by Pam Collins, Outgoing Board President

As I write this on December 21st at 5:40 am.  Dave and I decided we wanted to be awake for the actual time of the Solstice — 5:02.  Not sure what we expected to experience.  No standing stones to mark the unmoving shadow (and anyway, it’s dark out), no sense of the Earth changing its tilt.  Standing on the lakeshore, coats over our pajamas, the wind chilled our faces as it came across the ice from the south east.   We stood in the cold for about 10 minutes, Dave pretending he was losing his balance as the earth paused then switched gears.  But in truth, the Solstice came and went without a ripple of discernable change.

Such is the paradoxical nature of so many transitions in our lives; momentous and barely discernable at the same time.

This is the season when we purposely mark transitions, when we bring to consciousness the endings and beginnings that punctuate our lives.  This is the time of year when we, as humans, imitate the cosmos.  We oust old leaders and welcome new ones.  We draw a line under the year’s finances and start fresh.  We celebrate the birth of a special child, in whom we place our hopes for a more loving world.  We wash away the sins of the past year with champagne and promise to do better henceforth.

Yet, on some level, things seem to go on much the same as they have been, as they must, lest we lose our balance and fall off the earth.  But there has been a turning, nonetheless, and change is happening, whether we feel it or not.  

For me, and for UUCSS, one such transition is the presidency of the congregation.  As you might expect, I’ve been the target of gentle jokes about allowing a peaceful transition — but…you betca’!  I am more than eager to step aside and let Laurie Singer hold the gavel, and not just because the presidency carries a weight of responsibility that it is a relief to shed (and truth be told, it was much less of a weight than I make it out to be.  The Board, Rev. Joe, Janice Wold and the congregation carried as much of the weight as I did).  The truth of the matter is, I’m eager to work within the special atmosphere and vision Laurie will bring to the Board.  Laurie has a calmness of spirit that contrasts productively with my tendency to get all fired up.  And from what I know of her, she will keep UU values at the forefront of her actions, influence and decisions.  From “the pews” it probably won’t feel much different, but there will be a shift, an evolutionary step forward.

It is well conceived, that we change leadership on a yearly basis.  I believe it fosters conscious, positive growth to have a variety of voices cast into positions of influence.  There is much talk of us being in a time of significant evolutionary transition.  Maybe so, maybe not, but it is clear that we need to change our cultural patterns if we are to be a species worth saving.  But how do we make that happen?  Forgive me for using a pandemic analogy, but we need to make right relationship — to the earth and to each other, all others — contagious.  Having the same tired voices speaking from the very white houses of power, year after year, will not get us there.  We need to hear as many voices as possible, and from each of those voices, take what it sound and helpful, and let go of what is not.  But if those voices are never heard, either out of fear, prejudice or any of our many “isms”, we will never have the opportunity to glean the pieces of the puzzle that they hold.

I’ve finally, after all these years, managed to maintain a fairly regular meditation practice and this is what I’m learning:  we all have an essential being — call it a soul if you wish, or not — a piece of the eternal within us.  “I Am Light,” the song by Indie Arie that Rev. Joe shared at the Solstice service, is one way of talking about that.  We all have personalities, histories, stories we create about who we are or that other people create for us, but none of this is our essential self.  We need an ego self to get out of bed in the morning and go about our day, but we don’t need to cling to that which does not serve us.  Our eye color or place of birth does not and should not define us or limit what we do with our lives or how we behave in the world.  How would the world change if we all got in touch with and relaxed into our infinite selves, our essential connection to all-that-is, that which cannot be challenged, damaged, reduced or ignored?  That which connects us to the essential in all beings?

So…giving up my temporary definition as “president”? Easy peasy.  Disconnecting from all that is Saratoga UU?  Can’t happen.  I’m just curious about what form it will take henceforth.

Well, maybe I did feel the earth move this morning.  And now the sky is a million shades of orangie pink.  Big changes, but what is essential remains.  I encourage you all to take a lesson from the nature of meditation.  As things come up, acknowledge them and then let them go.  Do not cling to what does not serve, but hold fast to what is essential.  Focus on the core; trust in it.  And let’s make right relation contagious, spreading it in every way we can think of.

It’s been an honor to “preside” over this congregation, and a blessing to be a continuing part of all of you.  May you navigate 2021 in the deep peace of knowing you are connected to All.

Pam Collins