Reverend Thandeka’s Visit to Brussels

by Rebecca Balogh

Photo by Ryan McGinn

On Sunday November 10th, Rev. Thandeka led a service for the Brussels UUFellowship. The 15 or so attendees were gently invited to “greet the stranger who is your self.” In a service which started with a recording of one of George Winston’s new age songs and continued with a Wendell Barry reading, Rev. Thandeka’s sermon told a story of when she was young and rode a roller coaster for the first time with her brother. In the moment of the climb to the top she gloried in the sense of being one with the clouds, only to be plunged into terror as the car dove back to earth. Recognizing that her older brother was delighting in her fear, she determined to ride the roller coaster again to regain her dignity again vis-à-vis her brother. Maintaining iron control over her emotions, she rode the roller coaster again, this time anticipating each turn and twist and steeling herself to the emotions. Thus she noted that she learned there are two kinds of people in the world: those who delight in roller coasters and those who never want to go near one again. Or to put it another way, those who live in the moment and those who anticipate the moment. By steeling herself to ride the roller coaster, she noted she felt like she built a separation between herself from herself. She then asked the congregation to describe a moment in which they learned something about their authentic self and greeted the stranger within. Over the course of the hour, the group service created a trusting space of loving exploration, incorporating music, cadenced breath, readings and sharing.

On Tuesday Nov. 12th, Rev. Thandeka also led a group discussion on the use of techniques to create trusting and reverent space and the need for each fellowship to create small covenant groups as a key methodology for our liberal religion to support the emotions of our congregations and grow our membership. This initiative deepens our interconnectedness and fosters her key message of the importance of each member being embraced by a Love Beyond Belief, a phrase she has trademarked to reserve its use for the UU church. According to Rev. Thandeka, this core of liberal spiritual embrace of feelings is the key thing lacking in the church today. She echoed this message again the following weekend at the retreat in Bad Hamburg.