February 25, 2021

“I have seen, over and over, the connection between tuning in to what brings aliveness into our systems and being able to access personal, relationship and communal power. Conversely, I have seen how denying our full, complex selves – denying our aliveness and our needs as living, sensual beings – increases the chance that we will be at odds with ourselves, our loved ones, our coworkers, and our neighbors on this planet.” – adrienne marie brown

In the last several months at worship we have mentioned Adrienne Marie Brown several times. She has been quoted by both Lucas and myself in sermons and other worship elements. She is one of today’s prophets that resonates with me most deeply. I keep a copy of her book, Emergent Strategy, on my desk so that I can reference it quickly and easily. It guides how I am in the world, how I view community and how I minister. 

Adrienne Marie Brown describes a way of being justice makers in the world that is deeply embodied and full of joy. She articulates a way of being grounded in relationship and trust in order to fuel forward momentum. Her work is deeply challenging to the ways in which white supremacy culture works. Her work has so much to share with Unitarian Universalism. It is incredibly relevant for this moment in our history. 

I expect you will hear more about her in worship. And I offer here some ways in which you can learn more about her and her work. 

Read her words and get to know what she is up to:

http://adriennemareebrown.net/

What this video interview of her describing her book, Emergent Strategy and how relevant it is to right now:

A conversation with Adrienne Marie Brown and Prentiss Hemphill on their podcast Finding Our Way:

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/ep-2-visioning-with-adrienne-maree-brown/id1519965068?i=1000487699034

A conversation with Adrienne Marie Brown and Jonathan Van Ness and his podcast Getting Curious:

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/are-we-imagining-better-future-into-existence-adrienne/id1068563276?i=1000498074071

If you connect with her work, I’d love to hear about it! Together we can use what we learn to continue to grow and deepen our connections at the parish and our efficacy at creating justice in the world!

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February 18, 2021

Post One of a Series on Our Board Norms Based on our Covenant of Right Relationships

  • Take care of each other.
  • Listen actively and mindfully.
  • Assume positive intent.Communicate with openness and honesty.
  • Address conflict productively and with compassion.
  • Follow through on commitments.

Take care of each other. It sounds so simple. And yet we know it is extremely complicated. We know that despite our best efforts, we will fall short of taking care of each other sometimes. We know that how we each want to be taken care of is different. We know that we need to unpack this phrase more deeply. 

Take care of each other is the first phrase in the Board’s norms. The Board agrees that we will take care of each other. And I see it as including that we commit to take care of the larger “each other,” too. We do not merely take care of other board members or leaders. We take care of our people. We look out for the needs that are known to us. 

Trust is built and broken in small moments. Moments where we show up and ask someone what they need. Or when we do not. One small interaction at a time we either build a bridge between us or we erode that bridge away. And often, we are doing both at the same time. Because no person or group can show up for us every time. And no person or group that truly cares for each other will only let each other down. It’s both/and. The hope is that we show up for each other more often than not. That we listen to each other more often than not. That we build the bridge more than we let it wash away. 

A crucial part in taking care of each other is understanding what care means for each of us. Because it is different. We need different kinds of care. So a huge step in the process is asking. And telling. We have to learn how to ask what each other needs often and early. And we have to learn how to tell each other what we need often and early. Before we start to resent each other for not reading our minds. Before too much of the bridge is washed away. 

Lucas reminded us on Sunday that taking care of each other also includes offering each other feedback. That feedback is an act of love. Not providing feedback means we have given up on the relationship. Of course, how we provide each other feedback matters and has an impact on how well we hear each other. But we cannot continue to learn and grow in trust and in care if we stop offering each other the gift of feedback. 

I know that we want to take care of each other. I know that this parish is made up of people who deeply love and care for this community. But what that looks like changes and grows as we change and grow. It is complicated, and demands our constant attention. Let’s continue to show up for each other. In all the ways we are able. Let’s speak up, with love. Let’s take good care of each other. 

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February 11, 2021

Over the course of the last few years our Unitarian Universalist Association has been in the midst of a real reckoning with the ways in which white supremacy culture shows up in our institution(s). Really, we have been struggling with these issues for as long as humanity has. Throughout the history of Unitarianism, Universalism and Unitarian Universalism our people have made real attempts towards justice and equity, while at the same time making real, serious missteps and causing real harm to marginalized groups. Both are true. We have been on the right and the wrong side of history. 

Yes, we were religious and economic refugees. And we contributed to genocide. Yes, we boast abolitionists who helped end slavery. And we had individuals who actively fought to keep slavery. Yes, many of our ministers marched in Selma. And we failed to follow through on our commitment to fund Black Unitarian Universalists only a decade later. 

Our commitment has continued throughout our history. And what gets in the way is the power and pervasive nature of white supremacy culture woven throughout our institutions and our country. It is a seriously uphill battle. And it is absolutely necessary if we are to live up to the ideals of our faith. 

At this moment in history, Unitarian Universalists across the country are engaging more deeply with this work than ever before. It is an exciting moment. I am so full of hope for what this could mean for our faith. For how we might become even more effective in our work to change the world and to build the beloved community here on earth. 

I would encourage you all to consider the following national opportunities in order to connect to all of the good work happening in our faith. 

New Day Rising, Feb 27, 12 – 8 pm EST
This is a day long workshop offered by the UUA. The purpose of this workshop is to help congregational leaders to determine the next step that is right for them in regards to their ongoing work on uprooting white supremacy. As we as leaders continue to grapple with these questions, this is a wonderful opportunity for us to learn and grow together. 

More information can be found here.

Beloved Conversations Virtual, March 16 – Late May – Registration ends February 26
This deep learning opportunity allows us to really wrestle with the ways in which white supremacy impacts us spiritually. More information can be found here.

If you are considering one of these opportunities, I’d love to talk to you about them. If you sign up, please let me know. I’d love for us to have some time for folks in our congregation to connect and debrief our experiences. 

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February 4, 2021

This week guest blogger Lucas Gonzales Milliken, Director of Faith Formation, sets the stage for our upcoming Congregational Conversation on Land Acknowledgement:

Since September, as a way of entering into our time together, our worship services have been incorporating a Land Acknowledgment. In my time at First Parish Dorchester, I have had conversations with many congregants asking me why Land Acknowledgement was not a regular part of our Sunday Morning Services. 

I know that for many people, the introduction of that piece is a deeply important part of their spiritual understanding, and is a meaningful moment in their worship experience. For many others, it is an uncomfortable part of the service, that can perhaps bring up feelings of shame. And for many others, it is nowhere near close enough to what feels like truly meaningful action. We are a community that holds a multitude of truths; these truths are not mutually exclusive.

Since we have been incorporating Land Acknowledgment into our time, we have always maintained that it is but a small step on a larger, unfolding journey. It calls us to reflect deeply on our relationship with our own history, its brokenness, and ways to move towards healing. 

This is an uncomfortable truth that we are wrestling with. Our Parish traces its history back close to 400 years. Its origin coincided with enslaved people being brought in shiploads to this country, and with a wilful genocide and displacement of indigenous persons. While the founders of our parish may not have directly caused harm to the indigenous population, we did historically benefit from the harm that was caused. We inherit much of those benefits, and have to contend and wrestle with what that inheritance means.

That recognition is something that indigenous folks have been asking  to be named and grappledwith for generations. (The speakers at the National Day of Mourning spent a good amount of time analyzing that history. There were particularly powerful speakers starting at 30:45) 

It is in acknowledging this history that we share the important healing work that comes from truth and reconciliation. Naming historical facts about land is not intended to shame anyone, but to acknowledge that there is brokenness in our relationships with people and land.

Or, put another way: Being able to notice and name the ways that we benefit from the pain of other people is an important part of our collective spiritual healing. 

It is deeply wounding that we benefit from the historical oppression of others. It is a wound that has been inflicted on every person in this country, and that we collectively need healing from. One of our land acknowledgment statements has said “that the history of this country known as the USA is a history of trauma and pain that has wounded every single one of us, and that healing from that history requires us to wrestle with that discomfort.” 

Acknowledging that brokenness speaks to the heart of Unitarian Universalism, and all our principles:

  • It asserts that there is inherent worth and dignity in our relationships with all people, throughout time and space.
  • It seeks justice, equity and compassion in our relationships.
  • It calls for acceptance of our storied history and an encouragement of spiritual growth in the context of that history.
  • It upholds a free and responsible search for truth, and an opportunity to create meaning out of that truth (including potentially painful truths).
  • It aims for reconciliation with a hope towards a truly global community.
  • It recognizes the fact that we are all deeply connected to each other, our world, and our history.

I am grateful to be continuing in this journey and continuing this conversation on February 7th, as we move deeper into this healing work together. In the meantime, please check out these links!

Why Land Acknowledgement is Important

Land Back Resources

Questions About Home

Territory Acknowledgement

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January 27, 2021

This Sunday was huge. Without even getting into how big of a deal it feels for me personally and professionally to be called as a settled minister, this is a very big deal for your congregation. This has not been an easy road. It has been many more years of transition than is typical. Given the circumstances and feelings surrounding the departure of the last settled minister, this congregation has a lot of hard work to do to get here. You engaged deeply in the work of reconciliation and healing. You listened to hard truths from each other. This work is not complete and you have moved forward in significant and impressive ways. 

We deserve a massive celebration! What a joy it will be to plan an installation that honors the journey of this congregation merging with my journey. We both have a history that is complex and remarkable. We share a vision for our ministry that will have a deep and lasting impact on our neighbors, our city and our world. 

And we know that the celebration we deserve will have to wait. The work on being a place of service to our community will not. On Monday we will begin to further our mission by becoming a Covid-19 Vaccination site in partnership with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. While I was already impressed by the dedication of you all – watching folks scurry to make this happen quickly has truly touched me. There was a need and we were given the opportunity to fill it. And we did not hesitate to do the work necessary to help. 

Throughout my time with you all so far, but especially in the last month, it has become clear that communication has been hard for us as a congregation. This is exacerbated by the pandemic, of course. And it remains something that your leadership and I remain committed to working on. To that end, I am launching a new blog section of our website in order to share written communications with you all weekly. This content will be linked in the eblast each week. I will curate this communication, meaning I will write it, collaborate with someone or I will organize someone else writing it. Our messages will connect with what is happening in the life of the church. You will find resources to further develop a sermon or to highlight a thinker we have found inspirational or to prepare us for deeper congregational conversations. We hope this will serve the purpose of connecting us all better in this time and beyond. So that we all know more about what is happening in the church, what big questions your leadership is grappling with and where we are all going together. Let’s go!