This afternoon, the First Universalist Society in Franklin, Mass., installed Rev. Ann Willever as their Family Minister. I’ve know Ann since both of us were non-ordained Directors of Religious Education, so of course I went to this installation (Ann even asked me to give the opening words!). This is a big step for First Universalist — they had dwindled away to almost nothing by the early 1970s, and sold their old church building. But unlike the many churches that closed down during that decade of economic downturn and social turmoil, First Universalist managed to hold on. They met in rented space, and persevered, and grew big enough to afford one full-time minister, and grew some more and added a very part-time Director of Religious Education, and then a few years ago they got big enough and bold enough to build a new church building, and then they needed space for Sunday school and weekday meetings so they held a “Miracle Sunday” and raised enough money on one Sunday to pay for the new building, and now they have added a second called minister to their staff.
You may say, This is no miracle, this is simply an example of perseverance and hard work. That is true. But one thing I noticed this afternoon at the installation service: everyone in that church was pleasant, and kind, and they obviously cared for one another, and the children and teenagers were obviously loved and cared for by the adults. It was just a lovely community to be a part of, even for just a couple of hours on one Sunday afternoon. It is a loving community, not in the sappy sense, but in the real honest sense of a community that loves one another through respect and care. That’s the real miracle: the means by which this was all accomplished was actually not hard work (though hard work was required) nor perseverance (though that too was required); the means by which all this was accomplished was love. Call me maudlin, but that’s what I call a Universalist miracle.