Oct 28 2015

November Theme: Trust

Published by at 10:45 pm under Minister's Musings

What Makes a Leap of Faith Possible?

by Rev. Nancy Palmer Jones

 How many times in your life have you taken a leap of faith, intentionally forging ahead into uncertain territory? Maybe you have switched careers, or you have switched schools. Maybe you have fallen in love, made a commitment, or ended a relationship. Maybe you manage to get up each day, willing to try again to make sense of the muddle of life—that, too, is a leap of faith.

Each one of these experiences, in its own way, involves stepping off the cliff of the known into the unknown. Will we plummet, or will we grow our wings? What makes it possible to take that leap?

On October 18 this year, when we at First Unitarian celebrate the 20th Anniversary of Surviving the Fire, I am struck by how firefighters take a leap of faith each time they fight a fire. They have to forge ahead into the unknown, especially with a fire of the magnitude that we endured. How do they do it? Training, of course—they have practiced and practiced moving into smoke-shrouded buildings, finding the source of the fire, and putting it out.

But it takes more than training, too. As I interview the firefighters in preparation for our celebration, I hear over and over about their sense of mission and purpose: that burning desire, if you will—an inner fire more intense than any they will fight—to help people in times of crisis. The most dedicated firefighters take a leap of faith the moment they join the department, fueled by a deep sense of call.

I am also struck by the leap of faith that First Unitarian’s congregants and friends take in the face of the fire’s destruction in 1995. Putting one foot in front of the other, offering one hour after another of volunteer time and one dollar after another of donations, they forge ahead into an uncertain future. What makes that leap of faith possible? Well, it’s love for this place that has nurtured their spirits, and love for the companions they have found here for life’s journey.

And something more: They are driven by a sense of call—to save not just the building but the church itself, the community of FUCSJ. They don’t want to break the chain; they want to pass along this gift of community that they have received and to make it available for generations to come.

I imagine that the founders of this congregation must have taken a leap of faith when they first gather in City Hall in 1865. Those religious seekers and free thinkers—those Unitarians—are no doubt traumatized by the recent unrest of the Civil War, by the assassination of the president just that spring, and by the radically changing political and social climate in California. Yet they have a longing and a hope—a faith—that they can create a better world. Do they imagine that we will still be here, 150 years later? Throughout this year, we will hear stories of these ancestors, beginning in worship on Sunday, November 8. What makes their leap of faith possible? It must have been a trust in their intuition and in their call to create community.

We here at First Unitarian in 2015 are in the midst of our own leap of faith. Facing the traumas, changes, and uncertainties of these times and of our personal lives, still we forge ahead. What makes it possible? Something about our sense of call. Something about a deeper trust. Something about being in community together. Come find out what fuels your leap of faith, this month at FUCSJ.

With love and courage,

Rev. Nancy

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