Message from Rev. Beth

Rev. Beth Chronister holding her butterfly stole

I embrace emerging experience. I participate in discovery. I am a butterfly. I am not a butterfly collector. I want the experience of the butterfly. ~William Stafford

We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty. ~Maya Angelou

The butterfly said to the sun, “They can’t stop talking about my transformation. I can only do it once in my lifetime. If only they knew, they can do it at any time and in countless ways.” ~Dodinsky

Butterflies inspire such wonder. Their transition from ravenously hungry larva to beautiful winged creature has captured the imagination of many authors and artists. As a child, I remember watching with great awe a monarch form with its chrysalis and then emerge with crumpled wings before eventually flying off. Each year, sections of the long migration of monarchs would pass through Kansas where I lived and cover the trees with their bright, waving orange and black wings. It was like magic. One of my favorite stoles, designed and quilted by my mother, is covered in butterflies. She gifted it to me to wear for both memorials and weddings in acknowledgement of some of life’s greatest transitions. I find however, in response to the wider world and the many changes we have experienced at UUC over these last 4 years, there are ample occasions in which the symbol of the butterfly is appropriate to our ever shifting and emerging realities. 

The transition from caterpillar to butterfly is ready made for poetry, but the science within the metamorphosis adds even more dimension to the process of change. When the caterpillar enters into its chrysalis or cocoon, it begins to digest itself, releasing enzymes to dissolve all of its tissues. If you were to cut open a chrysalis at just the right time, caterpillar soup would ooze out. Have you ever entered into a time of great change in your life in which it felt at first that you were digested by the circumstances around you? Have you ever had the experience in which you needed something to dissolve within you in order to be able to progress into your next stage in life? William Bridges, author of “Transitions”, notes that the story of personal and social change is not only of emergence, but also includes the stages of grief, disorientation, dismantling, disidentification, and disenchantment. There is much to let go of and it can feel like turning to goo.

Within the caterpillar soup lies exists another truth of transition — imaginal cells. Imaginal cells remain throughout the digestive process and carry within them the building blocks of wings, antenna, and what will become the butterfly’s body. Over the metamorphosis, these highly organized cells begin to cluster together as imaginal discs and then use the protein-rich soup around them to fuel the rapid cell division required to form the wings, eyes, etc of an adult butterfly. WOW! Even within the experience of being digested lies the possibility of emerging into the next life stage with wings outstretched. I believe that people, communities, and even whole societies have human versions of imaginal cells. Innate abilities, deeper truths and potentials untapped within both persons and systems can emerge to lead change and enliven the imaginal building blocks towards new life. Within your own life changes, what have you discovered was already there inside you, waiting for the right time to emerge? In the midst of many changes at church and in society, where do you experience these places of imagination and new beginnings? Where can you cluster together with others who have vision so that we might just emerge with wings outstretched? 

In covenant,
Rev. Beth Chronister