A few years ago, our community was impacted by floods. We learned quickly how devastating floods can be, especially to the most vulnerable in our community. Though we are not near the ocean, we are surrounded by rivers, lakes, reservoirs and ponds, and know both water’s capacity to bring life, as well as destruction. This is one of many reasons we were moved this past Sunday to use our water communion service – where we ritualize water’s healing grace – to acknowledge and hopefully offer some of that grace to our friends in Baton Rouge. Our entire offering plate will be shared with the UU Church in Baton Rouge. They will use it to support whatever they may need as they support their community, including directing it towards a local community organization they as they see fit. We will be sending over $2100 from this one Sunday – a Sunday where we were honoring the gifts possible when we join together in shared community, and the ways we come into community so that we can go out and bring more love into the world.
If you haven’t yet celebrated your Water Ceremony or ingathering service, or even if you have, maybe you and your congregation will join us in taking an offering and sending it their way. It is one small yet powerful way we can bring our water communion to life.
Unitarian Universalists from outside greater Baton Rouge want to know how to help from afar.
1. “UCBR Flood Fund” is receiving funds to assist Members and Friends of our church in flood recovery, especially those without flood insurance coverage. Send to Unitarian Church of Baton Rouge, 8470 Goodwood Blvd., Baton Rouge LA 70806.
2. Send contact information if you are available to make a trip to this region and assist in the actual cleanup of homes. Local persons can send contact information if you have space to host a volunteer.
Rev. Gretchen Haley loves serving, praying, laughing, creating, discovering and collaborating with her congregation, the Foothills Unitarian Church, in Fort Collins, Colorado, where she began as senior minister in July, at the start of her fifth year with them (work that out….). She was lucky to join them in what they called their “3rd year of a 5 year culture shift from scarcity to generosity.” She looks forward to being a part of growing and strengthening this vision with them as they live into their new mission statement of unleashing courageous love in Northern Colorado, and beyond.
Mission Peak Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Fremont, California, attributes much of its success to a willingness to try new things.
What are some of the “new things” that have been tried in the last few years in your congregation?
Do you think of your congregation as a place where it is safe to fail?
Congregational Life Staff in one of our regions has coined the term “experifail.” Has your congregation had some “experifails?” What did you learn?
Mission Peak has a history of being involved with and supported by programs and services of the Unitarian Universalist Association. One such program, Leap of Faith, provided mentoring from another congregation.
How does your congregation intentionally stay connected with our Unitarian Universalist Association and other congregations?
What are some new ways you might find to deepen your congregation’s collaboration with other Unitarian Universalists?
A former minister, the Rev. Chris Schriner, refers to the “good vibes” between people of different theologies.
What are the ways different theologies are acknowledged, welcomed and explored in your congregation?
What other differences are notably welcomed?
What intentional ways have you learned to engage in dialogue across differences?
The Rev. Jeremy Nickel stresses the importance of opportunities to live our values.
When there is behavior in the congregation that is not consistent with our values, does your congregation have processes for calling people back into right relationship?
What are some of the ways members of your congregation are supported in living out our values in the larger world?
Are there ways for members of your congregation to act together in the world?
Rev. Jan Christian serves as Congregational Life Staff in the Pacific Western Region of the UUA.
Make a general announcement that you need someone: You will likely get the folks who already do too much, or folks who have no skills in the area where you need the help.
Wait until the last minute: When folks are asked without proper lead-time, it makes the project seem unimportant. Your volunteers can feel overwhelmed, undervalued, or even feel like asking them was an afterthought. We want to show how we value the work and the volunteers.
Ignore unique gifts and abilities: People have different schedules, skills, and interests. If someone is put in a position that doesn’t work for who they are, no one wins. Your volunteer might quit because they can’t actually follow through or they might just do a terrible job.
Pour on the guilt: Doing the work of our faith can bring people fulfillment and joy! But if they are only doing it because they felt guilty about turning you down, they will likely feel angry, frustrated, and burned-out.
Don’t follow up: Not checking in later can make it seem like you were just filling spots on chore chart. Mark your calendar to check in after the first month, and then again at three and six months. Ask how they are doing and what they need? Your volunteers will feel so appreciated and valued!
Forget the spiritual: As religious leaders, we don’t want to leave out the spiritual discernment involved with filling our volunteer positions. Take some time to pray or meditate about your people and your programs. It can really help you with clarity.
The Rev. Sarah Schurr serves the Pacific Western Region of the UUA as Congregational Life Staff. Sarah has years of experience working with small congregations who rely heavily on volunteers. In addition to her small church expertise, she works closely with ministerial transitions in the region.
Boston, we have a problem. We UU’s are part of a religious movement that can’t seem to embrace religious ritual.
Yeah, we execute events and programs like Coming of Age, and Bridging, and the occasional holiday service, but when it comes to spiritual practice, we have some serious deficiencies. Don’t believe me? Well, here’s the proof:
Last December, I organized and presented a webinar for religious professionals called “Sunday Morning Best Practices.” In preparation for this webinar, I interviewed eight demographically different congregations from around the country, from Alaska to NY to Florida and places in between, to identify the hallmark attributes of thriving congregational youth programs. Through these interviews, I was able to pinpoint nine positive characteristics of healthy youth programs in a UU context. Aspects like topical flexibility, a commitment to faith in action work, and a youth program woven into the larger ministry of the church were identified and reported in the webinar.
But, sadly—and it broke my heart of hearts, there was also one glaring absence. None of the eight congregations regularly engaged in spiritual practice when their youth gathered. Not one.
Let me be clear, when I refer to spiritual practice, I am referring to exercises which help us connect with the holy, go deeper, and / or provide us with a reflective experience that transcends the ordinary. Meditation, prayer, mantra, yoga, lectio divina, examen, etc. are examples of practices of this sort.
And you may be wondering, “So what? Why should we commit to endeavors of this sort?”
For starters, religious ritual and related spiritual practices, are the only offerings that our religious institutions have to contribute that the wider world cannot. Though worthy and worthwhile, philos-political discussions and forays into social action, which are each enterprises that are heavily emphasized in our congregations, are both activities that can be regularly and easily accessed through secular channels.
Secondly, when youth exit our religious education programs, will they be equipped with the much needed skills and tools to navigate a complex, and arduous life? Where will their spirit go when they lose a loved one? How will they cope with the losses that life inevitably serves up? What internal space(s) will they access when they experience a transcendent moment? With what methods will they express deep remorse, or gratitude?
Ever wondered why so many of our youth don’t return to Unitarian Universalism after bridging? Why we are in constant triage mode in regards to our young adults? I believe firmly that it is because they leave our churches lacking these most critical tools, and also without the religious identity that they indelibly impart upon the user. Spiritual practice is an expression of salvation in this life, and it calls us home.
And let’s be clear. Our youth groups are exceptional microcosms of the larger congregation within which they reside. If the congregation is squeamish about spiritual practice, or religious language, or (insert characteristic here), you better believe the youth group will very accurately personify those very qualities. This holds true for positive attributes, too, like commitment to justice, an emphasis on inclusivity, and upholding the search for meaning.
So where do we go from here? I recommend that we begin a conversation about how we might intentionally incorporate and embrace spiritual practice in each and every space that UU’s gather. Whether it is a Sunday service, or a meeting of the Board, there should be a purposeful element that reminds us, as Parker Palmer asserts, “That spirit is at the center.” These are religious undertakings, and we are called to be our highest, best selves throughout their span.
In my work and to this end, I have put together a multigenerational event this September 23-25th in Portland, Oregon, called the Youth Ministry Revival with the theme of “Engaging Spiritual Practice.” About 80-100 youth and adult teams from congregations around the country will explore how we may more deeply connect to the divine—internally, interpersonally, and community wide, through the art of practice. These teams will be charged with bringing back new tools, skills, and learning, not just to their youth groups, but to their entire congregation. Perhaps you will join us?
Eric Bliss is the Youth Ministry Specialist and Congregational Life Staff of the Pacific Western Region of the UUA. Aside from his Youth Ministry Specialist duties, Eric is currently a member of the Fahs Collaborative Guiding Team and is on the UUA Youth Ministry Roundtable. He is the loving father of two beautiful boys, named Hollis and Ozwell, is an avid soccer fan and coach, loves skateboarding, playing guitar, and exploring the outdoors.
At First Church in Sterling, we trained 18 folks to be members of our “Called to Care” team (a training created by the UCC). When their training was completed, I had a private ceremony for the team, touching them each on the forehead with water to use their gifts for blessing the world. In our public worship service, I used the following words to commission them, and anointed their hands with oil.
Commissioning of Call to Care Team
Robin: I ask the members of the Called to Care Team to come forward and stand at the front of the church.
There are many ways that together we provide pastoral care here, because as just one person, I can’t do it all. And so we must always widen our circle of caring, if we are to make it possible to care for our over 300 members and friends with focused pastoral attention. We are called to love one another, and so the pastoral ministry of this church is not in my hands, but in ALL of our hands.
And so we have Debbie Gline Allen, our minister for children, youth and families. We have the diaconate who have monthly caregivers on duty headed up by Carol Hoffman, and our meals ministry headed up by Paula Fogerty. All of these groups are a part of the Diaconate, which is chaired by Head Deacon Roy Lane. We have small groups like Aging Gracefully, and our young adult group, and our women’s fellowship, and our youth fellowship. We have a welcoming team for our newest members and visitors. We have a knitting group that makes prayer shawls. And so much more.
And today we commission our new Called to Care Team, also a ministry of the Diaconate, and an extension of the pastoral ministry of your professional ministry team.
Along with myself, Sherri Direda and Dave Russo are the leaders and trainers of the Call to Care team. The team consists of: Vicki Gaw, who coordinates our activities, Judy Doherty, Judy Conway, Barb Dumont, Clyde Hager, Vern Gaw, Marianne Powers, Jan Patten, Robin Harper, Liz Salo, Carol Hoffman, Cathie Martin, Heather Cline, (Ronna Davis) and Toby O’Reilly.
The Called to Care team works very closely with me. They went through several hours of training and mentoring this year by me, Dave Russo, a pastoral psychotherapist and deacon, and Sherri Direda, a licensed social worker and clinician, to learn how to provide one-on-one, confidential pastoral and spiritual care. They will continue to meet monthly with their training team for advising and continuing education. They take this commitment seriously.
Dave: There are many reasons why you might want to talk to a lay minister from our Called to Care team. Some reasons include major life transitions like the death of a loved one, divorce, job loss, financial strain, and chronic or terminal illness. Other reasons might be that you are seeking someone to have conversations about spirituality, or that you are continuing to struggle with a longstanding circumstance, or maybe you just want a soul friend, a friend who can listen, ask meaningful questions, and care for your spirit in a unique and gentle way.
Lay ministers provide a listening, caring space for reflection about your emotional and spiritual journey. Each of these people were chosen or recommended because of their long-term commitment to our ministries, and their particular ability to listen and to be present. This is their ministry.
Let us now commission the Called to Care team in their role as spiritual leaders and listeners.
Friends, are you committed to offering and encouraging pastoral care within this congregation?
Will you lead by example in your actions and in your words, in your pastoral prayers and in your personal spiritual life?
Will you reach out to those in need, with open minds and open hearts, seeking always to be a healing presence: God’s hands and feet in the world?
If so, please say “I will, with the help of God.”
Robin: Congregation, will you place your trust in these people?
Will you allow yourself, even push yourself, to ask for their care, and to receive their care?
Will you honor them with the role and responsibilities of lay ministry?
If so, please answer, “We will.”
Robin: In response to, and as a sign of, this affirmation of your call to service I follow the ancient tradition of anointing you with oil that has been blessed in the name of God: in the name of all that is beautiful, true, and good. As this oil absorbs into your skin, may you absorb into your soul all the love and good wishes which surround you in this moment. Let it be an outward reminder of God, who calls you to this work.
“May you remember that your hands are God’s hands to those who need your care.”
Called to Care team: We thank you for your faith in us, and vow to do our best to live up to the charge you have given us. We promise, also, to remember that the ultimate responsibility for our church lies with all of us, for this is our home, our community. May we all do what we can to make this a community where we are gathered in the spirit of Jesus, and where we endeavor to create heaven here on earth.
Robin Bartlett is the pastor of a progressive Universalist Christian multi-denominational church that includes, but is not limited to, the UUA in Sterling, MA. She was born, raised and ordained UU and has dual standing in the UCC. Robin firmly believes that every thing, every one and every event deserves a blessing.
One could be overwhelmed with the sadness and the violence that is all around us. I can only imagine what it must be like for others who have experienced it first hand. What can Unitarian Universalists do to fight against the hate that is going on in the world today? I think a lot of the hate is born out of oppression. It leaves people feeling powerless and desperate, with nowhere to turn. Hate is invited in when you are oppressed, unloved and have little to loose. What I suggest is, love. We need to radicalize love.
Where do we begin? It seems to me that the only place we can begin is with our own hearts. I must begin with myself. Am I willing to allow love into my heart? Am I willing to look at creation lovingly? Am I willing to manifest more love in the world? When I fail to be as loving as I should be, am I willing to forgive myself? Am I willing to forgive others? Can I set loving boundaries around behaviors that I find draining or destructive? Can I remain firm, yet act lovingly as I set healthy boundaries?
How might radicalized love help me to be in deeper community? It is in community that we will have our greatest impact. I am not talking about a community of like-minded people, or a social club, or a discussion group. I am talking about full mind, body and soul community.
Dr. King’s Beloved Community is a global vision, in which all people can share in the wealth of the earth. In the Beloved Community, poverty, hunger and homelessness will not be tolerated because international standards of human decency will not allow it. Racism and all forms of discrimination, bigotry and prejudice will be replaced by an all-inclusive spirit of sisterhood and brotherhood. In the Beloved Community, international disputes will be resolved by peaceful conflict-resolution and reconciliation of adversaries, instead of military power. Love and trust will triumph over fear and hatred. Peace with justice will prevail over war and military conflict. This is beautiful and it seems to be so far away.
I went on line and looked up The Beloved Community. I found a wealth of information. Josiah Royce is quoted, as is Dr. King. There are sermons from all across our Association. It is compared to The Kingdom of God, Utopia, Nirvana and the harmony of all life. We say that we are growing Beloved Community but it is easy to mistake a community where I am comfortable for Beloved Community. A community that is merely comfortable for those already there runs the risk of being the walled city on the hill.
Dr. King’s Beloved Community is a global vision. We cannot get there in small pockets. Therefore, the Beloved Community cannot happen merely inside a congregation. Inside the congregation is where we are fed so that we can carry out the real work in the real world. Inside the congregation is where we practice the loving promise – our covenant. Inside the congregation is where we are challenged to become, and become and become yet again. Inside the congregation is where we can lay our burden down for a moment and find comfort, but only for a moment. We must go out into the world and love there too. Our congregations do not exist in isolation. Our congregations exist in this world, this imperfect human world. This imperfect world where basic needs go unmet. This imperfect human world where oppression is the water in which we swim.
In this world of imperfection, what can we hope for? What is to be done? How can we make a difference? Where do we begin? What can we change? Again, we begin with ourselves, as we are. We begin with a change of heart. I reach out to you; will you reach out to me?
Connie Goodbread is a credentialed Director of Religious Education, has held every lay congregational leadership roll you can imagine and has served our UUA in Northern New England, St Lawrence, Florida and Mid-South Districts – all while living in Palm Harbor Florida. The commute was amazing.
At first glance, it seemed like the evening news did a good job of covering this year’s Pride Parade. After all, the Minister of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Anytown was given a ten second sound bite (they even spelled her name right!). However, no one watching was really able to identify the involvement of the rest of the congregation because they were marching and waving behind the Grand Marshall and the camera eventually zoomed in on a Chihuahua sporting a rainbow-colored vest. There was nothing that indicated who they were or where they were from.
What happened? Earlier that morning, Fred left the banners and signs at the church, thinking Norma (chair of the Social Action Committee) was going to pick them up. Norma, however, thought Mary (chair of the Communications Committee) was going to bring it directly to the parade after working on the messaging to make sure everything is consistent. Thus, 40 people from the congregation became anonymous marchers and blended right in with the rest of the crowd.
Unfortunately, this comedy of errors plays itself out quite often in congregations where there’s confusion as to who’s in charge. Sometimes, the allergy to authority gets itchy enough that it can even paralyze the entire organization. How do we prevent such a dysfunction from happening while still empowering everyone to do their jobs well?
One way to clearly assign roles is to come up with a RACI chart.
Responsible: Who is the person/group/committee responsible to get the task done and carry out the process they committed to?
Accountable: Where does the buck stop? Who is ultimately accountable and whose job and reputation is on the line if stuff doesn’t get done? The Rs are accountable to the A and the A can delegate responsibilities to the R or the A can be the R as well.
Consulted: Who is consulted before a decision is made? Perhaps not every decision on every single thing, but ones that are complex enough that warrant extra thought and consideration. The Cs may have some kind of skin in the game or may be an expert on the matter at hand.
Informed: How is the communication loop closed and who is informed after the decision is made? These are the ones who may be impacted by decision, so to some degree, they are a stakeholder.
In our example above, what might an RACI chart look like?
There are obviously others involved and other tasks performed in order to make something as seemingly simple as a Pride Parade go off without a hitch. In smaller organizations, less people have more responsibilities and in larger ones, it is even more important to come up with this chart.
Some may argue that as UUs, we don’t need such a hierarchical system because it’s antithetical to our the(x)logy. I would argue that RACI works very well with our fifth principle because the democratic process is used to determine who has which job and includes more people in the implementation of the tasks. It also ensures no wheels need to be reinvented and no volunteer is burned out in the process.
The collaborative process is still in play here because the A doesn’t and couldn’t possibly carry out all the functions alone. What is implicit is the ultimate A is the mission of the congregation and our faith writ large. Everything we do is in service to our religious mission.
Why not try this out yourself? The Pride story is just a fun example. RACI charts are usually done on a higher level, such as Staff, Worship, Religious Education, or Pastoral Care–where the real power struggles take place. In these circumstances, make sure you’re clear about the process, especially the part about which body gets to have “final” say—whether it’s the Board, Executive Team, or Council of Leaders. Yet be flexible enough to revisit it a year or two later. Who knows, next time Pride rolls around, you may actually steal the camera away from the Chihuahua.* Or not.
*No animal was harmed in the writing of this blog.
In the summer of 2011, I did something I said I would never do — I joined Match.com.
A lot of guys knew exactly what they wanted: A woman just as comfortable climbing Mt. Everest as she is at an Inaugural Ball. Someone who is not religious, but has the Buddha’s equanimity and Jesus’ capacity for love. Someone who can travel to Europe with no checked bag and no emotional baggage. I was tempted to post that I have all of my own teeth.
Match.com reminds me a little of the ministerial settlement process or the search for a home congregation. There is talk of chemistry and the right match as if the right match means it will all be smooth sailing.
Fortunately, in that summer of Match.com, I had completed nine years of ministry with our congregation in Ventura, California and they had taught me a bit about love and what it takes to make a relationship work.
What sustains a ministry or a marriage or a friendship or a membership in a congregation are things like respect, patience, forbearance, generosity, flexibility, forgiveness, a sense of humor, and, when all else fails, sheer will power.
Decades ago, a loving friend listened to my harangue about the incredible stupidity of the general public and then turned to me and said, “Don’t you just hate it when the world doesn’t live up to your expectations?” Well yes, I do. And I also hate how I put my unrealistic expectations on the world and some of the people I love the most, including myself.
It puts me in mind of the guy rescued after decades of living alone on an island. The rescuer asked him about the three buildings on the island. “That one on the left is my church and the one on the right is my house.” “But what about the one in the middle?” the rescuer asked. “Oh,” the man said, “that’s the church I used to go to.”
When the going gets tough, when we are disappointed, when we are not feeling the love is exactly when the true test of any kind of relationship emerges and when we have the opportunity to deepen our connections if we will take it. When we are disappointed, we have a chance to look at our own expectations and our deepest longings. When others are disappointed in us, we have the chance to lean into their pain and learn new ways of going forward.
I think of this as so many ministers and congregations are beginning new relationships this fall or simply beginning a new year together. As we prepare for a great church year, may we resolve to love ourselves and one another through the disappointments. Let us resolve to begin again in love and repeat as necessary. This is the way of transformation. It will not be smooth sailing, but we have places we need to go that we cannot go alone.
Rev. Jan Christian serves as Congregational Life Staff in the Pacific Western Region, and lives on the central coast of California with a guy she met on Match.com in the summer of 2011.
So often we UUs talk about interfaith work, and I do believe we try our hardest, but there so often feels like so many barriers to doing the work. So many questions about how we can engage authentically and without laying our own agenda over the work that we often stop ourselves before we begin.
I, too, have this concern.
But, when I was approached by the Repairers group I took a deep breath, I did a quick check by email with the Board of the congregation I serve and we were a go!
The UU Society of Cleveland is a small church, about 60 people, and having this big, national movement come to us was daunting. We had about 300 people in our church last Monday, and it was definitely not church as usual.
The Repairers of the Breach Team is a well-oiled machine that knows what it needs to put on a good program, and they used their own social media and contacts in media to bring folks from at least 15 different congregations to our church. The result: Historic Black Churches in Cleveland, Historic Liberal Churches in Cleveland, all coming together in a church that had to rent chairs to fit everybody.
As minister, I try to greet every person who comes through our church door with a handshake and a how-do-you-do? I ask for everyone’s name and tell them mine as I welcome them in. It was such a joy to meet so many new people who walked through our “Black Lives Matter” and “All Lives Are Precious” signs as they approached our front door.
The service was loud and lively. I welcomed everyone to our church, and gave a short history of our ritual of lighting the chalice. I ended our chalice lighting with these words:
This is the 50th Anniversary of the Hough Rebellion/Hough Uprising, and our congregation was there, at 82nd and Euclid. This weekend our Black Lives Matter banner was stolen from the front of our church. Again, we find ourselves in a world in the process of giving birth to a new way of living.
They may steal the sign from the front of our church, but they cannot steal our determination to work for a world more fair and more just.
As we light our chalice this evening, symbol of freedom, assistance and faith, let our hearts become and remain open to one another.
After the lighting of our chalice, I stepped back and stepped out of the way.
The experience of having so many world-class preachers in our sanctuary was electrifying. For an evening, it didn’t matter that we hadn’t had enough chairs. It didn’t matter that people had to sit in Fellowship Hall (the basement) watching the events upstairs via live feed. It didn’t matter that our air conditioning wasn’t up to the task of 300 people alive together.
What mattered was that we were alive, together.
Photo Gallery of the Event:
Rev. Joe Cherry is a giant history nerd and unapologetic evangelist for Unitarian Universalism. When he’s not out sharing our good news, you can find him engrossed in research at the Western Reserve Historical Society, practicing his clarinet, or in his basement quilting studio.
Last week I was the only adult of color on a 16+ person staff for QUUest church camp in CO. There were 14 youth of color at high school camp.
Being the only staff Person Of Color (POC) during this week of violence, protest, and grief was the toughest challenge of my professional life.
I’ll say this: The choice between white fragility and solidarity really matters.
We had 14 young people of color who were terrified that they or family members or friends might be the next hashtag, and we had folks who seemed more concerned about the camp schedule/their idea of what camp ought to be.
The POC high schoolers spent a lot of time in POC-only space last week. It was hard and healing.
At first the group feared gathering. It’s unusual for them to be around other POC, and they worried about dividing the camp. Quickly they saw that it was most important for them to *take care of themselves* and be in community. They ate, laughed, grieved and sang–together.
They got close not just through mourning Philando Castile and Alton Sterling and the officers in Dallas, but through seeing that they are not alone. It was life-changing, life-affirming space. They found and made home.
I was the lone adult POC supporting them. Luckily several of our white adult/youth staff members helped. Predictably, that wasn’t true of everyone.
As the schedule kept changing, as tragedy and need to process kept “getting in the way,” though several were supportive and helped the schedule shift, some folks expressed frustration–with me, with the prospect of losing camp traditions, with the POC-only space, and more.
I badly want white UUs and other progressive folks to know and see that carrying out white supremacy isn’t always obvious. It can look like never asking “How can I help?” or “How are you holding up?” It can be never asking “I wonder how this black person is handling two black persons’ murders.”
It looks like responding to a white person’s statement of “next year Kenny can’t be the only POC on staff” with “beware of affirmative action,” like there aren’t fifty other wonderful religious professionals/young adults of color we couldn’t pay and have join us.
If you take nothing else from this status, take this:
I’ve attended camp since I was four. It means eeeeeverything to me. We can get stuck on whether to sing Rocky Raccoon or I Wanna Linger at Bridging, or whether it’s Good Friends or Dear Friends (it’s obviously Good Friends #SWD4lyfe) or whether moving talent show/coffeehouse back a night messes up the flow of camp, or who knows what else. I say this as someone who *loves* traditions.
Camp, and church, and faith, are about showing up for people when they need us. It’s about finding compassion even through our frustration. It’s about loving hard and saying “how can I help?” It’s about letting people cry and weep and holding them as they do.
I barely made it through this week, friends.
I called and texted UU adult POC like Elizabeth Nguyen (UUA’s Leadership Development Associate for Youth and Young Adults of Color) and Jamil Scott (Director of Religious Education serving First Unitarian Society of Denver) in tears over and over because I didn’t think I could be what the youth of color needed and because the killings brought such grief.
Alicia Forde (UUA’s Professional Development Director) drove two hours on one night’s notice to spend Friday with us so I wouldn’t be alone and so the youth could be with a minister who shared their experience.
That’s camp. That’s church. That’s faith.
If we’re not doing that for each other–supporting others when we’re less directly affected, and sitting together in hard times, and driving or moving to be there for each other–then I have to ask: what’s the rest of it even for?
I fail at this all the time. I’ll fail at this tomorrow no doubt. It’s hard work. But it’s worth it.
To my UU and human families: I love you. To my POC UU fam: as we’ve said and sung to/with each other so many times this summer, I need you to survive.
May we demand more of one another, be kinder to one another, and remember why we gather.
Kenny Wiley is a UU World senior editor and director of faith formation at Prairie Unitarian Universalist Church in Parker, Colorado. His writing has also appeared in the Boston Globe, the Houston Chronicle, and Skyd Magazine.