Our theme this month is memory
. For those of us whose lives touch someone with some form of dementia, the very word memory can render us a bit tender. We see in such people that memory plays an important role in our lives. Memory, among other things, ensures that we don’t have to learn basic life skills anew each day.
Of course, you know as I do, that memory is more complicated than that is important in a multitude ways. Memory shapes our identity and our identity shapes our memory. According to psychologist James Hillman we “re-member” the story of our lives throughout our years. We not only revisit our memories, but sometimes we reinterpret them and occasionally, we even revise old events in the light of new information.
Memory is also about remembering, that is, recalling people who have died or from whom we live a distance or with whom we have complicated or unresolved relationships. Some of our memories are welcome and some are painful and some don’t fit neatly into any category.
Memory isn’t true or untrue. It is a personal record of our perception. And sometimes, writes Hillman, memory and imagination find each other with memory supplying the raw material of our experiences and imagination establishing connections and conclusions about the world and who we are.
David Keck, a pastoral counselor, wrote a book called Forgetting Whose We Are. In it, he argued that whatever else religion might be, religion is deeply connected to memory because it attempts to narrate a coherent story of human existence. Religion offers us ways to find ourselves in that story.
Thus, when we say, as we sometimes do, welcome to this community of memory and hope, we are speaking of more than any of our individual memories. It is community memory of a story which we inherited and are still writing. JUC’s memory is long and strong. And for Keck, this invites us to imagine the community as container for shared memory. He calls this keeping faith with memory. Being held in community means we are held in the world because the community (as well as our loved ones) know who we are. This community remembers us into the world. The community also remembers us into our deepest values.
As we approach the upcoming election, as well as the busyness of the holiday season, we will need to find ways to remember one another to the best we can be, remembering what we have been and what we yet may be. We need one another. Without each other, we can so easily forget whose we are and what we are in the world to do. Let us remember together.