Do you remember when “Awesome!” entered the common vernacular?

Our friend the internet says that this use of “awesome” originated in 1960s surfer slang, and became popular due to films like the 1982 Hollywood hit “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” and the hilarious song “Valley Girl” by Frank Zappa and his daughter Moon Unit.

It’s funny how the meaning of words can change, isn’t it? Awesome used to mean “something that inspires awe” — something that makes us feel reverential respect, tinged with fear or seasoned with wonder. It was a spiritual sort of thing because awe is that feeling that makes us say, “Wowwwww…” or “Whoaaaa!” or “Oooooooh….” Awesome used to mean “something that sends shivers down my spine.”

For December, our Soul Matters theme is “We are a People of Awe.” It’s connected to one of the sources we Unitarian Universalists name as foundational to our living faith tradition: “Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life…”

When did you last experience awe? Awe makes us feel we belong to something greater than ourselves. It reminds us that we can take action for the common good, and leave something of ourselves behind in the world when we are gone. In the midst of mystery and sacredness, our egos take a backseat. If it’s been a while since you felt awe, I hope you’ll come to church during the December holiday season for music to touch your soul, stories, and readings to warm your heart, and company that can link your spirit to community. We have awesome worship services planned for you!

Two recent experiences of awe in my life: Listening to my college-student son singing with the UWM Chorale – hearing his rich bass-baritone voice weaving the powerful complexity of a song sung in the language of Estonia; and listening to one of our church members, as he lay in an observation bed in the Emergency Room, speaking of his deep caring for his wife. So much beauty, so much love…

There is beauty and community and love here at UUCW for you. But wherever you are this month of December, I pray that you will be blessed by beauty and community and love there, too.


With joy in the present and hope for the future,


The Rev. Suzelle Lynch, Minister