Life Calls Us On

Presented April 16, 2023       Rev. Fiona Heath


School Prayer by Diane Ackerman

In the name of the daybreak
and the eyelids of morning
and the wayfaring moon
and the night when it departs,

I swear I will not dishonor
my soul with hatred,
but offer myself humbly
as a guardian of nature,
as a healer of misery,
as a messenger of wonder,
as an architect of peace.

In the name of the sun and its mirrors
and the day that embraces it
and the cloud veils drawn over it
and the uttermost night
and the male and the female
and the plants bursting with seed
and the crowning seasons
of the firefly and the apple,

I will honor all life
—wherever and in whatever form
it may dwell—on Earth my home,
and in the mansions of the stars.


I discovered this poem by American writer Diane Ackerman during my years studying to be a minister. It feels to me that it describes the essential parts of Unitarian Universalist ministry – to care and protect the earth of which we are a part, to care for each other through all the joys and sorrows of being human, to remind people of the great mystery of the universe, and to create a healthy, peaceful society. Essentially, to honour life in all its wonder and worry.

The poem was read at my ordination at the Grand River congregation, and at my installation here in November 2014 as UCM’s sixth settled minister. It reminds me why I choose UU ministry, even as I say good bye to full time congregational work.

UU ministry – being a messenger, a guardian – is work that I have loved, where I have found my voice and my community of like minded souls, where my gifts have been needed and welcomed. It’s been a great and good fortune to have been your minister in this beautiful Great Hall and oasis of a property.

Now it is time for me to find a new way to do ministry, to affirm and promote our principles, perhaps through writing – as I loved creating the little DNA book – perhaps through teaching values. Whatever work is next, it will be informed by the work we have done together. You are a hard act to follow!

Indeed at times I feel like the 10th Doctor Who, who just before his regeneration into the 11th Doctor Who, says “I don’t want to go.”

But I must and I glad to be leaving filled with gratitude for all the warmth and kindness shown to me these past few months. I feel showered with love after all the generous gifts of time and effort that went into my celebration. I want to extend my love to you for our years together, all the good times and the tough times we have shared as a chalice community.

Community is created over and over again by the people in the room, and I am so grateful to have each of you bringing your beautiful selves to this place. All of you have made a difference, just as you are.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

I am sorry I won’t get to know some of our newest members and friends, who are as fabulous as the rest of you!

Some of you may remember that one of my favourite images of life’s connections is a web of golden threads, that we are connected by golden threads, some up close and thick, some thin and stretching far.

We’ve built up strong and beautiful golden threads in the past nine years. We now must loosen those threads – not break – for even as we let each other go, this shared ministry keeps us always connected – but the threads will stretch and thin and loosen so that I can move on and so that you can embrace new ministry.

Fresh golden threads will be woven into UCM’s tapestry, with wonderful new ministers in the years to come. As I weave a new pattern in Kingston, the golden threads of this chalice community will provide a bright background for what comes next. Which for me is still unknown, and a little bit scary and mostly exciting.

Your future is also unknown, as you must wait a little longer to see the shape of interim ministry. While I know this creates anxiety, my hope is that there is also excitement.

As the monk Thomas Merton said “You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope.”

In the past nine roller coaster years with UCM I have learnt the wisdom of Merton, to embrace each moment with a courageous heart, with faith in our shared values, and hope for the good.

All shall be well, for me and for you, as we part ways towards fresh adventures, to weave new golden threads into the tapestries of our lives, all shall be well.

So let us sing out praises for the journey, with our next song from your third settled minister, Mark Mosher deWolfe.


As we part ways, singing out praises for our now separate journeys, I must let go of my work with you. But the work continues. Rev. Victoria will be on-call here in case of crisis, she also provided the charge to the congregation at my installation, so it’s a full circle moment for her to be here today. Although as I am adapting her words from the charge to the congregation I am also a little intimidated!

Reading over the charge I felt the words ring true to how we have been together. And these are good guides for the next stage of the journey.

First, frame your vision. Be clear about UCM’s identity and what you stand for and are willing to work towards, to what you can happily give your time and talents.

Get excited about the mission to deepen in spirit, nurture community, and act for an equitable, sustainable world. That excitement, that energy is contagious! In a good way.

Second, share the work of this community, no one person or committee can do it all.  You are all in this together and everyone has something to contribute. Contribute when you can – only you know when you are able to give your gifts. When you are ready, give what you can, how you can. The rewards include connection and belonging and a sense of purpose. Take care of one another.

In other words, just keep doing what you are doing. You are all good at sharing the work, and helping one another. I’ve seen you step up time and time again when there was a need. And to know when you need to step back and let others lead. Trust yourselves.

Thirdly, keep talking as you get excited about the mission and share the work.  Communicate openly, seek clarity, and keep checking in with each other. Listen with open ears, minds and hearts. Use the Covenant of Right Relations as a guide. Offer care and respect to your staff team, they deserve it.

Fourth, know when to pause, and when to act. Sometimes a decision needs more time, more discernment, more discussion. Trust leadership and follow policy and procedures. Don’t be quick, anxious to act, just to feel you are doing something. Except to fix the roof, that does need to get done!

Don’t let one person or one viewpoint frustrate the collective will and wisdom.  Through on-going conversations, the best decision for the congregation as a whole will emerge.

Over the years together we’ve learnt the power of simply being. You are entering a pause caused by my absence, in this time before an interim minister is found. Enjoy just being together.

Fifth and finally, be willing to say yes! Say yes to trying new ways of doing, new ways of being. You have that power, as we’ve seen over the years when you said yes to sponsoring refugees, yes to becoming a green sanctuary, yes to the eighth principle.

Keep this strength of saying yes – balanced by discernment – as you move into the unknown future.

Congregational life will look different in the years to come, as you adapt to the needs of new generations living with new social norms, as you open yourselves to diversity and encourage inclusion. I believe UCM will thrive if you are willing to say yes to cultural and personal transformation.

Focus on the Mission.
Share the Work.
Keep Talking.
Know When to pause, and when to act.
Be Willing to Say Yes.

Keep these as your guides in the months to come.

You are a warm and welcoming spiritual community, lifting up the principles of Unitarian Universalism, offering this beautiful campus as an oasis of rest in the busyness of Mississauga. I’m excited for your future. Good things await you. And, fingers crossed, for me too!

While it isn’t easy to leave this beloved chalice community, we come now to the parting of the ways. Life is calling us on.

I am going to end with words adapted from American nature writer and activist Edward Abbey. For those of you with truly exceptional memories – these were the closing words of the service on the day you voted for me as your minister.

“May our trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view.
May our rivers flow without end, meandering through pastoral valleys tinkling with bells, past temples and castles and poets’ towers.
May we travel into the deep vast unknown where something strange and more beautiful and more full of wonder than our deepest dreams waits for us – beyond that next turning of the canyon walls.”

Beyond that next turning, may we all find the strange and beautiful and wonderful.

May we all continue to find wisdom and meaning in the light of the chalice.

May we find blessings everywhere we go.

Wherever your path takes you, wherever my path takes me, know that I will carry this chalice community in my heart.


So Say We All.



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