Each month, a member of the board will share a reflection on the Soul Matters monthly theme and the state of the church. This month’s post is offered by Robert Brooks, who discusses his experience of awe in relation to the compilation of reflections from our recent Board Listening Sessions, and the board’s process of moving towards the selection of a minister at the end of this second interim year.
Awe: noun (2) reverential fear or wonder (OldEnglish)
Awe is a numinous object, a purely intellectual intuition, emotionally powerful but hard to hold in my attention. As soon as I try to hold on to my sense of awe, like the proverbial bar of soap it slips from my grasp.
The topic of awe brings me back to a trip I took to Hawaii. Standing on the very edge of Kaua’i’s Waimea Canyon; panoramic view from Waipo’o Falls on my left; Waimea River at the bottom of the gorge flowing to the Pacific Ocean on my right, a dozen miles away and 3100 feet below. I am gob-smacked, in awe of the enormity, the grand scale of this space/time.
I suddenly realize I am standing on the very edge and not paying attention to that fact. I take a step back and a small stone seems to leap over the edge from where I had been standing. I return to the view but with residual amygdala activation, fear. I was so close and so disconnected from the phenomenon. Now, with a step between me and the terror, I return to the awesome view but not to the awe. I think of taking a picture but I know it will not capture the impact of this view. I sit down in the iron-red dirt. I take three full breaths in my a secure perch. I try to reassure my lizard brain: All is well. I will let fear pass over me like a wave.
A gecko scurries to my right into shadow below a rock. Another silent shadow passes over me as a pueo owl glides over me, turns, lands and cocks her head. I recall being told, “If pueo comes to you, pay attention. It is a message from your ancestors.” I am back in touch with the phenomenal world. The reverential fear, the awe, has slipped from my grasp again.
At the end of a board meeting, after the check-in, the consent agenda, the minutes, the treasurer’s report, the minister’s report, we moved to our main event. What have we heard in our listening sessions? As we approach this cusp, where is the energy of the congregation pulling us? We go around the table, sharing and honing our impressions, processing the feedback from UUA transitions director as reported by our minister.
People report being attracted to UUCM by our values and principles. People stay with UUCM because of their connections and sense of community here. As we go around the table, we each share our appreciation and love of this community, hearing of deepening relationships, intentions of reaching through and beyond our building with wonder and courageous love.
We know we want to select a minister who can pay attention to the dynamics of the many groups that constitute our congregation. We want a minister who will facilitate integrating these groups around our goals of connection and deep experience of ourselves, each other and our community. Keith Kron, the UUA transitions director, will share some examples of good developmental goals with the board. The board will craft an application that articulates our developmental goals to attract a minister who wants to engage their skills and energy with us in our intentionally growing into our goals.
Our last piece of business was assigning who would write the monthly Notes from the Board. We sat together for a moment, reflecting on what we had just done. Looking around the table at my colleagues, I said, “If I were going to write the article, it would be about being in awe of this.” Sounds like I volunteered.
— Robert Brooks
President, UUCM Board of Trustees