Loyalty to petrified opinion never yet broke a chain or freed a human soul.
—Mark Twain

July is one of the hottest months of the year in most of the United States. Even here in mild Wyoming, it’s a warm time. Hot days are often associated with rising temperaments, as well, though I’m not entirely sure that’s so – and I’ve lived in some mighty hot places. Be that as it may, it still is an opportunity to pause and consider what the occasional hot temper may mean in a Beloved Community. Are hot or negative feelings allowed?

One of my most enduring qualities is loyalty. Especially when I was younger, I was doggedly loyal. For those I cared about, I would take their side with passion. You tell me your side of the story, and that’s it – your enemy is my enemy. Done.

As I grew older, it became more common that I would see two friends fall into conflict. In other words, I loved both. And as I grew older, things were much less sharply black and white. There were different perspectives, more than one side to every story. Of course, by the time I was in seminary, after a women’s studies minor, I was thoroughly convinced that “the truth” about human relationships was only ever a loving blend of stories, at best.

Seminary works to prepare people for leadership in congregations, and so among the many things one studies is groups and leadership. And by the time I finished with seminary, there were two other key ideas that were added to my long developing understanding of groups and stories: remaining non-anxious, and taking a balcony view.

What on earth is my point in all of this? Only this. In churches – in any community of human beings living, loving, and working together – there are stories of joy and connection, and times when someone gets mad at someone else. The most blessed thing about a church community like our own – a covenantal community – is that we don’t expect perfection of one another; what we ask is that each does her or his best, and when we fall short, we remain in relationship and keep working on it. And if we add the practice of taking the “balcony view,” that gives us a marvelous additional tool in creating strong and vital community. All the “balcony view” asks of us is that we always try to step back, at times of action or decision, and try our best to see the whole. Trying to see the whole allows us to gain perspective, and frees us from being too close to a situation; it helps us be less reactive and become proactive.

I still think of myself as deeply loyal, but these days, I understand it differently. I think I’m a better person and friend when I can stand with my friends and loved ones – and my beloved faith community – when I can say “I love you, and am with you,” but also can remain non-anxious and try to take a balcony view, in service of Love. It makes me a better mother, wife, friend, and minister.

So here to are warm days, warm relationships, and the joy of living in covenant. Thank you for creating UUCC – because of you, the world is a better place.

see you in church –
Rev. Audette