Why every week do I feel compelled to share an excited and joy filled “YOP” on Facebook about my Sunday experience at TUUC (Towson Unitarian Universalist Church)? TUUC is, on the simplest of levels, the church of the open mind, loving hearts, and helping hands. Spending an hour and a half there Sunday mornings always brings me the peace that passes understanding. Is it the bright, white sanctuary, vaulted ceiling supported by visible wooden beams, and the room wrapped in windows framing a forest of trees ever in flux, never the same from minute to minute, that fills me with such serenity? Is it the fact that the sanctuary is also an operating art gallery so is ever filled with different, amazing visual images? Is it watching the branches of the trees flex, dance, sway, and bud as Joe Gascho, our Peabody graduated music director, plays a gorgeous piece from Robert Schumann on the piano? Is it the choir singing Mangwani M’pulele in Swahili as several church members pound out a beat on African drums? Is it the incredibly fascinating, intelligent, diverse, creative, and loving members of the congregation that surround and embrace me and my family? Is it the youth religious exploration classes where all the children learn appreciation and respect for the wisdom and wonder offered up by the world’s wide variety of religions? Is it our minster, Clare Petersberger, sharing thought-provoking readings, ideas, and sermons that push us to really think, examine, challenge ourselves, and grow into better, more caring, giving and loving people?
Clare, our preacher poet, who never fails to open my heart and mind as I listen to her speak. Today, she talked about celebration and sharing your gifts. Clare offered this treasure from the essay, Childhood and Poetry, from the Spanish poet, Pablo Neruda: “I have been a lucky man. To feel the intimacy of brothers is a marvelous thing in life. To feel the love of people whom we love is a fire that feeds our life. But to feel the affection that comes from those whom we do not know, from those unknown to us, who are watching over our sleep and solitude, over our dangers and our weaknesses, that is something still greater and more beautiful because it widens out the boundaries of our being, and unites all living things. That exchange (…the trading of toys/precious possessions noted earlier in the essay with an unknown, mysterious boy through a fence) brought home to me for the first time a precious idea: that all of humanity is somehow together. It won’t surprise you then that I attempted to give something resiny, earthlike, and fragrant in exchange for human brotherhood. Just as I once left the pinecone by the fence, I have since left my words on the door of so many people who were unknown to me… That is the great lesson I learned in my childhood, in the backyard of a lonely house. Maybe it was nothing but a game two boys played who didn’t know each other and wanted to pass to the other some good things of life. Yet maybe this small and mysterious exchange of gifts remained inside me also, deep and indestructible, giving my poetry light.”
So I’m left to ponder — What gifts am I passing through the fence to the anonymous person on the other side? Who has touched my life in seemingly insignificant or profound ways without possibly even knowing it? Whose sleep and solitude do I secretly and silently watch over? What is our responsibility to one another? How can we love, support, and lighten the load of everyone, known and unknown, always, with passion, with light?
It is the all of my Sunday morning experiences in this church in the woods by the side of Dulaney Valley Road that makes me love TUUC so much.
It is the everything.