From the Minister
In Jay's column in the current issue of Voices,
he talks about the subject of suicide. An archive of these and other columns by the Ministers is maintained and is accessible on the left:
January 28, 2015
One of the readings in the back of our Singing the Living Tradition hymnal offers this prayer: “May we know once again that we are not isolated beings but connected, in mystery and miracle, to the universe, to this community and to each other.”
This is an inspiring aspiration, especially since many, probably most of us feel at times like “isolated beings.” We experience things, we ponder things, we struggle with things that can make us feel disconnected, leaving us wondering who else would understand, much less care about our particular issues.
So, part of the role of the spiritual community is to venture into the deep experiences of life, to risk talking about things that are often silenced or avoided. We take on life’s tough stuff in part because, if it is not OK to admit such things here, then where might we go for some sense that we are connected to something larger than our own personal experiences?
On Sunday, February 1 our service will consider one of life’s really tough realities—suicide. We’ll reflect on this subject through the larger lens of our liberating religion, asking how our core values relate to this most difficult subject.
Not many of us who live for very long escape some personal experience with suicide—a family member, a friend, some colleague or public figure whose choice to end her or his own life in such a way that it has a deep impact on us. And yet, how rarely do we discuss these experiences, how few are the places where we can go to admit our own struggles.
I want to be clear about what we will consider. There are those now actively advocating for the right to make end of life choices that may include a compassionate death, the timing of which one chooses in concert with family members and medical professionals. We have an upcoming Adult Religious Education/Spiritual Development (ARESD) offering on mortality that will include consideration of this possibility. However, on this upcoming Sunday that is not at all what I have in mind.
This day is devoted to a more tragic reality—the choice some make to take their own lives out of some sense of despair or feeling of worthlessness or experience of intense disconnection or struggle with some debilitating mental illness.
It is never our intent to offer any service that would be morose. So, on Sunday, February 1, our services will not linger in the morass of overly somber emotions. Nor, however, will we avoid the admission that many of us carry the pain of connection to some suicide that hurts deeply. We might even hope for some healing, some small step forward if only through the sense that we are not “isolated beings” alone in our experiences.
After each service we will offer brief open discussion sessions in the Bernstein Room. These will not be intended as therapeutic encounters but more modestly simply as times to come together and share from our own experiences, to know that we are connected “to this community and to each other.”
Regardless of your personal experience, I hope you’ll plan to be a part of the 9:15 or 11:15 service on Sunday, February 1. This may be helpful in enabling you to reflect on experiences you’ve had. Or, this may help prepare you for some experience yet to come. Or, your presence may help assure others here that they are not alone and isolated but are a part of a caring, connected spiritual community.