WorshipWeb: Braver/Wiser: A Weekly Message of Courage and Compassion

The Celebration in Front of Us

By Sean Parker Dennison

An awakening passed through the whole theatre, and as if touched by some invisible hand, the people stood, clapped, shouted with joy, laughed, and wept… It was blessed to be connected to—no, to be a part of a community—a people.

—Volker Kühn, in his essay about a cabaret performance during the Holocaust

With performers on a stage in the distance, audience members (seen from behind) raise their arms in joy.

Have you felt it? The hush that falls over a crowd after a wonderful performance, just before the applause bursts forth? The feeling of transcendence as thousands of voices rise together, filling a stadium with a favorite song? A rhythm that seems to sink bone-deep into people’s bodies and then bursts forth in movement, from toe-tapping to exuberant dance? The surprising tears that well when an image or sound or smell reminds you of someone or some place you love?

We are in the middle of a season of gatherings and celebrations, ritual and traditions, and age-old messages of peace, goodwill, hope and freedom. We are also in the middle of a time of stress and turmoil, fear and the realization that we may be facing dangerous times.

As I hear the old stories, I find myself noticing the suffering and struggle there: a family displaced first by a king’s greed and then by his fear; a besieged people who after years of occupation, rally to reclaim their most sacred spaces; or the story of those enduring long, cold nights and left wondering when warmth and light will return to them.

The stories feel so timely this year. We, like so many before us, are gathered in the struggle and the power. To be awake—to be alive—is to know both. We must know the joy and the weeping, the loss and the determination, the anger and the waiting to act. We must not allow ourselves to go numb or turn away from each other, from the old stories, or from the suffering and the celebration right in front of us.


Spirit of Compassion, help us open ourselves in these complicated times. Let us be ready to jump to our feet to applaud, to shout, to laugh, to weep. Let us turn toward each other, open-hearted and grateful for the blessing of community. Amen.

About the Author

Sean Parker Dennison

Rev. Sean Parker Dennison is the minister at Rogue Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Ashland, Oregon. Ordained in 2000, Rev. Dennison has served congregations in California, Utah, and Illinois and cofounded TRUUsT, an organization for transgender UU religious leaders, in 2004. They are...


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