Where Hope Comes From – DRE Corinna Whiteaker-Lewis

For some strange reason, unbeknownst to me or anyone else, I have decided that now, in the middle of the busy holiday season, is a good time to clean out the garage. And my garage has a 10×12 storage space at the back of it. Which is full. Soooo……while it feels good in many ways to be getting rid of stuff, it is also a lot of work. And of course it is also a trip down memory lane. I am touching so many things, and much of it is kid-related or kid-produced. Old science fair projects, unfinished craft kits, well-loved toys, you name it. As many of you know, I have two daughters: Audrey, 21, is in college in Boston. Bridget, 18, is a senior in high school. My husband Dale and I will soon be empty nesters, a life transition for which I’ve been trying to prepare for some time. And that includes becoming your Director of Religious Education – I’ve made no secret of the fact that probably the main reason I love my job here at San Gabriel is because I get to spend time with your amazing children. And not just because they are fun and engaging and smart, but because they give me hope.
Times are unsettling right now, to say the least. In our nation we have had a year of disastrous weather, horrific massacres, hateful demonstrations, unprecedented revelations of sexual misconduct, and unparalleled immoral leadership from the highest level of office. It is A LOT. So much that it is easy to get cynical, fast. And so lucky me, I get to come to church on Sunday and experience wonder, the ultimate antidote to cynicism. Wonder with a child as we open a box together, hear an interesting story, play with friends, share our joys and concerns, explore our UU values, and make something fun. Maybe we’ll even get to share a snack. How incredibly grounding, how wonderfully real. I’m welcomed into their world of amazing birthdays and friendly kitties but also shoes that hurt and departed family members. Your children share their excitement and their troubles, and the teachers and I try our best to both challenge and comfort them. It is a privilege, and yes, it gives me hope.
As your DRE, I try to guide your children as they develop their Unitarian Universalist identities. Each week I assist our volunteer teachers in selecting meaningful lessons that lift up our UU values. Those seven principles, that we sing each week, they ain’t no joke. Depending on your child’s age, they may or may not have much awareness of the events that have shaken us so deeply this year. But that doesn’t really matter. Knowing that each person has inherent worth, that we learn best from each other, that we are connected to the web of life, that compassion is key – these we offer to your children as a trusted roadmap through life, and they pick it up and follow! And I get to go along for the ride. It is my spiritual practice, too, and keeps me facing towards hope and away from cynicism.
When you despair, keep in mind: the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice. (Martin Luther King, Jr is credited for this sentiment, but did you know he is actually paraphrasing Unitarian theologian Theodore Parker? Look it up!) As I approach my one-year anniversary in this work at San Gabriel, I thank you for this life-giving vocation. As I’ve said before, the congregation is the curriculum, and when we live our vision to build beloved community by coming together each week, we make a place of hope for us, and for our children.
Wishing you a joyful holiday season,

Corinna Whiteaker-Lewis