Star Trek/Star Wars Rites of Passage

Sometimes watching a movie can trigger an unanticipated rite of passage. I was in elementary school when the first Star Wars movie came out. I waited in a long line that wrapped around the building in order to see the young Luke Skywalker learn to be a Jedi knight under the tutelage of the older and grayer Obi Wan Kenobi. So, of course, I had to see the new movie Star Wars: The Force Awakens! However, I was unprepared for how I felt when in the final scene of that film a new apprentice, a young woman named Rey, approached the Jedi knight who pushed back the hood of his robes and we saw for the first time a very middle aged Luke Skywalker with streaks of gray in his hair and beard. For some reason this moment hit me hard. It wasn’t the awareness that he had aged. I was the sudden realization that I had aged. Luke was not the only young kid who now had gray in his beard. I am sure I was not the only one in the movie theater who felt the passage of time in that moment.

When I first started working for this congregation as the Director of Religious Education I was a young adult bursting with energy and enthusiasm like Luke Skywalker in the first film. Now I have equal enthusiasm but it is tempered by experience. When Luke lowered his hood in the last film I not only recognized him. I recognized myself. Somewhere in the last few decades I went from young upstart to a mentor to the next generation. Something about that scene in a movie triggered my awareness of my own rite of passage.

Some people love Star Wars to the exclusion of Star Trek but I enjoy both science fiction epics. I grew up watching reruns of the original Star Trek TV series vacillating between whether Dr. McCoy or Mr. Spock was my favorite character. This summer I went to see the latest movie Star Trek Beyond, where screen writers and actors did an excellent job capturing the McCoy/Spock rivalry, a continuing contest between “head” and “heart” like the one that goes on inside of each one of us.

However, the character I identified with most (at least for one moment) was Captain Kirk when Starfleet offered Kirk a promotion to admiral and he declined the offer. While this ‘declining the promotion’ is a common them in Star Trek (after all who wouldn’t rather be a starship captain than a Starfleet bureaucrat) this time it struck me in a personal way. Today, August 1 marks 15 years as the minister of the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church. While we tend to think of rites of passage as being in sync with promotions, moving from student to teacher or apprentice to mentor there is another rite of passage. It is called refusing the promotion. This can also be an important realization about who we are and what we are about. Athletes call this “being in the zone.” Psychologists call this “being in the flow.” All I know is that when people ask me, “What do you plan to do after being the minister of the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church?” I often say, “I don’t know but I already know I don’t want to do it.” Every time I walk down the curved hallways of our church I feel a little bit like the captain of the starship Enterprise.

All of this is to say that I am ready for a new church year. Let’s boldly go where no one has gone before. May the force be with us. – Chris Buice


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