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Sense of Time

As my parents entered their ninth decades, declining health and diminishing ability made it necessary

for me to visit them more and more often. There was always plenty for us to do. Doctor appointments.

Physical therapy. Medications to be taken, and taken on time.  Scheduled baths.  Bills to be paid. 

Sometimes an appointment for a haircut. My parents were unable to keep track of these things,

even with a calendar where their schedule was recorded and a clock that showed time, day and date. 


The days I flew home were the hardest.  Appointments were a mystery.  They couldn't remember how long I’d been there, when I would leave, when I would be back.  All they had was now.  I dealt with this by slowing down.  Moving slowly.  Speaking slowly.  Repeating what was happening.  Saying “You’re doing fine. We’ve got plenty of time” to reassure them.   Slowing down is not my best thing!

The science of time suggests that our grasp of long spans of time helps us apportion our energies.  But it is at the other end of the time spectrum where the most important and fragile part of our internal clocks is found.  Now.  Now lasts roughly 2 ½ seconds, the span of unconscious attention.  When something disrupts the brain’s circuitry, the world becomes a chaotic jumble.  When we can’t remember what happened in the past, we lose our sense of time.  Short term memories must be ordered and stored by the brain if we are to have a sense of what will happen next.  For my parents, there was no immediate past, only long ago. And there was no future, nothing to look forward to or plan for.  Time was the current moment, right now.


Outside the science of time, there is Kairos -the right or opportune moment.  I looked for kairos moments with my parents. I did it out of respect and love.  In spite of the loss of memory and the different sense of time, they needed to experience events as being right.  Events needed to be opportune and meaningful when possible.  Kairos was a time they could live in.  No clock or calendar required. 


Communities - including this one - have a complex sense of time.   We show up at 10:00 a.m. on Sundays for worship and Religious Exploration.  Some come earlier for choir rehearsal. There are stories from the past, like the history of the building or the story of a much beloved minister.  There are stories of shared experiences - from Pies on the Common to the Church Auction. There are now shared moments – moments that tell of who and how we are together.  There are stories not yet complete like the calling of your next settled minister.  And there is Kairos – those right and opportune times full of meaning and connection.


The calling of your next settled minister is made of all kinds of time – clocks and schedules, memories; past, present, future; the right and opportune moment. In this present moment, you are preparing yourselves to be authors of the next chapter in the story of this congregation. As you prepare, may you build on the long and rich history of this place.  May you draw deeply from the wisdom of your shared experience. May you be bold in imagining your future.  May you be open to right and opportune moments that will come.

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