Minister’s Musings — February 2019

Listen to the question being asked, not the one you hear.


Do you know that story about the parent of a Kindergartener – maybe it’s first grade — who asks, with great seriousness ‘Mom, where do I come from?” The parent fills immediately with trepidation, having never talked about the birds and bees with their child before.  So, they sit together on the couch. The parent takes a deep breath, earnest and ready to take on this parenting challenge.  She opens her mouth, just about to speak, when the child, not at all sure why their mother is acting so strange, says, “Devin says she was born in Jersey City.  Where did I come from – was it here or in Metuchen?”


On January 13, we had a Question Box service, celebrating the human impulse of curiosity and the Unitarian Universalist tradition to “provide questions to your answers.”  It was yet another example of experi-learning – it was the first time that I had been a part of a service like that. I think it might have been the congregation’s as well.


It was a risk – the vast majority of questions were written in the first part of the service.  It was an act of trust — the congregation trusted that the minister would respond and the Minister trusted that the congregation would pose thoughtful, generous questions. It was an act of relying on what is possible, rather than what is certain.


Some truly wonderful questions were posed.  If you were there, you know that at least one brought tears to my eyes.  It was in the handwriting of a five-year-old, and asked, “How did God die?”  While I have already spoken to that five-year-old and their mother about sitting together to talk, this is a question that is best beheld by the whole congregation for it speaks to our children’s – and our own – need for faith formation (not so that we all believe in god, but so we can become clearer about what we do know as true for ourselves).


Listen to the question being asked, not the one you hear.


In the Question Box service, there were questions about social change – what is the nature of war? Is there more good than bad in the world? how do we find balance between personal efforts and collective action towards bringing about change in the world?  There were self-improvement questions – how do I stop procrastinating? How do I focus on what is most important? Is it possible to achieve balance?


There are some questions can be taken at face value – there is only one way to understand them and there is only one true answer.  Yet, most of life offers up questions that are more complex than that, and the responses (not answers) can be equally juicy, or perhaps even more so.  The question of how god died changes if it is a life-long atheist who asks or if it is someone who once believed in god; it changes if a 5 year old asks or a 92 year old asks.


Listen to the question being asked, not the one you hear.


Thank you for sharing your questions with me.  They will be my companions in the coming months.  I promise you I will continue to ponder them.  Perhaps they will pop up in sermons, or newsletter columns.  Perhaps you will make a time to speak with me, or take a walk, and we can have a conversation about the question you wrote, or one you heard, or a new one that has popped into your heartmind.  Wouldn’t that be joyful?


I am blessed to be on this journey with you,

Rev. Karen