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Light of Peace: Winter Reflections from Rev. Joe Rettenmaier

Beloveds, as this winter’s solstice now graces us with long nights and life-giving rains and snows, I know many of us may find ourselves yearning for the soft illuminating light of peace. Perhaps you find your thoughts, as I do, turning from the night sky’s reassuring cosmic expanse of starry constellations toward humankind’s unsettling complexities here on Earth. This winter, the world is seeking clarity and peace for ancient traumas feeding a new war of hate in the holy land, weighing on the world’s conscience of what is right and what is wrong.

As this winter’s Christmas celebrations unfold for many of us, I hear so many of your collective desires echoing like the melodies of carols we now sing—longing to belong, not just in any community but in an authentically compassionate and concerned one. We long to belong, in a community that doesn't merely preach words to injustice, but which actively practices radical welcoming and agape week after week after week. Evergreen can serve as your warm embrace during the unfoldings of Solstice and Christmas and New Year gatherings, beloveds. Gatherings where we learn to care for our own while also learning to swing open our doors and roll out warm welcome to new faces.

It’s in our gatherings that Evergreen continues our practice of liberating our own souls from our notions of privilege, bias, and oppression. In this season of birth amid winter’s seeming scarcity, it can be reassuring for some of us to consider the birth of the infant Jesus who would go on to call out a new way for living as allies. A new way for humankind to ground ourselves in brave love for those who are pushed out by privilege and bias within our own walls, and within our communities.

And as this winter’s New Year calls us to bid farewell to 2023 and anticipate 2024, I believe we will find our journey leading us to redefine our notion of home. Picture this: Evergreen UU Fellowship envisioning and defining its next long-term sacred space, one that melodiously echoes our commitment to our mission and ideals. A home that isn’t just a physical space to keep our beloved warmth through winters to come, but a home that serves as a haven – a manger if you will -- where all who hold faith in our ideals can find community and warmth; can join our practice of principles and ideals as a sanctuary for liberal religion here in Everett. And while we’re envisioning, why stop there? Can you imagine expanding our stewardship of UU ideals to resow seeds of liberal religious exploration throughout the entire Snohomish Valley?

So, as these longest nights of the year beckon us to contemplate, I invite you to reflect on our first few months in our new Gipson Center home. Can you recognize it as the transformative weekly exercise of our faith it has been? Just look at the growing volunteership we now experience together each Sunday. I believe our relocation has acted like a wake-up call, shaking the snow off the heavy boughs of Evergreen’s long COVID slumber and compelling us to generously stretch ourselves forward toward the path we now desire to create as a congregation.

And as we peer beyond the seeming bleakness of winter’s longest nights, we are witnessing growth among our congregation’s roots and fertile soil. The abundant life-giving rains and snows of our temperate rainforest winter nourish not only the earth but our collective faith in new growth. Perhaps this winter conditions are ripe for us to grow deeper roots, like the interdependent network of a thriving ecosystem. And simultaneously, we are planting new roots through our collective outreach, our inviting of others, and our welcoming spirit of agape.

Dear Evergreen, may we keep our gaze fixed on the horizon in the weeks and months to come, where the promise of new birth, new imaginings, and new innovations awaits us. May we envision our small fellowship not just growing but thriving with a vision of collective liberation. That is a vision inspired by the teachings of Jesus, whose birth and infancy as a prophet of peace and agape gave way to a prophecy that transformed his ancient lands into more equitable lands for all. Lands where the ideals of oppressors began to give way, and the oppressed could begin to live in truer freedom and joy.

May this winter season be a constellation of inspiration for you and yours, with brilliant points of light, hope, growth, and joyous innovations in our Evergreen journey ahead.

With blessings and faith, warmly,

Rev. Joe

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