Making Magic Happen

Rev. Chris Jimmerson & Laine Young
July 30, 2017
First UU Church of Austin
4700 Grover Ave., Austin, TX 78756

For our annual intergenerational service after our summer Hogwarts Camp, we explore the magic we make happen here at the church and beyond.

Opening words
Nora Roberts

Magic exists. Who can doubt it, when there are rainbows and wildflowers, the music of the wind and the silence of the stars? Anyone who has loved has been touched by magic. It is such a simple and such an extraordinary part of the lives we live.


Hey, Chris! Did you see all the little witches & wizards running. around church this week? Once again, First UU Church of Austin was transformed into Camp UU Hogwarts, complete with Hogwarts classes, games of quidditch, a giant waterslide, a planetarium, and even our first YUULE Ball (and that’s Yule, with two U’s, of course)!

The Harry Potter series is celebrating its twentieth anniversary this year, and this is the twelfth year we have had a Hogwarts-themed summer camp, and each year I like to think about why. We could pick a different theme for our summer camp every year, but something about Harry Potter, something about the idea of magic, seems to speak to us. Maybe it speaks to us partly because magic can mean so many things to people? Chris – what does magic mean to you?


Not supernatural

Not sleight of hand, magician’s tricks

When the whole is greater than, more complex and rich than the sum of the parts. There are so many examples of this happening in our world. Here are just a few that come immediately to mind.

People with varying interests, abilities and points of view coming together in the church to make our church life and ministries deeper and able to accomplish more from social action to fellowship to the arts to the renovations and so much more.

A comedy or musical or theatrical performance where on one night there is a dynamic connection between the performers and the people in the audience that is not there during together performances. I do not know what the difference is – what the magic is but it happens.

I have attended worship services where all of the different aspects are good and somehow the way in which the different elements enhance and multiply the effect of each other make the whole even greater than the individual parts.

The work that so many folks in our church do all the time to bring love out into public life so that it shows up as justice, when these varying efforts come together to make surprisingly wonderful change for the better in people’s lives, to me, is magical.

Laine, tell us a little about how this kind of magic showed up during Camp UU.

Let’s see… on Wednesday afternoon the Great Hall, known as Howson Hall the rest of the year, was once again transformed! All the campers were decorating bags and filling them with all kinds of toiletries – there were so many bags that I couldn’t see the tables! The campers were making all of these bags to donate to Posada Esperanza, which is part of Casa Marianella, an emergency homeless shelter in Austin that serves recently-arrived immigrants and asylum seekers. Chris – did you know that Posada Esperanza offers a full-service transitional housing program for immigrant mothers and their children who are escaping domestic or cultural violence? The mission of Posada Esperanza really reflects the commitment of First UU Austin towards justice for immigrants.

And on Thursday, our witches and wizards enjoyed a performance by Youth Rise, an Austin-based organization that is largely comprised of young women and queer youth of color who have been impacted by the incarceration or deportation of a parent or caregiver. After the performance, our campers drew pictures and wrote letters to our government representatives about immigration – talk about making magic happen by putting our UU values and principles into action!

Chris, I wonder – what do you think we most often don’t realize about magic?

That it is so often born out of our takings risks – our making mistakes and learning from them.

Our experience with providing immigration sanctuary for Sulma Franco. Immigration sanctuary is when a church brings an immigrant faced with deportation into their campus to live to try to keep the authorities from carrying out the deportation.

We took a risk. We sometimes made mistakes because we were learning as we went.

Could have formed larger coalition sooner

Involving more people and finding more ways for people to be involved

Reaching out sooner to the larger faith community

Yet, we did learn and the coalition got stronger

The magic happened and was a transformative, life saving result for Sulma, and I believe transformative for the. church because we were truly living that mission we say together every Sunday.

Coalition grew into the larger Austin Sanctuary Network (now 25 churches) which supported St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in offering sanctuary to woman and her young son, who was also able to avoid deportation, which was likely life-saving for them.

Now the magic has come full circle, as we are in conversation with the Austin Sanctuary Coalition that we helped form and is stronger because of what we learned from our mistakes. We are in conversation with the coalition and a young man from EI Salvador whose life would be at risk if he is returned to his home country and who may need us to offer him sanctuary

I think we also forget sometimes that the magic almost always comes out of connection and a sense of belonging.

Even when it happens when we are alone such as when having an experience of beauty and awe in a nature setting, the sense of magic is our connectedness to our world and our unIverse.

This happens all the time here at the church. The sense of love and connection I witnessed between the children, youth and camp counselors at Camp UU was amazing!

Just yesterday, I started the morning with our stewardship ministry team and a wonderful group of our church members at a training on how to make the magic happen for our upcoming stewardship campaign that will support our church’s mission and ministries next year. The generosity of our folks in supporting this church is truly magical.

Then, I came over to the church for the Path to Membership class, where our terrific congregational administrator, Shannon Posern and several of our church leaders were discussing information on the church, Unitarian Universalism and the ins and outs of becoming a member of the church with a great group of folks interested in joining us on our spiritual journey. I can’t think of any greater magic.

And finally, I think about the way that the people in this church have come together during the challenging time while the senior minister, Meg, has had to be out because of such a serious infection (which we are grateful is gone now) and it touches my heart. This could very well have very well plunged us into anxiety and chaos. It often has in other churches that have encountered similar circumstances.

It is that sense of community that I think makes the magic happen. In the end it is not those of us who are the religious professionals that make church happen, as very special as we are, it is the folks that form the church and keep its mission and ministries alive and thriving that create the beloved community and radiate love and compassion throughout this church building and out beyond its walls into our world.

The fact that the people of this church have kept the magic happening until Meg can be back with us, I think, is a wonderful tribute to her and her ministry.

That is truly some big magic.

And speaking of big magic, Laine, I’m curious what things you all might have added this year to enhance the magic at Camp UU?

That’s a fantastic question! This year was a unique year in Camp UU Hogwarts history. We had a new camp committee, which is also known as the CHARM Committee, and it was my first year as Headmistress Hedera Hufflepuff. I have been helping out with this camp since Kaitlyn was 6 years old, so…. 8 years now, but mostly with behind-the-scenes things, so this was an entirely new experience for me.

There were several magical additions to the camp this year. A new class was added called IUU, which is short for “Introduction to Unitarian Universalism.” On the first day of camp we all learned a chalice lighting together and signed the Camp UU covenant, which the camp’s head house elf, Laura Miller, showed us earlier in service. The IUU class also did things like a Blessing of the Wands Tuesday morning, which I thought was wonderful. There was a UU History class, and the Defense Against the Dark Arts class really explored our UU values and principles not only in the world of Harry Potter but also how we can put these values and principles into action in our daily lives.

I love that this year the campers, prefects, and professors had so many opportunities to explore and learn about how magical our UU values and principles truly are!

Wow, it sounds as if we are making magic happen here at the church and beyond!

And amen to that!


May you know serenity.
May you know loving kindness.
May you experience a little magic in your world.
May the congregation say, “Amen” and “Blessed be”
Go in peace.

Podcasts of this and other sermons are also available for free on iTunes. You can find them here.

Most sermons delivered at the First UU Church of Austin during the past 17 years are available online through this website. You will find links to them in the right sidebar menu labeled Sermons. The Indexes link leads to tables of all sermons for each year listed by date (newest to oldest) with topic and speaker. Click on the topic to go to a sermon.