It’s three o’clock in the morning and the hallways of First Unitarian are quiet and still. It’s not typical for me to be at church at three in the morning, much less be awake at church at three in the morning, but tonight is a special night. It’s the final overnight for our Our Whole Lives class for middle schoolers and I’m on “firefly” duty.
The church was far from quiet three hours ago, with a raucous card game going on in one room, teens singing passionately along with the soundtrack to Rent in another and soft piano music floating in from the sanctuary. Even that was calmer than immediately after dinner, when squeals of laughter rang throughout the whole building and the pounding of footsteps thudded through the halls.
I can’t help but watch their enthusiasm with a kind of wonder. They are children and they are no longer children. Their child-like selves shine through their growing up and it is evident that they are living in paradox each and every moment. And in the midst of this confusion, we have this to offer: this class, this night of difficult learning and deep fun. All for one end, to expose and prepare for one truth, which is that we are not alone. We cannot act as if we are alone, either to our benefit or to our detriment. Relationship surrounds us. Right relationship is work as well as joy, comfort as well as struggle.
Down the hall the teachers slumber too. They need their rest. It takes a brave soul to look these beings of paradox in the eye every week and love their both-ness, always shifting, never certain. The OWL teachers are perhaps the closest we get to Universalist evangelists: preaching the gospel of right relationship.
In a few hours I will wake the kids/not kids. It will take at least thirty minutes to prod them awake, possibly more, despite the lure of breakfast. But in the meantime, the sounds of the city swim around us in our little building and it sounds like a living prayer, of thanksgiving and of possibility.
May their dreams and yours be filled with the deep peace of hope, for we are not alone.