Beloved Community in the Park: A Lamp in Every Corner
Rev. Kevin Tarsa
and UUCM

Wendy Wernigg, Worship Associate
With musicians Kathyrn Young, Taylor Carey, Tom Wernigg, Frank Lawrence, and Steve Wiley


A Lamp in Every Corner
Rev. Kevin Tarsa

A reflection delivered July 11, 2021 to the
Unitarian Universalist Community of the Mountains
at Condon Park, Grass Valley, CA

My reflection this morning is brief. The sermon is in your bodies, in your faces, in your eyes, in your voices this morning . . . in your music. Ultimately, the sermon is in your hearts, not in my words.  

We have shared Janeen Grohsmeyer’s story “A Lamp in Every Corner” before. I’ve read it a number of times, but when I read it this time, in preparation for this service, seeing you in my mind’s eye, I was moved to tears.  

The image of that Transylvanian church, built lovingly and with care by people all ages with many kinds of skills and gifts and materials and contributions, painted in bright colors and marked with common yet personal designs . . . the image of those ready but empty lamp stands and the darkening church as night fell . . . the image of those dots of light arriving over the hills, gradually streaming toward the church, each individual lamp contributing in the end to the light of that community . . . that is you. That is YOU! 

Not me, not the tradition; that light is generated, carried in, brought in and shared by each of YOU. That is especially clear now, after our unexpected, life-preserving exile . . . and as we gather this morning.  

One of our chalice lightings names the chalice flame a light of truth, a light of love, a light of action, a light of harmony. That light is you – together. Our Unitarian Universalist tradition is a container for it; the congregation is a place to gather it, a chalice to hold and reflect it, but the source of the light is every member and everyone who contributes their light to it. It is the sum total of every generous light-bearer’s gift – pooled together – that illuminates that otherwise empty and dark building.   

I was in UUCM’s church building when the earth quaked last week for a good long while. Mere coincidence? Or holy metaphor?!  

I was in the sanctuary, preparing for this service, when the walls pulsed and creaked and rattled. The TV monitor that Bob Miller uses wobbled back and forth on its table; I steadied it, and though I wasn’t hearing anything crashing from walls or shelves, I decided I should probably not remain under the ceiling of that old building’s largest room. So, just in case, I moved to a doorway for the remainder of the shaking.  

Honestly, it’s a marvelously apt metaphor . . . me readying for our first service together after all this time, in the congregation’s older building which needs some work and about which this community will need to make some important decisions . . . as its walls shake. 

The congregation owns its building outright now, but in significant ways, after these 16 months searching our hearts and our lives, you are about to build your church for this new day . . . 

  • you stonemasons who chisel foundations,  
  • you glaziers who ensure that light will enter from the outside,  
  • you foresters who know the demands of strong beams and trusses,  
  • you carpenters who make sure the doors welcome and open wide and true,  
  • you hoisters and ringers of the bell that calls people in and calls people to help others,  
  • you weavers and embroiderers of beauty for the altars at which people lift up their deepest truths and to which they bring their wounds and their joy,  
  • you smiths who craft the lamp stands for other people’s light and who shape compassion into shining oil lamps so that every person is invited to bring out their flame and to help illuminate the room for all, 
  • you who paint with bold, bright colors, with courage and trust, 
  • you who paint the softer subtleties, flowers, trees, the unique designs that your heart speaks. 

You . . . you . . . YOU! . . . are about to build your church – your community – for the new day. And no amount of minister or tradition or history will illuminate it without you. After 16 months outside the building and discovering ourselves from our own homes, this congregation is both alive and nascent . . . about to come into being. Its walls and our world have been shaken, which is a blessing, in the end. What it will be now, next and for whom, is in your eyes, in your newly informed hearts, in your hands.  

Help it to be a place about which you cannot help but sing a song of happiness and praise. A place to which you will feel the call to carry your light again and again and again, a place from which you know you will be able to take light when you need it, light that will be available to you every day, no matter how far away your body.  

What will make it all those things? Only the bringing of your light to help illuminate that question . . . 

What will make it all those things? A lamp in every corner of this shared, if sometimes shaking, sanctuary . . . whenever, wherever, and however this community gathers.  

So may you be! Anew and in your unique way.  

So may each of You be.  

Thank you for bringing your light.