[I wrote this prayer for the Tuesday morning opening worship at the Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association ‘Ministry Days’ in New Orleans, LA, June 20, 2017]
Let us pray.
Holy One, thank you, thank you, thank you for this time we share together. These are challenging times and it is good and essential to be together in challenging times. We needed each other long before this morning. We needed each other long before the events of the past three months. We arrived in March already feeling raw, wounded and vulnerable. Some of us more so than others were already feeling at risk, unsafe and frightened. Some of us, more so than others, because of the words and deeds of the new United States political leadership, hate groups and some media outlets were already experiencing not abstract threats but palpable, concrete, flesh and blood, life and death threats. We were already anxious and on edge.
And then it came – the unmasking of white supremacy operating in our faith (once again), the public challenges, the open letters, the responses, the mistakes, the confusion around intent vs. impact, the loss of trust; then more letters, more responses, resignations; the arrest, the redactions, Jim Key’s death, Don Southworth’s resignation; new revelations about severance packages; that question many are asking: if one resigns how do we pursue accountability, apology, forgiveness, healing, reconciliation, transformation? It came in waves: March, April, May, June. Holy One, we bear witness to pain and heartbreak, anger and frustration, anxiety and apprehension surging through Unitarian Universalism, coursing through our beloved faith.
We know we have not all reacted the same way to these events. We know we do not have agreement on the meaning of these events, we do not all hold the same perspective on these events. We are not unified in our understanding, in our analyses, in our proposals for solutions. Holy One: even in the midst of profound disagreement may we stay connected to one another in loving, collegial, covenantal community?
If we harbor regrets because we spoke too soon, hit send too soon, lashed out, criticized, expressed ourselves unskillfully, hurt someone with our words or deeds; or if we have not spoken, have remained silent, have isolated ourselves, Holy One, may we find in ourselves a little kindness and gentleness for ourselves, and for each other; and may we find, spiraling out from the heart of our faith, the invitation to begin again, in faith, in hope, in love.
And if we feel we still don’t understand why using the term “white supremacy” matters so dearly to many colleagues, or why others are afraid to name their gut reactions, or why certain decisions have caused so much anger and frustration, or what it means to center marginalized voices and identities, or what accountability really is, or why our structures sometimes keep secrets even when we are so tired of keeping secrets, Holy One, open our hearts and our minds and our spirits to those voices from the margins, those voices speaking in prophetic tones, those voices articulating our collective growing edges, demanding change. May we listen deeply through discomfort, through that protective impulse to say ‘no’ to a difficult idea, through that fight-flight-or-freeze response that ends all dialogue. May we be gracious, open, careful, attentive listeners to the pain and heartache and needs of our dear, dear colleagues.
Let us recognize that for new ways of being to emerge, for new culture and new norms to emerge, for beloved community to emerge there must be some passing away of old structures, old conventions, old institutions. This passing away does not come without some disruption and division, without some pain and sorrow, anger and frustration; and most importantly, it does not come well unless those who have caused harm, after recognizing the harm, are willing and able to say “I am sorry,” are willing and able to ask, “will you forgive me?” and those who have been harmed are willing and able to answer, “Yes, I, we forgive you.” Holy One give us the presence of mind to atone for our sins. To seek forgiveness and to grant forgiveness, so that what is passing away can pass away, so that what is emerging can take shape and live.
Amen and blessed be.