The poet and writer T.S. Elliot came from a longline of Unitarians. The Unitarian Universalist Church in St. Louis is named after T.S. Elliot’s grandfather, Rev. William Greenleaf Eliot, who founded the church and was a Unitarian. His uncle was also a Unitarian minister and a pioneer in liberal religion in Portland, Oregon, where two members of his church founded Reed College. And while T.S. was raised a Unitarian, he became a rather conservation Anglican later in life.
In his 1934 play, The Rock, he wrote “What life have you if you have not a life together?”
In some ways it is an odd thought from Eliot, as most of his poetry chronicles the loneliness and isolation of modern life, the despair that is often felt in a depersonalized world. “The Waste Land,” “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” “The Four Quartets” are not especially happy poems. I loved them in my teens and twenties, that time of life when we are often wondering what it is all about and have not quite yet found where we belong.
We say that we are a beloved community at Neighborhood. That is both a claim and an aspiration. We are not just a bunch of individuals, though we are that too. But we are a community, a group of people gathered together in common purpose. This is a place, I hope, where people can feel that they belong, where connections can be experienced, where a person does not have to be alone.
We get there by showing up, first of all. There is no community without people there. And we get there by people showing up wholly; that is, with their whole selves – hopes and fears and all that. And we get there by supporting the community itself.
We begin our annual pledge drive this Sunday. The theme is “Building for Tomorrow.” It is a time of change, and the possibilities are, I believe, exciting. This is your church, after all, to make of it what you want and hope for. Working together creating a beloved community – a grand and good goal. After all, “There is no life that is not in community.”
See you Sunday with thoughts about rowing and poetry – and more!
Rev. Dr. Jim Nelson