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Reflection on nature's inspiration; breakthrough congregations; and staff milestones.
By Christopher L. Walton
Summer 2012 5.15.12

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I first encountered the painting that appears on this issue’s cover—Summer Night, by the Norwegian artist Eilif Peterssen—in an exhibition at the Ateneum in Helsinki, Finland, on the last day of an unforgettable vacation in 2006. My wife and I had traveled to Finland at the invitation of a dear friend, who for years had wanted to show us her native land. We spent two weeks with Mari and her family, first in the forests of central Finland, then in the mountains along the Russian border, then finally in the cities Jyväskylä and Helsinki. Our hosts’ palpable love for the places they shared with us undoubtedly shaped my experience of the land, but I felt as if I had filled up with the deep calm of the lakes and the endurance of the birch trees.

On our last day, we stashed our luggage in lockers at the train station and visited the “Mirror of Nature” exhibit at the Ateneum. I stood in front of Peterssen’s painting—and several other equally marvelous works—with amazement, struck by how much my response to the artwork resembled my response to the land itself. (You can sample the exhibition at artsmia.org/mirror-of-nature.)

I thought of that vacation and that exhibition when I read the sermon by the Rev. Dr. Kendyl Gibbons that appears in adapted form in this issue (“Primal Reverence”). “Somewhere this planet has a show-stopper for you that takes your breath away and makes you tug on other people’s sleeves to make them see what you see,” she writes. My show-stopper was the clear water of a Finnish lake surrounded by birch trees. We experience “transcending mystery and wonder,” which Unitarian Universalists affirm as one of the sources of our religious tradition, not only in nature but also in human acts of creativity and courage and discovery and love. Where is your show-stopper?

In partnership with the UUA’s Office of Growth Strategies, UU World is pleased to introduce a series of profiles of “Breakthrough Congrega­tions,” starting with the UU Church of Ogden, Utah. I love the photographs August Miller took of the congregation this spring (You can see more at flickr.com/uuworld), and the inspiring story Donald E. Skinner tells.

We celebrate several milestones for the magazine’s staff: Adver­tising assistant Laura Randall, who has been training for the Unit­arian Universalist ministry while working for us, was ordained by the Area Church at First Parish in Sherborn, Massachusetts, on March 10. As this issue went to press, a baby boy was born to the Rev. Kristin Grassel Schmidt and her husband, Christian Schmidt, our production specialist, who is also preparing for ministry. And contributor Heather Christensen, who writes a weekly guide to the UU blogosphere for uuworld.org and a quarterly roundup for the magazine, was welcomed into ministerial fellowship by the UUA in March. Congratulations!

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