I am delighted, these days, to take a walk around the Town Dock in Port Washington, to be just-a-little-jealous of people walking their dogs. I greet the people—known and unknown—with a smile and nod. For just a few moments, I stand among the cluster of people who stop to watch the sun set.
If I have a little more time, I catch a ferry. When I came to Shelter Rock last fall, it might be one of the ferries to Connecticut on the drive to Rhode Island to see my mother. On Mother’s Day this spring, it was the ferry to Cherry Grove and a seaside walk on Fire Island.
Rev. Max Kapp’s poem captures what I feel:
I brought my spirit to the sea. I stood upon the shore.
I gazed upon infinity. I heard the waters roar.
And then there came a sense of peace, some whisper calmed my soul,
Some ancient ministry of stars had made my spirit whole.
Gazing upon infinity! The infinity of the stars, of course; but the infinity of the oceans, the grand waters over which humanity has travelled; the stories of their great lives, the tiny story of my own life. I can find myself lost in the immensity of space and time, in all these stories. And yet . . . some ancient ministry of stars speaks to me, calms my tiny frets and anxieties, allows me to be in awe and to find a sense of abiding peace.
Max Kapp was an encourager of young minds, teaching and mentoring a generation of Universalist ministers. He was also an encourager of the new Unitarian Universalist Association. He preached in 1959 the final sermon of the last biennial meeting between Universalists and Unitarians, and in 1961 at the installation of the first president of the merged denomination.
Kapp didn’t only look to the sea. At the old Universalist institutes at Ferry Beach, ME, he looked, too, to the forest where there was a rustic and beloved chapel in the woods. This is not unlike our own experience of the woods our congregation will visit in our All-Congregation Retreat. This is like the woods that we steward around our campus.
I brought my spirit to the trees that loomed against the sky.
I touched each wandering careless breeze to know if God were nigh.
And then I felt an inner flame that fiercely burned my tears.
Uplift, I rose from bended knee to meet the asking years.
I find a balance here. Sea with Forest. Calm with Conviction. Infinite Eternity and the Present rolling out before us, asking of us. At the center of all of this, the human heart-mind, an emotive intelligence that encounters the world through all the senses, and always in community. That we might minister and be ministered unto. That we might greet each other with encouragement. That together we might meet the asking years.
Yours in a faith that frees,
Rev. David Carl Olson
Associate Minister for Congregational Life