Love, Justice, and Connection

Greetings, beloveds!  How do I even begin?

How about here:  I am SO PROUD OF US.  In the last few weeks of what has been a jarring transition to a disorienting new normal, this community has come together, even as we are physically isolating.

The Caring Committee and Karen have been crafting ways to reach out to all of our congregants to assess needs and stay connected.  Medical professional volunteers have made themselves available remotely in order to advise congregants. Tech volunteers and staff have been learning and experimenting with how best to communicate with all of our people, and congregants and committee members have gamely learned new online platforms.  People have made financial donations to the minister’s discretionary fund, as well as other offers of financial and material help for those who may need it.  Social justice advocates have urged us to advocate for the people who will be most vulnerable to this illness and its economic effects. And people who need help have bravely reached out and asked for it.

In short, the members and friends of First Unitarian have in the face of COVID-19 been focusing on what matters most: love, justice, and connection.

At the same time, if you’re finding that you don’t have the bandwidth to carry on as “normal” right now, that is perfectly ok.  This is not normal. In fact, much of what has constituted our normal has completely failed us during this crisis: the expectation to produce at all costs, the imperative to be constantly busy with something, to tie our health to our employment, and to tie our self-image and worth to our ability to muscle through and produce.  So many of the assumptions underlying the way our society is structured are being exposed as unhealthy and unsustainable.

And even as the entire world is forcing us to slow down, to reexamine, to sit with ourselves and our feelings, I find myself resisting the obvious need for rest and connection.  In times when, a few weeks ago, I might have been working - when I now find myself on a neighborhood walk with Gabe and Eric, or in the garden, or contemplating a nap - I keep thinking, “Shouldn’t I be doing something?” - as if spending time with my loved ones, communing with the earth, or taking care of my body isn’t something.  Such is the pervasiveness of our conditioning to capitalism.

As many of us began to self-isolate a couple weeks ago, Tricia Hersey of the Nap Ministry wrote, “During this week, we have buckled in and created enough digital content to last us another decade. I have noticed this tendency in our culture to skip steps during trauma. We jump right to getting over it immediately, leaving no space for the precious ritual of grief, rest and lament… We want to remain in the way it always was – super productive and focused on doing, even while the systems around us are failing and slowing down.”

But these systems very obviously are no longer serving us - the whole us that we’re called to create as Unitarian Universalists.  Our healthcare system is failing us, even as thousands of brave and dedicated medical professionals fight to save lives.  Our economic safety net systems are responding to this crisis at a pace that is frustrating and sometimes deadly. Our legislative systems are ill-equipped to attend to the basic physical needs of all of our people.  These are not new problems; many will tell you that they have existed for centuries. But now even those in relatively privileged positions cannot ignore their brokenness.

And so, dear ones, I urge you to be as gentle with yourselves as you can in these times.  To whatever extent your situation will allow, I invite you to embrace your unproductive time - connect, rest.  Notice the voice inside your head and the tension inside your body telling you to produce, take a breath, and tell that voice to connect.  To create.  When you need it, reach out to this community for help.  When you are able, reach out to help.

And talk to one another.  Now is the time to harness the impressive capacity of Unitarian Universalists for conversation - for exploration and curiosity - and for creating love and justice.  In the coming weeks, I will be hosting a discussion group for the purpose of dreaming together, of talking to one another about the world you want to emerge into, and of what your part in that might look like.  (Watch FirstAnnounce for an invitation.)  

Until that time, remember:  Rest is the task.  Taking care of yourself is the task.  And in a time of exciting and terrifying transformation and of shifting physical reality, remember the most solid things to hold onto are community and love.


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