it is beautiful to be reminded of the larger community that comprises our faith, seen and heard at General Assembly each year. The young people I heard and witnessed speaking of our faith were some of the most inspiring – the life-saving power and courage it has given them and a place to be seen and recognized, celebrated for who they are and who they are becoming. It was beautiful and moving to hear the names of those who had died this past year – ministers and religious education professionals some of  whom I knew and considered dear friends of mine. Ron Hersom, who I went to seminary with and who I shared many an inspiring conversation about all matters of life and faith. Ken Sawyer, a well known and revered minister in our faith who I walked beside in marches and listened to his experienced reflections on ministry. And I recall sitting in a circle of colleagues and realizing that dear ones are gone. These are just a few of the many people we lost just this past year who had touched my life. Their gifts and legacy continue on…. I have attended a number of General Assemblies over the past twenty years, beginning when I had just entered seminary and barely knew our faith beyond the walls of one church in Burlington, Vermont. It was overwhelming and awe-inspiring to attend these General Assemblies. I have always been reminded of who we are and what we are capable of at these national gatherings. Yes, it can be frustrating and challenging to navigate the Schedule and feel like I have to try to attend every event, workshop, business meeting and still find time for a meal and some rest. But, there has always been an unexpected conversation that left me inspired and ready to act, be it at the UU Service Committee table at my first GA when I became a member and have been for decades since then – a way to have our justice work reach those most in need. Or listening to a reflection by a seasoned minister inviting me into this life-changing path and basically bringing me to my knees. As a UU congregation, we are members of this association; we are part of this great wheel of justice and welcome, and learning together. Yes, we have made missteps and mistakes as a denomination. But we continue on, we rise again, we gather ourselves and come together to decide how we can most further good in our communities and the world. Yes, we have travelled a courageous path, we rest upon the shoulders of all who have travelled before us. I am proud and inspired to be serving All Souls UU Church in West Brattleboro, Vermont for I see the path that you have travelled long before I arrived – a path with twists and turns, blind alleys, difficult decisions, the daily and monumental work of strengthening and sustaining a community of faith, and triumphant celebrations. We are celebrating our 100th year as a congregation and that is something to celebrate!  May the gentle breezes caress your face; may the beautiful green of this abundant time make you catch your breath, and let it out long and slowly. Please take gentle care of yourselves and each other, and hope to meet you in our grove of tall pines for a conversation, or at our summer picnic at Townsend Dam, or singing at a worship service! So I hope that you find solace, inspiration, fun, whatever you might need during these precious weeks of summer. If you have a chance to gather some water from a place you journey to – a stream or river, ocean or lake, we will pour our water together for our water ceremony in September, share our stories and inspire each other.


With Gratitude and Blessings, Rev. Telos