Joys and Sorrows

tea candle in front of many tea candlesSubmitted by Jeffrey Hinkley, Chair, Sunday Services Committee

Each Sunday at one or both services, we set aside time for the sharing of joys and sorrows. Not every UU congregation does this, and the ones that do use a variety of formats. In some, the minister or lay leader reads written notes. In others, people light candles or drop stones into water in silence.

Our spoken Joys and Sorrows provide a way to put into practice our desire to create fellowship – a caring community where we can share what is in our hearts. Visitors are impressed that we do this together, and a brief joy or sorrow expressed during the service often leads to a hug or to a longer conversation a little later.

There have been occasional problems with the ritual – the too-long speech, the political announcement masquerading as a personal concern – but our very openness to the variety of human experiences is part of what defines us. We want to know about how the events in others’ lives have changed them, so that in the hearing, we can be transformed, too. We want to hear about a new child or the new job — or a major birthday or wedding anniversary and how it’s important. And when it comes to the sorrows, we really want to hear about a family death, the loss of a job, or the illness of a friend whose name we should keep in our hearts.

As our congregation grows in size, may we use these brief times during our worship to deepen our connections and grow in community.



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10 Responses to Joys and Sorrows

  1. Nickie Hirlinger Saylor says:

    I would strongly be in favor of changing our customs either truncate or even eliminate Joys and Concerns during the service. I care a whole lot about people’s lives, even the tiny joys and concerns, and don’t want anyone to feel silenced. However, I feel that our Sunday service is not the proper forum for a lot of the comments I hear. Worse, expecting people to conform to stricter rules on what to share is unrealistic. I like Dan’s suggestion/mention of the minister reading selected joys and concerns. Perhaps we can fill a book with all joys and concerns at Brad’s suggestion, and at the minister’s discretion, the “milestone” joys and more serious concerns may be selected to be read. I think a change in this custom would make our church more attractive and enjoyable, especially to guests. Of course, this is just my narrow perspective.

  2. Helene Drees says:

    While I enjoy joys and concerns and the quiet meditation and song associated with it, it does, at times, ramble on and i find myself looking at the clock as much as listening. The ideas here from Norfolk and Fairfax are good alternatives, and with futher research, I am sure we can find other good ideas. My thought is that it should change for the larger service.

  3. Sarah Davis says:

    Beautifully and thoughtfully written article Jeff! I thought the alternatives suggested to our current Joys and Concerns ritual were lovely ideas and I hope that we will explore them further.

    I smiled, though, when I noticed several Introverts among those who commented they dislike our current method. And, again, their frustration and discomfort (and that of any non-Introverts) plus our growing numbers are both excellent reasons to consider alternatives.

    And yet….speaking strictly for myself (an Extrovert for what that is worth) I actually like Joys & Concerns. I often find out there what I would never know otherwise. As a member of the Caring Committee and the Lay Pastoral Care team it helps me know who might need our services. Yes there is cringe worthy over sharing, long winded rambling, and political pontificating. It’s messy! Just like the human experience. But I think it gives a platform for those among us who have nowhere else they feel safe to state what is in their hearts, to feel heard, to get validated and to get comforted. To me, that is exactly what our Beloved Community is here for and best at!

    I am all for changes to the HOW/WHEN/WHERE of our Joys and Concerns but, as we go about that, I hope we can continue to find ways to give a voice to the neediest among us even when it’s outside our comfort zone.

    Namaste My Peeps!

  4. Lauren Furey says:

    It’s one of the reasons that I don’t attend very often. I think it’s definitely time for a change.

  5. sandy burkes-campbell says:

    I would prefer either the Norfolk or Fairfax ways of sharing over what we do, now that we are a larger congregation.

  6. Cornell Burcher says:

    I read this article with interest, but I evaluate 75% of these ‘Joys and Sorrows’ as non-interesting and an even larger percentage are too long. I think that if most of them were reduced in length by 75% that they may be more reasonable and fit in better in a service. After all for many of the participants they only serve as an ego booster. Have them only once only or even eliminate them. Cornell Burcher. .

  7. Brad Garbus says:

    When I attended the church in Norfolk years ago, we wrote our Joys and Concerns in a beautiful book that was then read by a lay leader as part of the service. The book had it’s own table in the corner of the sanctuary, it’s own sacred place if you will. I thought it was a beautiful way to capture and express these precious moments.

    Perhaps we could adopt this type of method for longer services and keep our traditional verbal method for the early service since is is a much smaller group. Another thought would be, to make the first Sunday the verbal Joys and Concerns with the following second, third and fourth Sundays being written and read.

    So many good ideas and feedback. Thank you Jeff for writing this article. I think this is something we all have wanting to discuss, but never really found a way of discussing it, because I think everyone does realize how precious this time is that we share our most vulnerable thoughts and feelings.

  8. Daniel Moore says:

    I was impressed with the way the Fairfax UU church had the minister read important joys and concerns from the pulpit, then invited the congregation into a moment of quite reflection where congregates who felt so moved could speak aloud the name of a person for whom they wanted to remember or impart healing energy, etc. It created a sacred space for this activity, while maintaining the flow of the service. I would be in favor of shifting to this method, especially during the larger service.

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