Around the Island

‘Alive Together’ — Union Chapel ends its summer season

“Speaking of marvels, I am alive together with you, when I might have been alive with anyone under the sun.” These are the words of Pulitzer prize-winning poet Lisel Mueller’s poem “Alive Together” that Reverend Galen Guengerich recited at the last service of the summer at Union Chapel in the Grove on Aug. 30.

Welcoming more than 100 people on a perfect late summer morning, the Island resident and senior minister of All Souls Unitarian Church in Manhattan reminded us to be grateful in his sermon, “Gratitude as a Way of Life,” to appreciate that we were together to worship in the shady grove.

The service celebrated Sylvester Manor Educational Farm and included songs by the enthusiastic farm crew, sung a cappella. Chapel Organist Linda Betjeman played the closing hymn, “Ode to Joy,” ending the season on a high note. Even the wild geese seemed to call goodbye as they flew over the trees during the offertory.

This year was a different season by all counts. The trustees decided to move the service outdoors to protect everyone’s health, never realizing the decision would resonate with so many people, gathering together, socially distant but with a common focus.

Some came because their own churches weren’t open and stayed because of the informality of the service, sitting in a beach chair, praying and listening to poetry. Many said they felt more comfortable outdoors than in an enclosed space. Still others came for the Memorial Sundays: Heights, Garden Club and Yacht Club. The weather cooperated for every Sunday but one, with morning breezes, sunshine and shade.

When asked to describe the summer, a trustee spoke of the services as “a much-needed respite, a regrouping, to face what’s ahead.” But the services also celebrated what we’ve already come through. A moment of peace and healing. Life-affirming.

We end our season with the end of Mueller’s poem.

…The odds against us are endless,

our chances of being alive together

statistically nonexistent;

still we have made it …

together with marvels and follies

and longings and lies and wishes

and error and humor and mercy

and journeys and voices and faces

and colors and summers and mornings

and knowledge and tears and chance.

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