“Caterpillars to butterflies, over and over again.” – Beatrice Robinson, at age 9 (now 15!)
Every time I ponder the message of emergence, of transformation, of development…I hear this quote ringing in my head. I have often spoken about the metamorphosis of the caterpillar to butterfly, and about being in each stage of transformation, and how they are all so important.
But just as often, I am reminded that we humans tend to think linearly. As if it goes step 1, step 2, step 3 and then DONE. But this is not the case. Sure, we begin our lives as infants, and grow to teens then adults, then elders. And surely there is an end to that. Yet, we often forget about all that happens along the way. In each of the stages of our lives, we also transform, shift and change, regress and progress. Caterpillars to butterflies, over and over again.
That message, first given to me by a 9-year-old during her sermon (at the UU congregation I helped start in Little Rock) feels so long ago. 6 years later, it still calls on me repeatedly. And just the notion that sweet Bee and her 9-year old self was aware of such emergence was something I loved. The idea that she was communicating it with a congregation of multiple generations so clearly was something I loved. But what I loved the most is that the message is not only universal, it is also infinite. It is for everyone, for all times, for all things.
Emergence – emerging – is a thing that keeps happening. And all the occurrences in our lives have the virtue of being a part of our emerging.
When I met with my Lifespan Faith Engagement (LFE) Team last month, we talked about how amazing it is that the classes, worship services, social justice activities, small group ministries, and events all share a continuity. Beyond just the monthly theme, UUCCH is clearly beginning to take up a culture of emergence. A place where all the things we do, in all the places we do them, are a part of our congregational connection.
As your Director of Lifespan Faith Engagement, I describe church connection as a triangle that looks like this:
At one point, membership – the place where we build relationship, feel belonging, and experience community. At the second point, leadership/service – the place where you give back to the community, and engage in its future. And the last point, faith engagement – where you learn and develop, and experience your ever-emerging UU identity. It is all of these, for all of the people, at all of the times.
So when someone says to me, “I can’t take that class because I have a committee or team meeting;” or, “I will miss that meeting because I’ll be helping with worship that week;” or “I can’t be there because I need to visit with someone”…I might say back, “You aren’t missing anything. You’re doing exactly what you need to be doing! And it’s ALL a part of your faith development.”
Each and all of these are important pieces of who you are- as a member, as a leader in service, as a student of Faith Engagement. And how you engage in each of these will ebb and flow, will change over time. You are emerging. The congregation is emerging. Caterpillars to butterflies, over and over again.