December 22 Minister Moment

Dark of winter, soft and still, your quiet calm surrounds me. Let my thoughts go where they will’ ease my mind profoundly.”

Our hymnal holds a wonderful winter meditation by Shelly Jackson Denham, who was a church music director in Ohio, and later active at The Mountain Retreat Center. You have probably heard, and loved, some of her songs – meditations set to music.  Hymn 55.

“Darkness soothe my weary eyes, that I may see more clearly. When my heart with sorrow cries, comfort and caress me.”

The winter solstice is past, and the days will be getting longer. The preparation and get-it-all-done is almost complete, and now it the holiday weekend, with hope of a week which might be a bit more serene. The Unitarian Church of Norfolk is abuzz with preparations for our three services on December 24, and a good number of folks have volunteered to bake or serve at the reception at 6 p.m. (we can always use more help, especially for cleanup!) Thank you for your sign-ups Sunday and online.

In talking with folks this week I hear a lot about preparation.  Travel to see family, to receive family, to decide which family gets which hours of the holiday. It’s a “doing” time for many of us. Consider reducing the number of doing things in each day by one, and substitute a “being” thing.  Perhaps you do have to get the last of the toys. Can you go with a friend, and spend time drinking hot chocolate or coffee, people watching, remembering? A good week to get on the phone and “just say “hi.”

For some, this holiday is a milestone; a first Christmas in a new situation, whether it is the first Christmas married or first Christmas without the kids, or alone or “Baby’s first Santa-day,” on a sweater I saw recently.

This past Sunday, Harvey Edward Jones’s son, Scott, died. Scott was 51 but had not been well, and Harvey had been away, but returned in time to say goodbye. Cards are welcome. The funeral mass was on Friday morning. We send our condolences to Harvey and the Jones family. The obituary is in the Virginian-Pilot.

I also received word that my aunt died this past weekend. I have mentioned her several times in sermons as a loving and faith-filled woman. She had been in continuing care in Florida, and I had not seen her for too many years. Sometimes we miss our chances.

Many congregations hold a “Blue Christmas” service to acknowledge the losses and sadness which can appear at the holidays. Talking about it can help, as can rituals of remembrance. Perhaps it is time to walk one more time on that beach, to bake that yam dish they always liked, to read the poems they loved. We have no organized Blue Christmas, but our January 7th service will be on looking forward and backward. Can you help me remember community members who were born, married or died in 2017? I’d like us to have a litany of names and remembrance at that service – a service where we also welcome new members!  Send me a note or e-mail (

Sunday is your last chance to remember Christmas Eve at UCN.  Soon the Coastal Virginia UUs will be moving to 809, and our creaky wooden pews and carved wood walls will be only a memory.  We are making our 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. services a bit more traditional in recognition of our last time in Norfolk. Please come and bring friends. Our 10:30 a.m. service will also be full of musical celebration, if you are a morning person!

“Gentle darkness, soft and still, bring your quiet to me”  – Shelly Jackson Denham 

Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanzaa, and peace.

Rev. Charlie