This past Sunday, we had 180% more of you than usual, and it was what writer Glennon Doyle Melton calls “brutiful,” a combination of beautiful, and brutal. Beautiful to gather, beautiful to sing, to breathe, to laugh and cry and simply come together after a week where, as I said on Sunday, we experienced a “global plot twist.” I could feel the force of love among us. But also brutal, because what inspired so many to show up on Sunday was pain, grief, anger, fear, even despair. It was one of the most powerful Sundays I’ve ever experienced, and I’d give nearly anything for it not to have been necessary.
As we move forward, I want to clarify and underscore two commitments of our faith and our congregation that I hope you’ll help me uphold.
First, we still don’t do shame in our church. We don’t shame each other for who we voted for – no matter who that is, or for coming to different conclusions than we have about big and complex topics, or about how we will move through these complicated times (aka, life).
The emerging future is going to require a lot of learning. And learning requires imperfection, humility, laughter, and grace. We’re going to screw up a lot, and we’re going to state strong opinions that later we realize we were wrong about. A few months ago I preached on what it feels like to be wrong, exploring some of the ideas in the TED Talk by Kathryn Schulz What she says is that being wrong feels exactly the same as being right – only once we realize we are wrong does it feel differently.
We have to give each other and ourselves the space to be wrong, without shame. In place of shame, let us ask more generous questions (the topic of our Wednesday night Civil Conversations gathering by the way!). Instead of shame, try to listen for what’s hurting, what’s being wrestled with, what value is being expressed.
Growth and change require a level of safety – which is not the same as comfort. We need to create safe spaces where we can be uncomfortable together. This is the sweet spot of deep learning – real transformation, and courageous love.
Which brings me to the second commitment: there’s still no “them;”only us. Our world seeks to divide us, to harden the categories of who is worthy, who is good, who suffers the most, who is to blame, who is the enemy, and who is our kin. Our religious lens asks us to not let the categories, or our hearts be hardened to any other, but to keep up the practices that grow more supple hearts, hearts of compassion that can hold ever more complexity and willingness to see ourselves in the other. (This is the work of our upcoming Healing the Heart of Democracy series.)
This second commitment does not mean that we don’t have strong convictions. We are called to a practice of compassion with boundaries, covenant by way of self-differentiation. As my message on Sunday proclaimed, our faith compels us in this moment to a greater justice, a braver and bolder living out of our principles, our living Unitarian Universalist tradition, and our mission. Wherever hatred has been unleashed, we are called to unleash courageous love. The great discipline before us is to discern what that love looks like, and what it asks of us. And for that, we need each other and our religious community, more than ever.
Thank you for being present in the struggle, learning together, and unleashing courageous love for one another, and for our greater world. I have never been more grateful for this community, and our promise and commitment that we are all in this together.