June 30, 2016, will ever be a poignant day for me, representing the symbolic close of a 12-year chapter in my life that has been dearly loved and precious to me.
No one would have guessed back in 2004 that I would be the last District Executive for the UUA in the Pacific Northwest. But so it seems now, these positions in the four western Districts having been discontinued two years back, in order to allow the Pacific Western Region to come more fully to the fore. As part of this turning, it became clear to me that it was time for me to step aside and find new ways to live out and serve my faith.
All things pass, of course, and we cannot always predict when this passing will occur. Change is the constant of life—we are reminded that endings are required before beginnings can take their own place in the world. It seems to me there is not only truth in this particular pattern, but also a great wisdom.
When we are ending a way we have loved, we go through our seven or twenty or whatever number we require of “stages of grief.” It is meant to help us remember, to honor, to think of the good we want to keep, and cherish it in a different way.
When we are ending a pattern we have not loved, we breathe a sigh of relief and dance in jubilation and good riddance, eager to move on in a new, unburdened way. This is meant to help us let go, to become lighter, that our steps will be more sure, our pace quickened, our imaginations freed.
So it is with this change to regionalization. It is time to consider what is passing, what is worth keeping, and how Unitarian Universalism might move livelier along a path that takes us forward into a future well met.
What I want you to know stepping into your future is the depth of your strength, of your goodness, of your capabilities and creativity. There are new ways ahead, new paths, new life being born here, and it is nurtured in and through each one of us. We really are the only flame of this chalice—how else could it shine and be passed, if not by our hands, our hearts?
In the coming months, I will be smiling, with great fondness, great pride and great certainty that you, of all people, will be well. It has been a privilege to serve, and so may it continue to be, in new places, new ways. For myself, I look forward with joy to begin July 1 as Director of Ministries for University Unitarian Church in Seattle.
And for you, beloved congregations of the Pacific Northwest and the Pacific Western Region, remember to take time for intentional rest and reflection, to delight in who and how and what you’ve had the privilege to love, and to open your eyes and hearts ready and eager to put what you have learned to good use. From the openness and possibility created by any ending, may you be resolved and ready to rekindle and reshape the flame of covenant, of presence, of determination, that you may light the way tomorrow for all that is, and all that is becoming.
May you create grace wherever you choose to go, fully alive. Wherever you find yourselves, may you give yourselves willingly, that all may thrive.
Janine Larsen, UUA Congregational Life Staff, Pacific Western Region (2014-16); UUA Pacific Northwest District Executive (2004–2014)