As I listened to the congregation conducting our annual meeting, a phrase ­– first year they sleep, second year they creep, third year they leap – and a word – stretch – came to my mind.

Gardeners among us will recognize this description of perennial, long­lived garden plants. Garden metaphors have been part of my experience on the board, and they are especially apt given the beautiful gardens that surround our church. The phrase encourages gardeners since perennials take time to develop.

Our first year with Rev. Audette was not really a year of sleeping but it was a year of settling in, growing roots and extending in new directions. Looking forward to our second year, we are ready for more than creeping! We are well grounded in the work we did as a congregation last year, and we have a great store of energy and spiritual sustenance. Several people have expressed an interest in the Think Tank that will explore our financial health this summer. We will bloom!

In a search for UU garden prayers, I found this quote from Rev. Scott Alexander’s book Everyday Spiritual Practice: Simple Pathways for Enriching Your Life. “In our faith every individual is expected, with the help of clergy and community, to nurture and tend the garden of his or her own religious life each and every day.”

This brings me neatly to stretch. Though stretch and grow aren’t precisely synonyms, they are connected – to stretch is to spread out, unfold, put forth, expand. Serving as president will stretch me. Naturally reserved, I will need to reach out. Naturally an observer, I will need to extend myself in discussions, meetings and decision making. My spiritual practices will nurture me as I expect and hope to grow this year.

What are your hopes for growth, for yourself and for our community? If you are a long ­time member, will you participate in widening our circle and deepening your faith? As a newcomer, will you be elastic in your expectations; will you put down roots and find a place to blossom?

In the warming days we will plant our future,
uprooting useless skeletons of last year’s harvest,
breaking the clods of indifference,
carefully pulling the weeds of neglect
so that roots can stretch.

Excerpted from “Communion with Earth and Sky” by Stephen M. Shick