Closing Words by Rev. Tom Goldsmith Volume 1

13 August 2020

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Dear Friends, 

If these were normal times I wouldn’t feel the need to address the congregation with hints of sentiment and casual observations about the turbulence of our days.  But the coronavirus pandemic has inflicted harm, rudely interrupted lives, while also exposing us to the inequality in health and wealth throughout our nation.  

The pandemic has cast a bit of weirdness on my 34th and last year as your minister. After serving our church for almost three and a half decades, a virtual wave good-bye next May feels as unsatisfying as topping off a gourmet dinner with a serving of jello. Instead of having a year left for hugs and laughter and shared memories, I want to step a tad closer to you through a kind of blog I am calling, “Closing Words.” Every two to three weeks during this coming church year, I hope to send out a comment or two laced with reminiscences and (hopefully) some deft observations. This is meant as a means to catch you up on some personal and (therefore) ancient history, while engaging in conversation (if you choose) in lieu of coffee hour or pastoral visits. 

When I think about the beginning of my ministry in Salt Lake City I cannot escape the fact that this was only made possible by a glass of water. I left Boston in the summer of 1986 to meet the Search Committee. I imagined the wild west, being picked up at the airport by horse and wagon and our first lunch would dazzle me with the men wearing cowboy hats and the women in jean skirts. Didn't exactly happen that way. Instead I encountered a most sophisticated Search Committee that charmed me to pieces. Unfortunately, that night I first arrived, the committee (out to impress their pre-candidate) took me straight up to Snowbird including the tram to Hidden Peak 11,000 feet high.  

I felt like a New England flower by the time we went to dinner. Instead of a wonderful meal, I spent my time with the Mountain Rescue Team with oxygen up my nose and one member of the search committee by my side, Dr. Cami Colette. Cami and I had a wonderful time, although it was not exactly what anyone planned for the evening. I knew I had one last chance to make a better impression the following morning, speaking to a congregation at the Community Church in Park City.  

I wobbled into church; the Park City altitude not conducive either to my lifelong flatlander disposition. The host minister, a warm-hearted and charismatic Methodist, asked me when I last had a glass of water. I couldn’t remember. He jumped into action and brought me two large glasses of water on ice, and hovered over me until I finished both.  

Each drop that entered my body felt like an elixir of pure energy capable of transforming me from a dried prune to a sunflower. I was able to smile just as the service began, and offered a reassuring wink to the search committee as they sat nervously in a Christian church wondering if I would offend anybody who took the gospel more seriously than Unitarian heathens.  

The host minister ran the traditional liturgy up until the sermon, and I then entered the scene as though performing a high-wire act without a net. My sermon needed the positive vibe from the Christian congregation and the affirmation from a Humanist search committee. So the sermon was about Jesus, underscoring what a great Humanist he really was. The congregation liked it; the search committee liked it; and I reached for another glass of water. 

I have been fond of Methodist ministers ever since. It was a glass of water, and of course you, that nurtured me the next 34 years.  

With gratitude to all of you!

Tom Goldsmith