By Wendy Weiss, Programs & Membership Coordinator
Our Westside Bridging ritual holds deep meaning and symbolism, including a literal bridge that graduates walk across, moving from childhood to young adulthood. On one side, the children and youth of our congregation hold the space of the Religious Exploration Program and children’s presence of growing up in our congregation. On the other side, across the bridge from the children, are the young adults and adults who welcome the graduates into a new role in our congregation. This new role is one of formation and transformation.
While we welcome the graduates, this year Joey Gault, into the adult sphere of congregational life, we are also making a commitment to these young adults to affirm their path, to offer support and guidance, and to always provide a home for them at every stage of life. Greeting the graduate upon arrival across the bridge with a single rose, thorns intact, symbolizes our awareness that life, with all its beauty and sweetness and potential, also holds pain and struggle and challenge. That rose is another expression of our commitment to this newly acknowledged young adult that we will be there every step of the way, through all that life holds for them.
It feels incredibly timely to pause around these ideas, symbols, and metaphors in our congregational life. While being a celebration we could all use right now, honoring this achievement of our Joey who has grown up at Westside before our very eyes, it is also a reminder of our own growth as a congregation. We are all bridging in some way along with Joey. He is leading a way ahead for us with an opportunity to look at what we are bridging as a community.
In a few short months we will navigate, together, a return to our building and being together inside our sanctuary for worship. While many of us have continued to stay involved online and/or in outdoor services, many have also chosen to wait until we are able to be back together in person to worship together. We will, one day soon, bridge this absence from each other and the building and our congregational life.
We will be arriving as changed people, each in our own way, new roles emerging. Coming back together does not necessarily mean returning to how things were or have been in years past. In Board and Committee meetings we’ve been discussing this. We’ve acknowledged this in our online Coffee Hour and Adult RE discussions. All the conversations have laid the groundwork for this transition. Until we walk back into Westside, we have charted unexplored territory.
So, as we celebrate with Joey, his family, and his Bridging Mentor, David Howell, let’s remember to stop and smell the roses and renew our commitment, our covenant, to accept the realistic thorns with the celebratory flowers.