September is a time of new beginnings. Children head back to school; the air gets a little lighter and cooler as we move into Fall. Many Unitarian Universalist congregations hold water communion ceremonies to welcome families back from summer adventures and kick off a new church year. For people of the Jewish faith, the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are celebrated to mark the beginning of a new year and offer a period of reflection and atonement.
In our own congregation, we also have a tradition of celebrating the International Day of Peace on the Sunday closest to September 21st– the day the United Nations has set aside as a holiday to envision global peace and renew our commitments to moving toward it. All of these rituals remind us that this is a time to begin anew.
This month, our UUCRT community will explore the theme of Forgiveness together. I believe that forgiveness is the spiritual heart of beginning anew for individuals and communities. Yet often forgiveness is misunderstood, as the words “forgive and forget” come to mind. The paths of atonement and restoration are not about forgetting; rather, they require a deep recollection, remembering and accounting for our actions. To remember the whole of who we are, including our deepest values and commitments, as well as our human tendency to stray from those values, is essential in the work of forgiving.
Forgiveness is religious work, with community playing an essential role in restoration and renewal. We hold each other accountable and support one another in beginning anew. To hold the whole – and know that we are held – in the beauty and grace of love: this is the essence of forgiveness, I believe.
As we celebrate the freshness of September and the turning of the season, may we remember and forgive, renewing our commitment to begin anew in love together.