The Unitarian Universalist Association is sponsoring a Thirty Days of Love: A Spiritual Journey for Social Justice from January 19th through February 17th. This is part of the Standing on the Side of Love Campaign, started by the UUA in response to the shootings at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church, which had been targeted by a gunman because it was a Welcoming Congregation to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people and families. Standing on the Side of Love has grown into its own interfaith program, and has extended its work to include anti-oppression education and advocacy across a whole range of issues, such as race, immigration, and handicapping conditions. For more information on this program and the Thirty Days of Love, you can go to the website: standingonthesideoflove.org. Our own congregation’s Welcoming Congregation will be inviting us to participate in several ways, with help from our children and youth.
When we started the Welcoming Congregation process a few years back, one question that was often asked was about why be intentionally welcoming to a specific group of people. Shouldn’t we be welcoming to all? The answer was and remains, “Yes, and...” In other words, becoming a Welcoming Congregation is not an “either/or” proposition, but a “both/and.” There is a difference between being welcoming to everyone, and being intentionally welcoming to folks who must overcome barriers and assumptions invisible to the majority of us. I plan to use the Thirty Days of Love for a sermon series about becoming more intentionally aware of these assumptions and barriers, so that we can become more intentionally welcoming.
Now, often when we engage in these kinds of reflections and conversations, we can get caught up in guilt and blame. I would like us to engage in a different spiritual practice, the practice of holy curiosity. I find curiosity to be a wonderful way to listen and learn because it moves us away from judgment and towards creativity and imagination. As many of you know, I have worked with Larry Peers as my clergy coach for the last ten years, and he is always encouraging in me this practice of curiosity. It has allowed me to take risks and to invite you to take risks as well, in the context of living out our Unitarian Universalist faith, whether it has been around becoming a Welcoming Congregation, or starting an evening service, or going on service trips, doing more outreach in our own community, joining small groups, expanding religious education or writing a congregational covenant.
Thus, curiosity is a practice that invites us to overcome fear: fear of being wrong or found wanting, fear of failure, fear of not being accepted or not living up to the standards that we set for ourselves. The goal of our Unitarian Universalist faith is not perfection. If we strive for that, we will certainly never get it right. Rather, it is authenticity: a willingness to listen and learn, to enter into relationship and community from where we truly are, with our shortcomings as well as our gifts to share. The beauty of our covenantal tradition is that we can always try again and try anew, to choose love over fear.
HEALING SERVICE JANUARY 20th
In faith, Ellen