The Rev. Dr. Craig Rubano

It’s the “backwards” law in action: in order to become more resilient, more formidable, you must first bare your flaws and weaknesses for the world to see. In doing so, they lose their power over you.

— Mark Manson

You will lose everything. Your money, your power, your fame, your success, perhaps even your memories….But right now, we stand on sacred and holy ground, for that which will be lost has not yet been lost, and realizing this is the key to unspeakable joy….Impermanence has already rendered everything and everyone around you so deeply holy and significant and worthy of your heartbreaking gratitude. Loss has already transfigured your life into an altar.

— Jeff Foster

It is an act of resistance in our culture to say: everyone needs care at different points in their life and everyone provides care to others.

— rev emilie boggis

We enter in earnest the campaign to plan, budget, and live into the new congregational fiscal year of 2023–24: A New Chapter in the 66-year-history book of UUCMC life is upon us and it is we, just like it has always been, who will write it. I continue to plan, alongside the Board and the Ministerial Installation Task Force, to inaugurate a new, called, settled ministry together with you. It bears reminding: UUCMC is a strong institution with a vibrant story at its core and a determination at its heart to draw the circles of our concern ever wider. UUCMC is also a vulnerable institution in that the we at its heart is all there is in terms of the financial and caring support required to sustain us as a community. There are no larger UU organizations who either support us financially or own us in part. The membership of UUCMC is UUCMC: you own it and it is up to you to sustain it. This is a holy, sacred duty, one that I know all members take to heart. It is also, at times, a sobering one.

Our monthly congregational theme of “vulnerability” is apt for the month in which we jumpstart the Stewardship Campaign to lead us into the future. This year, you call only the fourth settled minister in UUCMC’s history. Calling a minister is a significant commitment. On May 7th at 4 PM, you will announce to our community, to the larger UU world, to the other ministers in the NJ area, and to Monmouth County, that you are ready to make that commitment. Do we have the requisite volunteer base to sustain the many ministries for which there is understandable pride? Do we have the resolve to meet the times, with all of its inflationary realities, in order to pay a living wage to a superlative staff? As you will see from the exciting Stewardship booklet you will receive in the mail in early March, 80% of all the income UUCMC receives (77% pledges, 2% Sunday offering, and 1% “other gifts”) is from you. Fundraisers and building use fees make up the other 20%. A New Chapter for UUCMC necessarily means A New Commitment on the part of all UUCMC’s constituents to increase their financial and volunteer support of this beloved institution. This admission is in keeping with Mark Manson’s contention above, that it is only by baring our vulnerabilities that we can become more resilient, more formidable. UUCMC is, truly, up to you, and no one else. If everyone raised their pledge amount by 10%, we would be on our way to a sustainable future.

March is Women’s History Month, and among the vulnerabilities on which we want to focus our ongoing attention are reproductive rights in this country, which have been under attack by a theocratic fringe right wing of the political spectrum which now has successfully dismantled constitutional protections for personal reproductive health care decisions. On March 12th, I have invited the Rev. Tracy Sprowls to preach on reproductive rights, that we might strengthen our resolve for the struggles that lie ahead. UUCMC member Dr. Zinke, a Holmdel internist and psychiatrist, recognized very early how cultural issues impinged on women’s physical and mental health. She held a steadfast ethical vision and left a bequest to us for an annual speaker on women’s issues and to promote gender equality. On March 26th, Brookdale Professor of History Jane Scimeca has accepted my invitation to give 2023’s Myra Zinke Lecture. Dr. Scimeca will introduce us to a pioneer in Monmouth County social reform, the woman on whose property Brookdale now stands, and the subject of a biography in progress by Scimeca: New Jersey’s “First Lady,” Geraldine L. Thompson. These two services will inspire us to live into our UUCMC mission of Creating Community, Transforming Ourselves, and Transforming the World in a month when we take seriously the Stewardship of this institution.

On March 19th, we will hear from you, the members and friends of UUCMC who are experiencing the vulnerability that comes from the aging process. What is your testimony? How are you navigating the shoals of age? What sparks your resilience? How is UUCMC part of your support team? As Jeff Foster reminds us above, aging involves, among many gifts, a long series of losses, and yet loss itself is the cornerstone of gratitude for life, love, and the treasures of community. We all, as my colleague at UU Beacon in Summit Rev. Boggis avers, need and provide care at various points in our lives. How can UUCMC serve the needs of those giants in our midst who are experiencing the aging process? And how can they, in turn, care for us by sharing with us their vulnerabilities and great resilience?

March will be a powerful month for UUCMC to summon up its will to continue to be UUCMC. I look forward to sharing it with all of you.

Rev. Craig