(Delivered at UUSF on October 28, 2018. Listen to the audio here.)
Amplified sound, so you can hear. Good. The lights are on, so you can read your printed programs without needing to angle them towards the stained glass. Good. We have a roof and walls and maybe some heat, so we don't need to worry about the elements pulling everyone away from what's happening up here.
And it is good that we have these things. I wouldn't have it any other way. After all, I did leave my rural upbringing for the city and a job with computers. I did give a talk right here a few months ago about how I'm not nearly as good a hippie as my parents. I did choose to be here. But this mic, these lights, this roof, these walls, they aren't everything.
I grew up in Oregon, and it would rain all the time. Sometimes too much -- when I was 6, it rained so much that the water level from the creek in my backyard almost rose too high and flooded my house. But even with that, the rain never bothered me. No matter what was going on in my life, no matter how busy I was or how behind I was on my schoolwork, it always brought me peace.
Sometimes I had trouble sleeping as a kid. I somehow didn't realize that Snapple Lemon Iced Tea had tea in it. But when it was raining, I could always crack open the window a little bit, listen to it, relax, and rest. When it's raining, I'm at peace. When it's raining, I'm at home. Whenever I visit relatives, and it's raining, they'll say that I brought Oregon with me. And I did. And I do.
And also, when I visit and it's especially sunny, they'll say I brought California with me, never mind the San Francisco fog. But even though it's supposedly always sunny here, I still appreciate the rain. For me, the summer and the drought isn't just bad for crops and gardens. The winter that we're starting to welcome and the rains that should hopefully come soon bring a part of my home here to visit.
And it's how I know I'm at home. Two years ago in winter, I went to a rock concert at Slims in SoMA. The concert went until 1am, and it was raining, and I decided to walk home rather than taking a bus. I had a rain jacket, but I left my hood down to feel the rain on my face. And it was three miles, but I still took the scenic route over Buena Vista hill. And that, standing in the warm winter rain, listening to it, feeling it, and just having a walk as the city slept, was one of the times I felt most connected to this city and to myself. There is room enough for worship outside of these four walls.
I don't know much about Samhain or paganism or, as our 6th UU source says, the "Spiritual teachings of Earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature." I'm glad that, just as these walls that protect us from the elements are a part of our tradition, so too is embracing the elements, whether that's the rain, gathering around a campfire, or anything that deepens our connection to nature and to each other so we can find peace in our one shared home.