One Members Journey
Journey, as noun, is an act of traveling from one place to another. My interest in place is one of the reasons I became a geographer. I have traveled to many places and no matter how you divide them I have been to each of Earths hemispheres. And on this lifes journey I have lived in many places. In order of time in residence rather than chronologically, I have lived in the states of California, Utah, Washington, Idaho, Massachusetts, and Wyoming.
As much as these facts are of interest to me and provide me with innumerable stories and anecdotes of things seen and done, and people encountered it is not the type of journey we share here, in this sacred space. The journeys we, as members of this diverse and always curious community, come here to share are the journeys of our spiritual paths. Mine, as all of yours, is unique. It began in one of the places I mentioned earlier and recalling that place will give you a very good hint of how it began. Utah. Having grown up there I was, as you can guess, raised in the Mormon faith tradition. Standing here before you today reminds me of a common Mormon tradition that of baring ones testimony. In fact, once a month, all Mormon congregations follow the tradition of devoting an entire afternoon Sacrament Meeting to baring testimony during the monthly Testimony Meeting. Members either stand in place in their pew or approach the pulpit, whichever they desire, and bare their testimony - telling their journey.
So my journey, as spiritual path, began as a Mormon. And as surprising as it sounds being that I was ostracized and belittled daily for my queer proclivities of speech and manner I am glad that I was raised a Mormon. Beside the very real and valuable assets of learning to cook, sew, iron, garden and keep an efficient household at the knees of my dear mother and grandmother I also learned to maintain a car and use all manner of hand and power tools. But the real value in being raised a Mormon, for me, was the sense of responsibility to others it bestowed. The values of kindness, generosity and compassion in action have served me well, and truly made me the person I am glad that I am. Lest, you get the idea I hold Mormonism in high regard let me assure you I do not. In fact, it is the qualities I just mentioned that can make your Mormon neighbor (or any neighbor) the worst kind of friend a sheep in wolfs clothing. However, that is not me and I do not trouble myself with what deceit others may harbor.
Thankfully my compassionate and fair-minded immediate family all found their way away from Mormonism and we are a close and loving bunch that my darling partner Dan was chosen unanimously by my siblings to eulogize my Mom after her untimely death last year underscores this fact. I am truly a blessed and fortunate fellow.
After many years of relying on pagan ritual and self-defined spirituality to sustain me I came, with Dan, to Unitarian Universalism in Oakland, California. We were awe-struck and thrilled to find that community. The one where we grew together and the one which shepherded Dan into ministry. I will refer you to Dans One Members Journey of this past September for those details.
Fast forward to October when Dan first preached from this pulpit. I want to share with you a fun story of that day. Dans whole family was here and I was sitting next to our charming young nephew Ian. Ian turned to me shortly after the chalice lighting and said, Whats with the gravy boat? I was confused and asked, What gravy boat? And he said, There, the one with the flame. Holding back laughter I told him it was a chalice and that I would explain it to him later, after the service which I did. But as I sat there, bemused by Ians question, listening to Dans sermon (I promise), it occurred to me that gravy boat is a perfectly apt description of our flaming chalice.
What is a gravy boat? It is the table settings accoutrement thats sole purpose is to add flavor. The gravy boat holds the elixir that will spice up a dry roast or allow lumpy mashed potatoes to swim in the richness of flavorful and fatty goodness. And, yes, that is what a flaming chalice is in my spiritual life the vessel that adds flavor and richness to what might otherwise be a bland or solitary spiritual meal. So, from now on, when I see a flaming chalice I will wonder what tasty treat I am in store for, what new flavor will be added to my spirituality and just how much richer will my religious experience be.
As I prepare to leave Boston and return to California to resume my teaching duties for the spring semester I want to offer a hearty thanks to each of you for your care and hospitality, and for sharing your wonderful city with Dan and me. We have had a wonderful time here in Boston. It has been my first New England experience and I will cherish it always. Boston takes its place on that list of wonderful places I have been that I feel easy comfort in and that, if California were not such a wonderful home, I could easily make a home.
As I leave in just two days I am entrusting the most precious thing I know with you please take good care of Dan for me as I know he will take good care of you. He and I have never been apart for more than a couple of weeks in the nearly eighteen years we have been a couple and it is only because I know your kindnesses so well that I leave with such ease. I will miss him terribly every morning and every night but I am grateful for the opportunity you are giving him and know that you will return to me an even more wonderful man than that one which I brought you. And, by the way, should he get out of line or if there is something you think I should know, I am easy to find and reach at the Geography Department at UC Berkeley.
With much love and many thanks I continue this members journey.