December 2016

“A Ritual is Born,” by Karen Shelley

We do it once and                    And it's part of the

Everyone loves it.                    Calendar. Twice more

So someone says,                   And it becomes a

"Let's do it again                      Ritual. Twice more and

This time next year."                "We've always done it

Some brave or foolish              That way!" Only twice

Soul volunteers to                   More and it becomes

Make it happen again              Canon law. Just because

And now we have a                 We liked it enough to

Tradition! Twice more              Do it more than once.


UU World published Karen Shelley’s poem in its Spring 2006 edition. Karen was a longtime member of the Society; she sang in the choir, and was a stalwart on the worship committee. Karen died on Christ-mas Day 2010.

Traditions matter. They give us a sense of belonging. They comfort us. Predictable, they reassure us that the world as we know it has not gone completely off the rails. Holiday traditions, especially, do all that.

Unless something has gone off the rails – a death, a breakup, or a recent or impending change that suggests the world really may be mad. At those times, following familiar rituals may not be what we need. Something may need to shift.

AND there simply are times when the old way of doing things no longer serves. Such is the case with our tradition of adorning a tree with hats and mittens on the Sunday before Christmas. The organizations that once gladly took those items no longer need them in the quantities we supplied. Other organizations serving the homeless, and children in foster care, do have needs: for NEW babies’ onesies, and kid-sized sweatpants and hoodies, for hotel-sized toiletries, for razors, and for men’s underwear and cotton socks. Lynne Marie Wanamaker, a member of the worship committee and a social worker, reminds us that homeless and struggling single men are desperately underserved – they are the ones who most often fall through the social services safety net.

The worship committee has designated December 18 this year as “Undie Sunday.” Let’s make our tree beautiful with our gifts of love and responsiveness to need. I think Karen would have agreed. This season, may you find peace and comfort in traditions, and in ways that may be new. I am blessed and grateful to be your minister.   Janets signature