The Quincy Unitarian Church
The list of Selected Sermons.
Presented May 29, 2011, by Rev. Dr. Rob Manning
Listen to a recording of
"Love to Love"
31:49 minutes - 12.7 MB - Love to Love .mp3file.
All I have to say comes down to two things: Love and Gratitude.
To love this church is to know and love the people here in the present, but also the people who loved this church in the past and kept it going and made it a place where "Love is the spirit . . . ;" whose lives enriched the church and whose lives were enriched by this church just like ours are. To remember all the great people who have formed the spirit of this church:
LLOYD HARRIS, BERTHA DANHAUS, BILL HOLIDAY, JOHN MORRISON, HILLY SHAIR, MARY BELLE COFFMAN, PAULINE WESSELLS, CAROLINE SEXAUER, JANE SHAIR, HETTIE MARIE ANDREWS, STILLMAN TAYLOR, GAYLE STARKEY, JOHN SPERRY, FRITZI MORRISON, JOHN BRIGHAM, DR. STEBBINS, POLLY JOHNSON, ANNA LOUISE BRIGHAM, MAUREEN HALLAS, BRUCE JOHNSON, BIZ STEBBINS, BOB MYERS, PAULINE BOND, BOB MATHIESON, DON SCHWEDA, ANN BLACK.
I really don't want to talk, to take your time once again, the time you have so generously given me all these years, to talk to you again. All that I have to say, all that I would say if I could say it -- which I certainly can not -- would come down to two most simple things, love, and gratitude, and then also time and forgiveness. Because the most essential thing I could say is what everyone probably already knows, that I have loved being the minister of our church all these years, and I am so thankful to you all that you have given me this gift of allowing me to be the minister, which of course has lasted so much longer than anyone expected or perhaps even intended.
For a person like myself, who likes to read and think and then try to write something out of that usually solitary experience of reading and thinking, to have this opportunity to do this with you, to have this community of intelligent, educated, socially and politically aware and active people to share ideas with, this is a dream for almost any philosopher and certainly for me. So I cannot tell you how much I have appreciated you, everyone, this entire community, and for the gift of time you have given me; I could not begin to explain to you how grateful I am for this great opportunity you have given me all these years to take some thoughts and present them here to educated, thoughtful, caring, politically and socially aware people. I feel this morning a bit like Lou Gehrig. I consider myself the luckiest philosophy professor on the face of the earth to have this community to share ideas with all of these years. I thank you all for giving me the gift of this community and the role of minister for all of these years, and for giving me so much all this time.
Many of you here now weren't here in our community when this all began and may not even know how I came to be the minister in the first place. In 1994 our church parted ways with its minister and asked me to speak every other week for the church year of 1995. This I was honored to do but all that was intended on the church's part and on my part was a one-year arrangement that essentially bought time for the congregation to find a real minister. That ended up with the congregation asking me to be the minister and the church ordained me as the minister in November of 1996, and here we are somehow near the end of the church year in 2011. This arrangement has lasted much longer than anyone dreamed or intended in 1996, so much longer that I have to ask your forgiveness because it is certainly possible that I have overstayed my welcome. But I really have loved being the minister of this church and I have often thought that no minister anywhere ever finds a congregation easier to love than I do this one. You have enriched my life beyond measure by giving me this opportunity all these years.
Being the Minister has been a constantly humbling experience because of the intelligence, talents, and integrity of the members of this church and the amazing families that make up this church, both past and present. I truly have not deserved to be the minister all these years, but I have enjoyed it anyway and am deeply grateful for the experience.
I would like to thank each and every one of you who come here and commit yourself and your time to keeping this church alive and thriving. Each and every person who comes here is important to the life of our church. I would like to thank all of you for all that you do in service to this important place of liberal religion: give thoughtful talks, do the coffee hour, provide religious education to the children, do all that needs to be done for the plant, bake and book sale, serve on committees, put together the newsletter, maintain the property, pull off the great dinner/concert events, pay for the building addition, the great piano, host the First Fridays, the Cleanupaloozas, visit people when they are in the hospital, help one another in times of need. This church thrives because of all of you, because the people here now and the people in the past believe in it and are committed to it. This is a church run by the people in it and not by the minister and as the minister and as a person who is a member of this church and loves it I thank you very much for all that you have done and do for our church.
I do want to make one thing clear. For me not being the minister does not mean leaving the church. I know I am leaving now. Thursday, in fact, I'm flying to Romania but I fully expect that will be for a year and then Dana, Sebastian, and I will be back here in Quincy, back at QU, back at the big old house, and back here in this church. I enjoy being a member of this church as much as anyone, believe me. When I am not up here on Sundays and am out there in the pews I really enjoy thinking about whatever the speaker is talking about. That opportunity to think is a real pleasure and at the same time I look at the window of Indian Mounds Park and I enjoy the friendship and good spirit of this place and so every service is a triple pleasure. Dana and I both love this church and whenever we live in America we will always be here as members of this church and will of course be happy and honored to raise Sebastian and any other Craciun-Mannings that might come along here within our church community.
Because I love and enjoy this church so much what I have wanted for a long time now is for our church to have a minister who has more time. The problem I have always had as the minister and we as a community have always had with me as the minister is time. The minister of this church should be someone who has more time, who has perhaps another part-time job but who does not have another full-time job. My full-time job does not leave me with as much time as the job of minister requires and our congregation deserves. I know people tease me about writing my church talks on Saturday but with my other job it is the only time I have to sit and think and write all day, and every time I spend my Saturdays like that I wish I had more time, more time to read and think. Whatever the topic is I have always wanted and needed more time. And whenever I am working with a family dealing with illness or someone having to face the ultimate difficulty of leaving the world we embrace and love or working on a memorial service I always feel like I wish I had had more time to know and be with the person and the family. Our church, you all, deserve and need to have a minister who has more time to minister to the congregation, and you have needed it and deserved it for a long time now.
I want that very much for everyone, for all of us in our congregation. Now as I am packing up and getting ready to leave what will probably be a year away in Romania with Dana and Sebastian, I am both surprised and disappointed that we don't have many great candidates who have stepped forward wanting to be the minister. Being the minister of this church is one of the most fun jobs in the world. Certainly part of that problem is financial. The person who is the minister at least at this point needs to have some other source of financial support because this is not a full-time job. But that is how it should be because the minister does not run this church; the people do, and that is the way it should be and is the way we like it. We don't even want someone new minister to come in and take over and speak every week. We like the diversity of speakers and perspectives. The problem with finding a minister for this church is not only financial; certainly part of the problem with finding a minister is the unique character of our church. Take this as a compliment when I say that you guys can be a pretty intimidating group of people. It takes a certain kind of person to be the minister of this church. I certainly hope that through this coming year you find just that certain kind of minister who has more time, more time than I have had, because you deserve it.
Now as for me, I have spent most of my weekends, and often all of my weekends, absorbed in the life of our church since 1995. That is a long time, so long that when you ordained me I was in my mid-30s and now I am facing the fact that this summer in Romania I will turn 50. So at such an advanced age I definitely have to think about time, even to think about, as St. Paul famously said, the time that remains. At this point in my life, what do I want to do with the time that remains? This question may be difficult for most people but for someone like myself who has been a professor for 23 years and a minister for 15 years and a husband for only 3 years and a dad for only 2 years, it is ridiculously easy. As much as I love being the minister, as much as I love reading, thinking, writing talks, as much as I love everything having to do with my life as a minister and a professor, there is something I need to do and want to do more than anything with the time that remains: have more time with and for Dana and Sebastian. I love being a professor, and I have loved these years of being also and at the same time the minister of this church, but I am sure you will all agree that it is time for me to have more time to be with my great spouse whom I am very lucky to have and to be ta ta to Sebastian. So just as our opening hymn has it, "I'm on my Way."
"Love is the spirit of this church . . ."
The Quincy Unitarian Church
The list of Selected Sermons.