Rev. Jennifer Nordstrom, First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee

Gathering in and returning to our two-service church year brings a whirlwind of expectations:

  • What will we create together this church year?
  • Who will we become?
  • What do we expect of each other?
  • What do we expect of ourselves?
  • What do we expect of the world—of time, place, and given circumstances?

It will be a big year. The given circumstances of our lives have a big, hefty feeling. Children in cages without toothbrushes or soap. Hate crimes on the rise. Empowered and organized communities responding to pain and creating change. New babies. Lost loved ones. An election. Beauty. Life. Art. Death. The moral universe arcing in our weathered hands. What do we expect in this heft? Where in the hugeness of life becoming itself do we land with our specific hopes and dreams? How are we hoping to grow communally?

Studies have shown that human beings are terrible at predicting how we will change over time. When we look back on the past, we can see drastic changes in ourselves and our lives now compared to five or ten years ago, but we usually predict that five or ten years from now we will be basically the same. But we will change, as individuals and as a people. May we use our expectations to shape that change towards our best hopes and our most beautiful growth. May we approach that unfolding future with an open sense of expectancy, rather than control.

This year at church, we are welcoming three important new staff people: our new Director of Religious Education Kimberlee Tomczak Carlson; our new Social Justice Coordinator Cesar Cornier; and our new collaborative pianist Teresa Drews! I hope you will join me in welcoming them on Ingathering Sunday and be part of creating community with them.

While rigid expectations can create disappointment, expectant hop can open us to change as it unfolds, and remind us of our own power to mold that change. We cannot control the future, but we can be part of shaping it, working in concert with so many others who dare to build the Beloved Community.

With love,



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