When I was a kid, I’d try with all my might to stay up to midnight on New Year’s Eve. For some reason that I’ve never been sure of, at midnight our parents let us take pots and pans outdoors and bang on them as loud as we could with long-handled wooden spoons to ring in the new year. I lived in Missouri and there were fireworks stands on the side of the road everywhere, so our neighbors would be shooting off bottle rockets and Roman candles, but we’d bang on pots and pans. The pot my mother used to make our sweet tea had a permanently banged-up bottom. I loved staying up so late, and loved even more the crazy idea of banging on my mother’s stuff as loud as I could outside, in the dark, at midnight.
Now the New Year celebration at my house is subdued. I barely stay awake until midnight to watch the ball drop on television, and now we don’t have cable so it’s not likely I’ll see Times Square on the screen at all. I’ve been thinking about this and I think I need to wake up this year, be grateful that I’m around to welcome another year and celebrate the fact that I made it through the last one. My family is still relatively healthy. My three kids are still the greatest gift I could ever have, even though I marvel at all those times I wished they were older as if that meant I’d worry about them less. What an idiotic idea that was. My husband has a new job he loves, and I still love the job I’ve had for a couple of years now. We have enough fuel to keep our house warm and so much “stuff” that we’re trying to figure out how to get rid of some of it. Most important, I have a lot of love in my life for which I am very grateful.
If I could do one thing this year it would be to remember every day all I have to be grateful for, because when I do remember my whole attitude changes. You might call this mindfulness or living in the moment. All I know is that if I stop for just a couple of minutes during my day and think of all the wonderful things I have already, it picks me up every single time. It seems like a very small thing to do but somehow I have to force myself to do it, it doesn’t come naturally. This year, I hope, will be the year that I keep that intention. It’s not an overwhelming resolution that I know I can’t keep. I can do this.
I searched for a few sentences in the Bible regarding a new year, a fresh start, and remembered Isaiah: “See, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind.” This tells me that the old stuff, the old year, is behind us and it’s time to create something new for ourselves. That’s one of the beautiful aspects of having a faith, a central belief in something other than ourselves so we can always start anew at any moment at all and look to the future, putting the past behind us. We can have a fresh start over and over and over again on any day at all. In this time of new beginnings, I asked local clergy to answer this question: What’s your # 1 hope, dream, wish or prayer for the New Year?
The Rev. Roberta Williams, pastor of the United Methodist Church:
My wish is that all people of faith would support their congregations and leaders with actions, prayers, work, and financial undergirding.
Every world religion, denomination, or local congregation is able to be in ministry only as long as every member does what their faith calls them to do. For Christians and Jewish people, it is to give 10 percent of our income to God. In most congregations, 10 percent of the people do 80 percent of the work. It takes the commitment of every adherent to do the practical as well as spiritual things necessary to share our faith and being in ministry to a hurting world.
Speaking as a Christian, the local church is not a club that we stop supporting or attending when new music is sung or when our loved one gets accidentally left off the poinsettias list or when the color of the pastor does not match the color of the congregation. It is a place where we come with all our struggles both spiritual and practical to be supported by our congregants and guided by our faith. The season calls us to put down our grudges and hurts on the altar and fly free into the new year. You will be amazed at where the Spirit can take you!
The Rev. Susan Waldrop, interfaith minister:
The reality, mystery and miracle of Jesus’s birth at Christmas is this joining of physical and spiritual …God’s love is so real here … Instead of fear we could look for faith, instead of defending we could pray to be open, instead of building walls, we could attempt to be inclusive, Instead of building resentments, we could ask God to lead us to forgiveness — and self-forgiveness. Those prayers will surely be answered. This isn’t “pie in the sky,” this is really the only way out of pain and the way forward to peace and unity. If hearts are closed and hurting, money and social programs, however well motivated and worthwhile, will only do so much good.
So, my prayer is that humanity, in each heart, will realize that love in its many courageous forms of care and compassion—not dominance, hatred, self-interest, greed, etc.— is the soul of the universe, and the heart of God. Then the “the wolf and the lamb will feed together,” (Isaiah 65:25) and we will all come back to the Garden of Eden.
The Rev. Sharon Eckhardt, retired Lutheran pastor and former interim pastor at the Federated Church:
My #1 hope, dream, wish, and prayer for the New Year, all rolled into one is for Truth.
Truth, not as wishful thinking, or what we might hope things to be.
Truth, not as how we want others to see us, or believe ourselves to be.
But truth as blunt reality; as gut honesty; as wide openness.
Truth as seeing ourselves in our own flesh and bones.
Truth in politics, in religion, in relationships, and most of all, truth within ourselves.
The Rev. Chip Seadale, rector of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church:
My greatest hope is that all the people and nations on the earth come to see our critical vocation and responsibility to save our fragile earth. This will require those of us with the power, money, and means to take the lead and begin to make hard sacrifices, to be creative, and to resolve to work together. In my view, people of faith all around our world, whatever their tradition, are right now being called to bring all we can bear on this grave concern, which I believe is rightly referred to best as the “Climate Crisis,” in order to make a livable and sustainable place for our children and future generations. I believe that the billions of people in the enduring faith traditions of this world can, and should, come to see themselves as perhaps the single greatest force this world has in order successfully to confront this challenge, which may be the greatest humankind has ever had to face. And it will test the depth of our compassion and capacity to reach out and care for those in this world most exposed to the vagaries and suffering we know is coming. It will be a test of our very faith.
The Neighborhood Convention gathering for January takes place on Tuesday, Jan. 8, at 11 am at the First Congregational Church in West Tisbury. The program is “Soap Opera” by David Ives and features the Peter H. Luce Play Readers. Please bring a bag lunch and beverages, and dessert will be provided by the host church.
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