Letter from the Ministers: Co-Minister’s State of the UUnion Address
Happy New Year! We hope you all had a safe and gentle holiday season. As we move into the month of January, our worship theme for this month is renewal and the overall theme for our congregational calendar in 2022 is Repairing the World. Considering all of the change PUUC has been through in the past year, we are looking forward to exploring ways in which we as a community can begin to renew and repair in 2022.
We invite you to lean in a little bit with us as we share a story with you. Have you ever seen the movie Remember The Titans? It’s a powerful story of a segregated town in Virginia. One high school is desegregated by the school board, but the townspeople are not happy. They began to rally against this monumental change, because they were comfortable with the way things were. Why change it? They could all continue in their racially separated silos and nothing would change. Sure, some things would be unequal and imbalanced, but isn’t that how it’s supposed to be? They integrated an all white high school and hired a black man, Herman Boone, to coach their football team, which was once coached by a white man, Bill Yost. The football team faced challenges within and outside the team. During football camp, just as the players were at the peak of tearing one another apart, Coach Boone led the team to the Gettysburg battleground site. As they stood on the foamy soil surrounded by the foggy blanket of the wee hours of the morning, Coach Boone looked off into the distance and said, “If we don’t come together right now on this hallowed ground, we too will be destroyed, just like they were.” They fought amongst themselves until they ultimately broke away from the script of division and hate, and began to really see one another as human beings. Coach Boone goes on to say that he doesn’t even care if they like each other, but he admonishes them to respect one another. As UU’s our principles start with the baseline of respect.
How is PUUC similar to the Titans? Is it hard to see beyond our differences? Can we see a greater vision for growth, abundance, unity, and justice? Can we see a healthy congregation with open and compassionate communication? Will our seats be filled again with those who are committed to their spiritual journeys and ready for fellowship?
We have experienced great loss together and/or privately. We, as the ministers, were contracted after Rev. Mary Frances Comer had to leave earlier in the year due to health reasons. We also recently saw the resignation of our Music Director, Kaarin Record Leach. The pain and sadness experienced from their leaving were and are tangible. While some members remain, others have left. The rumor mill has been at work- it’s natural amongst us complicated humans. However messy we may be, there is hope for healing and renewal for every one of us. How do we all begin to mend the tears?
Many families and individuals have lost loved ones due to death this year (May their memories be for a blessing). And in turn, it became a loss for us all. We were invited into sacred spaces of grief that ranged from small crowded chapels, to graveside sentiments, to a bar filled with the golden hue of sunflowers. There was diversity in remembrances that displayed the many ways in which we loved those that we lost. The deep caverns of their physical absences can never be filled. How do we learn to live with the pain and loss?
At the end of 2021, the congregation was presented with the opportunity to vote on the approval to sell a part of PUUC’s property at the University Gathering. The prospect of selling a bit of the land held a lot of tension- tension among the members and tension within individuals. Many of us began to mourn for the land and its inhabitants, because we could imagine buildings and concrete replacing the natural beauty of the landscape. The sadness would spark a vote of “No” from some of us to selling a part of the land. There were also many who looked at the financial and physical future of the church and said, “There will be no PUUC in 20 years if we don’t sell part of the land.” Most members felt a combination of both of these things. The vote was passed with a majority in favor of selling part of the acreage. How do we hold grief and joy in tension while imagining a fruitful future?
These changes have given PUUC two new ministers with wisdom, insights, gifts, and talents of their own. We have seen how important family, loved ones, and community are to us. And, we have set ourselves up for a hopeful future with this beloved community.
Let us break down our silos, integrate new ideas, and do it with laughter and humor, grace and humility, and above all else, love for each other and this community we share in. It is time to take responsibility for our actions or inactions of the past and move on for ourselves, for others. Our community is one built on the values and principles of Unitarian Universalism; The inherent worth and dignity of every person; Justice, equity and compassion in human relations; Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations; A free and responsible search for truth and meaning; The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large; The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all; Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part. As Rev. Barbara Wells ten Hove explains, “The Principles are not dogma or doctrine, but rather a guide for those of us who choose to join and participate in Unitarian Universalist religious communities.” Let us be reminded of these values and use them to help guide PUUC as a beloved community poised for growth and opportunity.
Change can be sad and hurtful, change can also be needed, productive, and healing. One thing is constant in life and that is change. Let us lean into the changes presented to us with hope and renewal. Let us see the positive opportunities change brings. Let us work together to create a new PUUC, one that is stronger, more connected, and beautiful in oh-so-many new ways. In this new year we would like to directly address and tend to the current functioning and spiritual health of our congregation in the welcoming way we, as UUs, do.
We have already been in touch with representatives from the UUA Southern Region, and there is the possibility of working with a professional congregational consultant to help us identify the areas where we need support and healing the most. We will also be working to have a grief counselor provided to the congregation, free of charge to you, to help us all begin the work of processing our grief from the many transitions we have undergone as a congregation. We have begun to imagine new ways we can stay connected and engaged–Musings With the Minister, new fundraising opportunities, and a virtual Tea-Time. Old ways that disappeared over time are slowly and strategically re-emerging as we work to reinstate the Communications Team (Instagram anyone?), the Social Action Team, and the Ministerial Advisory Team, and have brought back the LGBTQIA+ Group.
We are hopeful for the new year and ways in which we can come together on hallowed ground.
Michelle and Shakeisha