We are dedicating the month of February to the theme of resilience, and I can think of no better theme for us at this moment. The Soul Matters Circle introduction challenges us to rethink our conception of resilience as a trait that we cultivate individually, exemplified in messages such as “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!” and “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps.” Instead, it asks us to look beyond cultivation of our inner strength as individuals and to see resilience as a collective project.
We survive our pain by having the strength to tell others about it. We find the courage to make our way through the dark only when we sense we are not alone. Internal and individual grit only gets us so far; empathy, assurance and love from others gets us the rest of the way.
Over the past month, First Parish completed the daunting challenge of transitioning to a lay-led congregation. Our members stood up to this challenge and then some! Many of you dug deep individually – you took on more, you didn’t give up, and you continued to show up when you were needed most. But we also did this as a community – we organized ourselves into committees, sized up the work ahead of us, reached out to each other for help, and joyfully gathered in groups large and small for months to prepare. The result? A smooth transition, a stronger congregation, a deepening of friendships, and a feeling of awe for all that we have accomplished – together.
Reframing the concept of resilience as a communal virtue helps me realize how much easier it is to feel resilient when not alone. I hope it helps you, too. If we all keep on striving for resilience within our community, what we find is that our own individual strength is increased and our ability to face down a hard day is improved. Indeed, we just might find that there’s no need to reach way down because our own bootstraps are already thigh-high.
On behalf of the Board of Trustees
February 2020: Resilience