Skip directly to content

Reflections from Rev. Emily Gage

What Does It Mean To Be a Community of Joy?

You may have heard me tell the story about the first time I was in the Unity Temple pulpit. It was maybe 14 years or so ago, when I was serving our congregation in Joliet, and I had been invited to participate in Jean Darling’s ordination by giving her the right hand of fellowship. 

I remember standing up there in the pulpit that day, and thinking, “Wow—what a strange set up this is. I’m not sure how I feel about it. Oh well, it doesn’t matter. I’ll never be a minister in this congregation.” Well, you know what they say: “Want to make the God (or the universe) laugh? Tell him/her/it your plans.” Five years later there I was, somehow, suddenly, a minister serving Unity Temple Unitarian Universalist Congregation.

Despite my initial impression, it did not take me long to fall in love with our worship space in Unity Temple. The intimacy for even a large group gathered, the way we can all see one another, the way you can see everyone from the pulpit (unless you’re hidden down in the cloisters behind the piano) are such wonderful gifts. I have missed it terribly while we are away. Terribly.

As I write this column, we are beginning our moving back to Unity Temple process, and the staff has been checking things out. My first order of business in the newly restored sanctuary was to stand up in the pulpit. And this is what I felt: joy. Joy for a beautiful no-longer-falling-down-around-us have-to-put-the-wastebaskets-out-when-it-rains sanctuary. And joy of anticipating being there with all of you. I might not have a sermon of words that day. I might just stand there and smile at you all, with the tears of joy running down my face.

It happens sometimes in life, that we do not fully appreciate things until we no longer have them. Or when we take a break from them for whatever reason. Our time at United Lutheran has been full of gifts, and indeed it has been a best-case-scenario time away from our home. We have made the best of it. And yet...I can see how good it will be to be back. The words of Kahlil Gibran on joy and sorrow keep popping into my head: “When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy. When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.”

It’s been great for us to remember and live the idea that our congregation is more than a building. And I look forward to the joy of being back in Unity Temple, and moved into our new space at 1019 South Boulevard, and blossoming into the joy of our new adventures in place. These are hard times we live in, and I’m so grateful that we are in them together, finding joy and hope and faith and love in one another.