September, for me, always brings a feel of new beginning. In this area, school has been back in session for a few weeks by the time September rolls around. Yet, this month always feels like a new beginning and a returning again.

In church, of course, there are new beginnings. Our children and youth will gather in new groups with new teachers shepherded by our new and terrific Director of Religious Education, Jules Jaramillo. Our Going Deeper groups form anew and begin again (If you are interested, please contact, Membership Coordinator, Nick Rogall  or sign up here ). We will have new classes including one taught by our new intern, Jenny McCready, in which you can write and share your UU Elevator Speech in time for holiday and family get togethers. I will be facilitating a three-session discussion of Robin DeAngelo’s book “White Fragility” in late September and early October.

September also brings the return of our monthly themes. For some years now, our monthly themes have been challenging us to build a vocabulary by which we might have more robust spiritual and ethical reflection within ourselves and among and beyond our congregation. Some of our themes offer the opportunity to reclaim religious language (whether or not any of us individually choose to reclaim a word). Other words are more secular in tone, but cast in new terms, they too, allow us to know ourselves and our connections to others more deeply and offer a sharper edge to our moral reasoning.

This year, our themes will also call us into practice. One way I think about this is that each of the themes is a lens through which to ask ourselves how we live. You may have noticed that previously when I introduced a theme, I generally say what does it mean to be a people of x theme. Working with a team of lay volunteers (Thank you to Rex Nelson, Elizabeth Collard, Elizabeth Stamberger, and Valerie Stone), we are examining each month’s theme well in advance to discern its essence and a practice that might help us enter it more fully. So each month, you will see the theme, and an invitation to practice into.

September’s theme is expectation – the practice of accepting what is.

That seems like an appropriate theme and practice for September. September, as mentioned, can have the feel of beginning. Often, the newness of something creates, or at least fosters, within us a sense of expectation. An image encapsulating our hopes forms unbidden and often without our awareness of its existence. Some of us don’t realize we had any expectations until we realize they weren’t met. And then, watch out. Disappointment doesn’t even begin to cover it.

Sometimes, our expectations are geared to produce our hopes – our desired results. It’s not that we necessarily believe such things are possible. It is just hard when we really want something – a job, a home, a medication to work, someone to notice us or choose us – it is hard not to invest in something akin to positive thinking and affirmation, among other things, to shape our reality in the way we want.

Then, too, there is the familiar feeling of having our experience fall short of our expectations. The movie we looked forward to seeing. The chore we entrusted to child or spouse or co-worker. The friend we called to share bad news or good. The picnic or wedding or hike we planned. Plenty of things fall short of expectations. Little wonder that twelve step programs often described expectations as “premeditated resentments.”

This month, as we both begin again and return to theme and routine, we will look at the value and challenge of expectations. We will explore together the practice of accepting what is.

I’m so excited for this new church year. I’m filled with anticipation, delight, excitement, and I’m also a bit overwhelmed by all that will come this year.

Mostly, though, I continue to be joyful to serve with and among you all for another year.