In various and entirely unrelated contexts this week, I have noticed the concept of chapters emerging as a theme.
I’ve seen it in literal (and literary) places, visiting brick and mortar bookstores on a short trip to NYC with a friend, and in the book I’m currently reading. Kathryn Schulz’s memoir Lost & Found is divided into three named parts: Lost, Found, And. The parts, each like a long chapter, are about distinct aspects of her life (father’s death, romantic relationship) and yet are inextricably linked with one another.
In collegial spaces there has been an uptick in the perennial discussions about vocational chapters—the chapters that are distinguished by different geographical locations, or parishes served, or stages of ministerial development, or by movement among categories of ministry (parish ministry, chaplaincy, denominational service); but also the chapters that exist within a single ministry setting. I once indulged a coach’s suggestion to name the different chapters of my UUCC ministry. It was an illuminating exercise, using words and spans of time to better distinguish what you and I have experienced during different periods of our years of shared ministry.
In our household, we’re anticipating the end of a significant chapter as the elder offspring turns 18 and finishes high school. Graham and I are mindful that this is a tender time not only for the young adult, but for us as parents and as partners with each other. The changing dynamics will affect everyone in the family.
In this week’s Stewardship Council meeting we talked about how 2024 marks UUCC’s 60th anniversary as a congregation in Howard County. For the 50th anniversary, members compiled the congregation’s history into a printed book (stop by the UUCC office downstairs at OBIC to get your copy if you don’t have one!). Who will write this last decade’s chapter? And the next?
And then there’s the news of Barbra Streisand’s 920-page(!) memoir, ten years in the making. “I wanted two volumes,” she apparently said. “Who wants to hold a heavy book like that in their hands?” I found myself thinking how beautiful to have lived a life so full that its story needs nearly a thousand pages—and 59 chapters—to tell.
I’m thinking about the chapter of my own life that I’m currently living in. I haven’t named it, and I find myself wondering if its name will emerge only in retrospect, after the next chapter has begun.
What about yours—in the story of your life, how do you characterize the chapters? What chapter are you in now? Does it have a name?