Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The soft underbelly of craft and spirituality

First off, click on the link to The Owl and the Pussycat, right now. Don't worry, I'll be here when you get back. Maybe it's just that I'm uber-hormonal right now, but that story was so wonderful it made me tear up. I wish I could give E something like that. I think we might need to move out of the mid-west soon, so she can experience beauty of the kind in that post. *breathing deeply*

So! I grew up in a household consisting of a non-practicing Jewish father and a non-practicing Quaker mother. My grandparents ended up joining a baptist church when I was 10(?), and they were the only people in my family to ever take me to church. I didn't like the message there; it seemed like an affront to everything my entire family believed. As I've read and listened to religious leaders and influential people in my life, I've realized that no matter how much I admire someone, I will never agree 100% with what they say and do. A lot is good, and a lot is very bad.

I still distrust organized religion on the whole, so it was with great dismay four years ago that I received the news that J wanted to check out a few Unitarian Universalist churches in the area. We went to visit exactly one, a small lay-led fellowship pretty close to where we live. It was small, friendly, intellectual and the people were wonderful. There was a honeymoon year, and it has all hit the skids since then.

One of the problems with a lay-led fellowship is that the members of the fellowship are the ones who do everything. We clean, we give the services, we take care of the maintenance, etc. The problem in our little group is that a lot of the folks that joined stopped showing up for services and workdays. However, the biggest problem we're having right now is members leaving. Every time someone quits, we need to figure out what they had committed to doing so that those duties can be covered. This means that the few people left doing what needs done now have more to do, burning them out and making it more likely that they, too, will soon quit fro greener pastures.

One of the things most commonly left open are services. So this weekend I'm giving the service because, when my friend quit, I told her I'd find something to talk about. This week's service will be on making things, creating and the like. It's something very dear to me, this creative process. I'm calling it "The Making and The Maker." It's not about God per se, but more about how when we create something, we never do it alone. I may make a bag or scarf for a friend, and even though I sew it alone, whatever I have made was a collaborative effort. Going backwards, there was the store I purchased the fabric from, the people who rang up my purchase, cut the fabric, put it on the shelves, unloaded from the truck, drove it to the store, (and all the food, gas and materials used in trucking the fabric) printed the bolts of fabric, designed the fabric, farmed the cotton for the fabric, planted the cotton and on and on. Then there's the thread, the machines I use, the people who taught me to sew and embroider, and again, on and on.

Nothing we do in this life stands alone. Each action has an affect on those around us and our environment. I not only make things out of fabric, I also create the community I am in. Making something has always been a spiritual experience for me, whether I make a skirt or a fellowship. Creating a place that is safe for others who are persecuted (UU's are "safe congregations" for the gay, lesbian and transgender communities) or a gift that will make someone's day, those things are the same to me. When it comes down to it, the intention leads to the action, and the action leads to a creation. What we create either changes this world for the better or for the worse. It always has an impact. And that can be such a wonderful, wonderful thing.

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