The Rev. Dr. Craig Rubano

The world of play favors exuberance, license, abandon. In it, selves can be revised.

— Diane Ackerman

There is no way to repress pleasure and expect liberation, satisfaction, or joy.

— adrienne maree brown

Listen, are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?

— Mary Oliver

You know that the antidote to exhaustion is not necessarily rest?…The antidote to exhaustion is wholeheartedness.

— Brother David Steindl-Rast

In March, our Credentialed Director of Family Ministry Michelle McKenzie-Creech and I gave a presentation to a lunchtime in-person W.A.G.O. (We Are Growing Older) gathering in the Community Room on Adult Play, on the essential need for a sense of playfulness throughout life, not merely in early developmental stages of childhood. In brief, during play, chemicals are released that allow for learning and flexibility, stress hormones drop, energy is increased, cooperation is encouraged, and creativity is engaged; in fact, it is bad for your health not to have play in your life! This month, when our theme is “renewal,” I hearken back to that day in March, and share the words of Diane Ackerman, above, who stresses that, in play, “selves can be revised.” Through play, we not only become ourselves, but we become renewed. “Renewal” is our congregational theme for the month of June.

We deemphasize play and pleasure at our peril. As adrienne marie brown says above, without pleasure, we cannot have an expectation of “liberation, satisfaction, or joy.” Play not only trains us to be adaptable to life exigencies, it allows us to be the fullest versions of ourselves. So, as we head to the end of our congregational fiscal year, with summertime fast upon us, how might we take time these next months to renew ourselves? Could a summer goal of ours be truly to live? As Mary Oliver asks, “are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?” There are many times when I can answer Oliver with a regretful, “Actually, yes.” I need to do better.

June is LGBTQ+ Pride month, and we begin the month by delving more deeply into our theme of renewal, taking our charge from Brother David Steindl-Rast’s contention above that the antidote for exhaustion is not rest, but, rather, “wholeheartedness.” When we live wholeheartedly, we can show up for life—or to the Asbury Park Pride Parade, for that matter—as the most whole versions of ourselves, and with all of our hearts. Later in the month, members PJ Casbar and Noël Robichaux generously share with UUCMC their own journeys to wholeheartedness in a culture that often disallowed their living fully into their selfhoods as gay men. We are grateful to them for this special service to end Pride month: a morning of heartbreak as well as wholehearted honesty. So often, there are obstacles to our thriving as ourselves, sometimes right from the beginning, with our upbringing…of course, parents are often in struggles of their own. Life isn’t easy. On the other hand, parenthood allows for the opportunity to support children fully in their becoming. Member Tim Geiselman hosts a service on Father’s Day that will speak to the ongoing, lifelong journey that parenthood represents—certainly, the manual doesn’t stop at Lamaze class! Thank you, Tim. We are also blessed with a return visit to our pulpit from Methodist minister, the Rev. Latasha Milton. As she prepares for her own wedding, and using the writings of bell hooks, she will  bring to us a service on the transformative power of Love.

June also brings to us all the General Assembly of UU Congregations, this year completely virtual. Some  important things are on the ballot, including approving a new Article II, a renewed version of the Principles and Sources that have served us for a long time. We learned about this earlier in the year in a service featuring an adorable JetPig, with its name’s letters anagrammatically helping to remind us of the Values we hold as UUs: Justice, Equity, Transformation, Pluralism, Interdependence, and Generosity (not coincidentally all among our monthly congregational themes for 2023–24!). At General Assembly, the important work of the faith movement is conducted. We at UUCMC also have an Annual Business Meeting, which this year, as always, follows a multigenerational service of Welcoming New Members, Bridging our teens into Young Adulthood, and bringing us all together in the beloved and important ritual of Flower Communion. Bring a flower with you to the service on June 9th—you will leave with a different one—bouquets are created and parceled out as symbols of the diversity and beauty of our gathering together in community.

May 7th marked the anniversary of my being installed as the fourth settled minister in UUCMC’s history. I am proud to help lead us—alongside a fantastic staff, and a vital congregation of volunteer spirit—into another year of creating community, transforming ourselves, and transforming the world. I’m grateful for all the support you have given me these past five years, just as I was thankful to you for helping to form me as a minister during the two years I was your ministerial intern. Adding the time up, I have been serving this congregational journey in one form or another (intern, co-minister, contract minister, called minister) for seven of the past ten years, which is nothing short of astonishing to me! I look forward to entering a second decade together.

Come July and August, I will be taking some vacation time and some weeks of Study Leave, but this month, as the song goes, “June is busting out all over,” and I’m happy to share it with all of you.

Rev. Craig