Aisha Hauser will preach her last service as Director of Lifelong Learning. She’ll offer reflections on her last seven years at East Shore, focusing on inspiring and enlightening lessons learned.
Seasons of Love
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can
And the wisdom to know the difference.
Over the years I’ve come to adopt Angela Davis’ take on this, I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change, I’m changing the things I cannot accept.
Integral to life is change and transition. Humanity’s search for truth and meaning, including the ultimate transition, life to death have inspired hundreds of religions in a search for the Why? With a capital “W”
Why do we exist, why is their pain, why is there suffering?
I don’t have any of these answers and neither does Unitarian Universalism. What I do know, is that we need community to help each other through the oh so difficult times and we need community to celebrate each other through the celebrations that remind us how wonderful it is to be alive.
Being a part of a faith community has always been integral to me most of my life. When I left the Muslim faith in my early twenties, I spent the next decade visiting congregations of all different denominations and faiths because I enjoy being in community. I finally found the UU faith in my early thirties and it felt like finding water when I was parched. I found a faith home that didn’t condemn me or my family. What a gift.
It wasn’t long before Unitarian Universalism broke my heart and I found that even if the theology and values are something I agree with, ultimately faith communities are made up of people and people are fallible and have the ability to be hurtful and mean.
People have also the ability to show extraordinary care and love and warmth. When I decided on the path to becoming a religious educator it was because as the adage says, we teach what we most need to learn.
I wanted to embody what it means to be a Unitarian Universalist and I wanted to devote my work to inspire others to be the best people they can be through the UU faith.
East Shore is the third congregation I have served, and it is where I have served the longest. Compared to the very long ministries you have had here, seven years may not seem long, however, they were a full seven years full of transition and many seasons of change.
Change itself is neutral, it simply happens. Our judgements or feelings about change are our own.
Some of the changes at East Shore were embraced with relief and excitement, others not so much.
Either way, the people of East Shore who embraced me, supported me and cared for me have been the reason I have wanted to persevere, even when personally attacked by people who were clearly lashing out from their own pain.
I have many, many more wonderful memories of my time at East Shore and powerful examples of courage and grace. The first that I need to lift up is former Board President Ann Fletcher, many of you may not know that I almost left the congregation after just four months and it is only due to Ann’s leadership that I stayed.
Ann is one of the most gracious, strong, clear leaders I have ever worked with and I am grateful for her grace under so much pressure. Every Board President and Board, I have served with at East Shore has supported me in ways that have enabled me to carry out my ministry.
Beth Wilson and I spent the better part of a year working without a minister, which had significant challenges.
Jack Slowriver had to endure criticisms and attacks that no one should have to deal with and yet, Jack stayed steadfast in their support of my work. Tom Doe supported me when I was almost at the end of my rope,
he asked me what I need to hang on and stay and he gave me what I asked, which was kind and generous and loving. Dennis Fleck offered his support on day one and was happy to listen when I had a concern.
I lift up your Board Presidents because when colleagues from around the country hear stories about East Shore, I inevitably get the question, why do you stay?
I always responded, “Because I have the support of the group of people who know my work the best, The Board, the BIPOC Affinity Group and the Religious Education Team and families.” Without the support from those groups, I never would have made it.
Some of the transformations have made a tangible impact on the atmosphere at East Shore. I simply love how welcoming and open the foyer of the sanctuary is. The signs declaring our mission and the community artwork that is shared by all is inspiring and inclusive. Kudos to Karen Dawson, Wenda Collins and the rest of the Aesthetics Team!
As I mentioned in my Beacon column, there are leaders who worked with me hand in hand.
Walter Andrews will always have a special place in my heart. Walter has been battling cancer for the past few months and he is preparing for the ultimate transition from a full wonderful life to the great beyond, death.
Walter embodies what I wish every UU would. Humility, grace and a fierce love of this faith and an understanding that our job here is to make the world better for our children and grand children.
Our existence as UUs is not about making ourselves comfortable now, but about how we will inspire and teach our children and youth to love our values and live them out in the world.
One notable example is when Walter along with Marcy and David Langrock led the middle school youth group in a year long project about
water and that resulted in fundraising to retrofit the water fountains in the education building so we discourage plastic water bottle usage. This is a gift that will be utilized for many years to come.
Milly Mullarky reminds me of one of my Egyptian Aunties who is fierce, honest and full of love of her community. One difference though is that none of my aunts would even say the word Sex let alone teach it and tell JOKES about it.
Milly is a big reason why the Our Whole lives program is as successful as it is at East Shore. Yes, I love the program, I am a trainer and leader, however, without committed lay leaders like Milly, programs don’t gain as much excitement and traction.
Thank you to Felice Nightengale who was assisted me in becoming much more organized administratively and who I could always count on to offer support and care to our children and youth.
There are Rhonda and Manny Brown, Marsha Marsh, Seth Hamilton and Jose and Janette Garcia. Having a group of people with a shared experience like this group has been a source of life and love. Your support and love has sustained and nurtured me in ways you will never fully know.
The Right Relations Team started by Louise Wilkinson, Mary Anderson and Mark Noralius with the guidance of Pam Orbach, has been one of the proudest ministries I have worked on.
Jeanne Gardiner has been one of the highlights of my Sunday mornings, I can always count on a hug from Jeanne and I miss your hugs, still.
Roland Wise moved out of state a couple of years ago and he remains one of my very favorite members at East Shore. He was enthusiastic about services and loved seeing and being embraced by so many of his East Shore friends.
The group that I have been the closest to and I will miss interacting with almost every day, is the East Shore staff. I am deeply grateful to have worked with such a dedicated group of people, compassionate, caring and fun. Staff that have left, Rebecca, Elaine, Lucy and Jessie. Thank you to the current staff, Joseph, Celil, Jason, Vanessa, Steve, Eric, Jenny, Nicole and especially Dianne and Amanda. I have worked the closest with you both on the religious education program I love so very much. I love you all and will carry you in my heart.
My biggest thank you and love goes to the families, children and youth of East Shore. You are all why I do this work, why I am inspired to teach and continue to learn each day. You are the core of our faith and of East Shore.
I have not listed every single person who has had a loving and positive impact on me, please know if I didn’t lift up your name, it is not because you are not in my heart. In the interest of not having an hour long homily, I offered a few names of the many who have loved and cared for me and supported the ministry of Lifelong Learning at East Shore.
I have done nothing alone and my message this morning is dedicated to all of you who make the East Shore Unitarian Universalism faith community all that it is.