A House of Hope

This Sunday, Rev. Peter, DRE Chrissy Bushyager and Worship Associate Sharon Fichthorn will be joined by Barry Finkelstein, our capital campaign consultant as we  reflect on this month's theme of "Sanctuary." We will consider what makes a spiritual home, how it sustains us and how we sustain it.

Homily: A House of Hope; Rev. Peter Friedrichs

Last week I talked about this room, our Sanctuary, and what makes it a holy place. I said that, without the people, it’s nothing but a big empty room. After the service, one of our dear members told me the story of a time when she was struggling in her life. She told me that, one day, in the middle of the week, she came to church and sat in this big, empty room. She told me it was sanctuary for her, even though there was no one else around. She described the comfort and solace she felt, simply walking into this space. She felt its healing power as she sat here quietly, all by herself. “Even when they’re not there,” she said, “the people gave me spiritual support in that space.” I appreciate this sentiment, and agree that, even when occupied by just a single person, this Sanctuary can be a holy place. It doesn’t need to be filled with people to feel and be sacred.

This member’s remarks got me thinking more about our Sanctuary and our church building, and what they are and what they represent. Not just on Sunday mornings, when they’re teeming with life. But on Tuesday nights and Friday mornings and pretty much any time of day on any day of the week. Because, let’s face it, we are a home and even a haven for a lot of people who aren’t here on Sunday mornings. We’re a place for yoga and kickboxing. A place for AA meetings. For the Delco Dudes, a support group for gay men and PRYSM for gay teens and PFLAG for the parents of queer kids. The Media Chamber Chorale has a home here, filling this space with joyful and inspiring music every week. We host Transition Town Media’s solstice services, bringing hundreds from the community into our space. And let’s not forget our Day School. The Rose Tree Day School, which was started by members of this church and continues to be an outreach activity of our congregation, is celebrating its 40th year of operation this year. That’s 40 years of offering quality educational opportunities to the youngest members of our community. Think about how many thousands of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, how much tuna salad we’ve made over the years to serve to the clients of the 69th Street shelter in Upper Darby. And in just a couple hours, we’ll begin a week of hosting families who don’t have homes through the Family Promise program. Our spiritual home will be their actual home for the coming week.

Someone recently asked me what the flaming chalice means to me. Here’s what I told them: To me it’s a beacon. It’s like a lighthouse guiding ships to port. It calls out and says “We’re here. We’re here if you need us.” If you are hurting or you’re happy. If you’re wondering or you’re wandering. If you’re lonely or you’re looking for something you just can’t describe. We’re here. That beacon reaches out into our community. It touches people who may eventually join us here on Sunday morning, but I know, too, that it touches and inspires countless others whom we’ll never meet.

I try not to think about these things in “It’s a Wonderful Life” terms. You know, what would this town be like if UUCDC never existed? Because we know that there would still be good people doing good works, and that Media wouldn’t be some kind of “Pottersville” without us. We’re a piece of the puzzle, but we’re not the entire picture. But I have no doubt that our community would be different, somehow diminished. I also don’t think in terms of “what if we weren’t here” because we’re not going anywhere. Unlike some other faith communities that are struggling to survive, UUCDC is thriving. We’re healthy. We’re growing. We’re active in our outreach and we’re known around town as a voice for progressive causes. And now, of course, we’re looking at how we can do and be even more.

This Sanctuary, our church building, is a sanctuary for so many more than just those of us who fill it to the rafters with songs and laughter, grief and longing, on a Sunday morning. We’re a place of invitation and welcome. A place of comfort and solace. A place of joy and sorrow. A place of affirmation and challenge. We’re a place of open doors, open hearts, open minds, and open spirits. To borrow a phrase from Rev’s John Buehrens and Rebecca Parker, we’re “a house for hope.” This is where hope lives.

As we take the next steps toward a capital campaign and the expansion of our facilities, it’s important to remember this. Because we’re not just talking about building a kitchen or more classrooms for our kids. This isn’t just about bricks and mortar and adding air conditioning so that we can be comfortable here in the Sanctuary in the summer time. What we’re really talking about isn’t anything we’ll see or touch when the project is over. What we’re really talking about is making an investment. Making a commitment. And what we’re investing in, what we’re committing to, is hope. We’re saying that, contrary to all outward appearances, hope is alive and well. We are declaring that the forces of despair and division will not darken our doors or hold us back. We are affirming that hope is rising. Hope is thriving. Through our building program we’re proclaiming, loudly and proudly in our community, that, no matter what, our chalice light will continue to burn and that, ultimately, hope will have the last say.  

May it be so. Amen.

Closing Words: UU minister Rev. Barbara Hamilton-Holway

May you find shelter in being seen for who you are.
May you find hope in this place.
May you dwell always in your goodness.
May goodness and hope be your eternal home.