When I was in the eighth grade, I hitched a ride most Sundays with my neighbors to get to church. It was there that I heard a sermon that would become the basis for my personal belief system–it was titled The Ripple Effect. It was at First United Methodist Church (for those of you keeping score at home), but the sermon was always listed as a “Commentary” which screams Unitarian Universalist to me. I was a seedling UU.
David (our minister) had gone on sabbatical with the intent to commune with nature and only nature, purposefully seeking out solitude, a re-awakening of sorts. He spoke of one clear morning: he was sitting on a rock at a pristine lake with a snapping turtle as his only companion. The turtle, waiting each morning for David’s toes to return and drop far enough down to have a taste. In my mind, the tops of the pine trees were dappled with the morning sunlight, the hue of that light blue sky was seamless with the glass covered lake. There David sat at the edge and out in the center of the lake, a fish jumped out of the water and returned with a splash. A seemingly small act. Perhaps a risk. Certainly a change of environment.
The splash became the epicenter, the initial plunge became small waves, and those small waves in turn becoming ripples that eventually covered the lake and spread to the shores. These ripples don’t just end at the lakeshore, they travel back from Minnesota to Tucson, and now, a quarter of a century later, travel to our Neighborhood Church. What are our ripple effects? What are our seemingly small acts? Smiling? Taking risks? Being ourselves? Changing our environment?
Sending our children to camp?
We have an amazing spiritual resource in Camp de Benneville Pines.
We have an amazing spiritual resource in DeBenneville Pines. I witness this when Sara and I serve as Deans of our district Jr. High Winter Camp. It’s so much more than simply being out in nature. Our youth change. They connect. They walk into a bigger room. A lodge full of neighboring UUs in common search for truth and meaning. Our camp gives them permission to explore, they come back down the mountain having learned a little bit of who they are, discovered what they are made of, and hopefully caught a glimpse of who they will become. This is the holy: their smiles, new friendships, deepening UU roots, and new perspectives rippling outward. It is one place where they can form friendships with other UU youth and begin to experience our faith outside the walls of their individual churches. It takes that risk of jumping out of the familiar into the unknown, a rekindling of wonderment that can only be seen through a child’s eyes, to truly experience it.
“Unless you change and become like little children, You will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:3, NRSV
Without campers, our lake remains still, our forest sparse, our soil less fertile. Never, ever, EVER will we enter our own heavens without those rippling youth propelling us towards the holy.