Reflections from Board Trustee-at-Large- Tony Ricardi

Happy Fall, Beloved Community!

Even though I absolutely love Seattle summers and think we were unjustly cut off too early this year, fall is my favorite season. I love the vibrant gold and ruby trees lining the streets on my commute to work, the earthy and familiar city-kid smell of fresh rain on asphalt, and the little blue jackets I fasten around my dogs to keep them warm on our crisp morning walks. I love flannel and coffee and horror movies and sad poetry and every other reason there is to be cozy in these next few months. If you pay attention to astrology, it will not surprise you to know I’m all water (cancer sun, Scorpio rising, Pisces moon) and I am most often directed by the big heart work that is part of what drew me into Westside. I want all the feelings! And snacks! And pillows! If I could lay down in a sleeping bag filled with Cheetos during Sunday services I would. But most Sundays, even without all that triple water sign comfort, I am given the space to take pause, to reflect, to join my shaky voice with all of yours and be washed in the vibrations of our collective joy and pain and everything else we sing out that week. I didn’t know I needed it until I was in it.

As you’ll learn about on Sunday when I light this week’s chalice, I started coming to Westside regularly about three years ago after my partner Neve convinced me Unitarian Universalism was not going to traumatize me the way my Catholic upbringing did. I left my childhood church as a teenager just before Confirmation, after realizing so many of my values did not align with what I was being taught. I didn’t have words for it at the time but I knew the guilt, shame, and injustice we were being fed in catechism classes did not represent the “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” I had grown up loving and trusting. I set out on my own spiritual journey that was painful and confusing in trying to pull the teachings of unconditional love, service, and the liberation of all beings, apart from the muck of many organized religions. By the time I was an adult, I had let go of the idea of having a faith community. Luckily for me and all of us, Neve is a beautiful and brilliant light who shone a beam into this tiny hole inside of me and told me I might fill it here. And after just a few weeks of wiping my wet eyes from the pew, I knew they were right.

I was hesitant to join the Board because I am newer to UU, I wasn’t sure I had the experience or relationships at Westside to truly serve, and I had just gotten through the previous year of Neve’s intensive work with the Ministerial Search Team (shout out to that amazing group!) and I didn’t know if I wanted to commit to something else that might compromise our time. After hearing from several different people about what an asset I would be, I realized not only do I have skills to contribute but I also have genuine relationships here. Being a part of a few different community activities, volunteer opportunities, and smaller groups throughout my three years here have helped me cultivate a sense of belonging that I didn’t know how to access initially with weekly services alone. Being more involved, especially since joining the Board, has added new focus to my life, and provided a place to practice so much of what I care about, like speaking my truth, building an inter generational care community, fighting for radical justice, and celebrating the strength and resiliency in all of us.

This is the big heart work I was talking about. Here we are in the beginning of the church year and I am already so filled with it- all of the large and small ways I witness care, community building, humble learning, and a million other little connections that are the lifeblood of this congregation. On the Board we are working hard to feel the pulse and keep the beat (can you tell I’m a nurse?), and we will be sharing our group’s covenant and our goals for the year in the next few weeks. I can tell you the overarching theme, much like the gold and ruby trees letting go of their leaves, is about honoring cycles, preparing for what is to come, and shedding, with gratitude, what is no longer serving us. It is an exciting time at Westside and I am so honored to be in this with all of you.

With love and commitment,

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