A Minister’s Message – Should We Always Take The Risk? – February 11, 2020

Should We Always Take the Risk?

This question was on the long list of questions the ministers were asked in November and I think this is a good time to tackle an answer.

Any decision to take a risk depends on what is at stake. Generally, I live by the Yogi Berra wisdom that “if you see a fork in the road, take it.” My own philosophy is to trust that the universe offers us opportunities to grow all the time. If possible I have almost always accepted a challenge or request to take on work that might benefit others with the knowledge that the experience almost always benefits me.

Even if the risk I am taking fails, I feel there was a lesson to be learned. I have been an entrepreneur my entire life; taking risks is part of my nature. But not all the risks I have taken have ended well. In a previous congregation we attempted to start a “Spiritual Center for Adult Learners” when our preschool tenant moved out. We committed money and time to renovating the classrooms, designing a program and advertising to the wider community. It failed. We simply could not raise enough interest in our program to offset the income we needed to keep it open. Within two years we had another preschool. However, while the project failed in its inception, we succeeded in other ways. We realized that it was important to have some say over what we taught and how we taught it. And so the new preschool was not a renter but the church’s very own; teaching UU values to families and kids.

Risk always involves the possibility of failure. It would be easy to minimize our risks and live a safe life. But true meaning is rarely found in the safety of our lives. True meaning is often found at the edges of life, at those moments when we are most vulnerable and, therefore, most open to a new spirit. I remember a story a friend told me about his younger brother. They lived near the ocean and they would have swim races to the end of the pier and back. His brother was smaller and less of a swimmer than my friend but every time they would race his younger brother would win. My friend asked his brother how he does it and the young man said: “Most people see how far they have to go and budget their energy accordingly, leaving enough energy to get back to the start. I don’t do that. I give it everything I have till the end with the hope that I can make it back.”

Those who have opened their own businesses will tell you that even if the business fails (and the vast majority do fail) they don’t regret having done it. For it is far better to have tried and failed than not to try at all. I love the wisdom of T.S. Eliot on this point: “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far it is possible to go.”

So here’s to the risk takers. May they fail early and often, only to succeed, eventually.

See you in church,
Rev. John