Faith Matters: I am sending you a blessing. Pass it on.

  • The Rev. David Neil of the United Church of Bernardston. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • The United Church of Bernardston. Paul Franz

United Church of Bernardston
Published: 2/14/2020 1:11:26 PM
Modified: 2/14/2020 1:11:12 PM

(Each Saturday, a faith leader in Franklin County offers a personal perspective in this space. To become part of this series, email

I have always been intrigued by the title of this weekly column. Is the title “Faith Matters” where “matters” is the noun meaning “something that you are discussing, considering, or dealing with” and “faith” is the adjective describing the particular category of “matters” that are being considered?

Or is “faith” the noun, meaning “a belief or trust” and “matters” is the verb meaning “to be of importance.” And if the latter structure is true, what do we do with punctuation? Will it be “Faith Matters!” in an exclamatory sense? Or “Faith Matters?” following by a question mark wondering about the necessity of faith in our 21st century world.

Are we in a post-faith, post-religious age?

Sometimes we lose sight of what the word “religion” means. The etymology of “religion” dates back to ancient times. The root word is “ligare” meaning to bound or tied. And the Latin prefix “re” means “again.” The meaning of the word “religion” is “that which binds or ties us together again and again.”

We are living through one of the most polarized periods in the history of this American experiment. Maybe not since the pre-Civil War days of the late 1850s have we seen such a societal chasm. This is news to no one. In the face of this reality, let me ask which statement is more pertinent — “Faith matters?” or “Faith matters!” And if it does matter, what does that mean for us?

In his book “In Search of Sacred Places,” Professor Dan Taylor goes on a spiritual pilgrimage to many of the most well known sacred places in early Celtic Christendom: Iona, Lindisfarne, Skellig Michael. An incredible spiritual quest.

But when he returns home, he is left with the question of what does it mean for everyday life? We visit the mountaintop, but we live in the valley. He focuses on the concept of blessing and being blessed. The ancient Celtic Christians blessed everything. They blessed the fires. They blessed the birds. They blessed the night. They blessed the day. And, most importantly, the blessed each other.

Taylor suggests an idea that I have let become part of my daily routine. I have taken to blessing strangers. When I drive my car, or walk down the street, or sit in a restaurant, any time I am around people, I pick people, strangers, and say a short silent blessing for them. I bless the young and the old, the short and the tall, the fat and the lean, and every color imaginable. I bless people with political ideas very different from my own. I don’t do it constantly, because sometimes I am preoccupied. But I do it here and there and am trying to make it a habit. It reminds me that we are all bound, tied, connected.

I can’t say for sure that it does anything at all for the person I am blessing. That is beyond my pay grade. But I can say what it does for me. It makes it less possible for me to have an “adversarial relationship with the world” (to use the words of Prof. Taylor). I find myself less annoyed with people and less impatient with life. And I am more grateful for life. For all that ties us and connects us in this beautiful web of glory.

Maybe the way to close the chasm is simply to bless each other. To reaffirm that we are connected. So as you read this newspaper article, know that I am sending you a blessing. Pass it on.

About United Church of Bernardston

We are affiliated with both the United Church of Christ (UCC) and the United Methodist Church (UMC) and are located at 58 Church St. in Bernardston. Our Sunday Worship service is held at 10:30 a.m. We have a wonderful church music program with an outstanding chancel choir, praise choir and chime choir as well as a very active Sunday School program. There are numerous opportunities for adult education and fellowship with Bible Studies, and monthly fellowship groups like Pub Talk, Breakfast Club, High Tea, and UCB on the Way. We are very active in Franklin County missions and also run our monthly Roast Beef Suppers and the Bernardston Gas Engine Show. Our office phone number is 413-648-9306. And please feel free to follow us on Facebook.

Greenfield Recorder

14 Hope Street
Greenfield, MA 01302-1367
Phone: (413) 772-0261
Fax: (413) 772-2906


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