December 2021: Opening to Joy

Lately, we’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be a part of a covenantal community. A covenant, at its core, is an agreement between two or more people. In the context of Unitarian Universalism, we have come to understand it (in part) as an agreement to come together in search of mutual understanding.

At different places and at different times, this ‘coming together’ has meant or been expressed in different ways. A coming together to care for others. A coming together to go to a protest or to have fun. A coming together to reflect and ascertain greater truths about ourselves and this world we share. Always coming together, though, whether in person, through Zoom, or other means.

The same can be said about understanding. There is so much we don’t know about each other and about the world. We must, therefore, rely on underlying good will and an understanding that each of us has our own story. An understanding that we all pursue our spirituality in different ways. An understanding that we hold in our hearts a willingness and desire to change ourselves, our community, and our environment in pursuit of shared principles.

The challenge is that this good will can sometimes get left behind, agreements can be – and are – broken. We are all, no matter how kind or open or honest, human. With no malice, we say things that make others feel invisible or disregarded. We show up in ways that exclude others from entering. We do things in contradiction to the very principles we share.

Where does that leave us? Do we throw in the towel when our covenant has been broken and we feel hurt, alienated, and misunderstood? Do we move on to another community because we think it isn’t going to make us feel this way? Do we abandon spiritual communities altogether to find a more comfortable place in a secular setting?

The right answer isn’t obvious. Outside of a UU church, of a spiritual community seeking to challenge ourselves and others, walking away can be the sensible thing. It can provide the most safety and security. Depending on the circumstance, leaving is even necessary within a spiritual community.

But within a UU community, built on a covenant, we wonder if this conflict is an opportunity, a part of the journey to the growth we seek, more than a mark of misalignment. A chance to practice expressing our true selves and feelings to each other with the expectation of being listened to and heard. An opportunity to share our perspectives but also to apologize from a deep place, to make a commitment to challenge our biases or impulses or automatic thoughts and actions. A time when we get to forgive each other openly and without hesitation or fear. A place where accountability and moving forward can work together to make us collectively stronger.

In some ways, the difficulty of ‘coming together’ feels like one of the most pressing challenges of our times. It demands humility, sacrifice, compromise. And we are failing at it as a nation.

But we wonder what it can look like at FPUC. Can our small community show others out there a better path forward? Can we find ways to embrace traditions and new paths toward growth? What might we accomplish and bring into the world when we bridge the gaps, however large or small, between us? We wonder what joy and beauty waits for us here. And we hope you will step willingly onto this journey with us when we meet on Sunday, December 5, at 9:00 am for our All Members Meeting, an opportunity for us all to come together and strengthen our covenantal community.

Kate Larson & Jess Miner
on behalf of the Board of Trustees