Saturday, September 23, 2006

Let's Get Behind Getting Behind!

I know it's not meant to sound insulting when the president of my denomination starts a sentence with, "It's time to start putting our energies behind..."
but on a Saturday night when I'm totally wiped out, it just sounds really out of touch, and even unintentionally uncaring.

It just seems to me that this kind of article is always the front page of our associational web site, and it exhausts me. Always the Cause. Always the "here's what you can do." I read this whole article and I'm not even sure what I'm supposed to do this time, except for get "relentless" in my work for comprehensive sexuality education. There's some kind of training. I don't know. I'm pretty sure we're doing it at my church already, but it sounds like if I don't get more "relentless," I'll be a disappointment to my movement.

If you ask me, just a regular old minister of one of the congregations in our tiny association of congregations, it's "time" for us to care for the people in our local communities, lead as powerful and transformative a worship service as we can manage every Sunday morning, answer all our phone calls, write the editorials our local papers ask us to, show up at as many of the local and church events we're expected to attend as is humanly reasonable, make hospital visits and prison visits, feed the hungry, support our office staff, mentor, support and encourage our lay leaders, pray for our people, love our families, do what we can to foster peace in the individual, the family, the community and the world, and manage to pick up the dry cleaning and put some food on the table.

It would mean so much to me if our web site featured front page news about relationships between our members and between our congregations as often as it featured the rally for some new cause. I suppose it's all about how people understand their job description, but to me, we really only have one cause, and it doesn't change from year to year: to support healthy congregations and to foster fellowship among our numbers so that each is empowered to do his or her best work in the world.

I would hope that some UU's best work would be to fight for comprehensive sexuality education. It just can't be me, today. I already did a pretty serious stint for reproductive choice back about five years ago. I felt pretty relentless about that but you know, priorities shift. I'm getting to be an old broad with limited energy, and my congregation comes first. That and mentoring the next generation of ministers.
I wish I knew that my choices were honored by my movement. But everywhere I go, I notice that ministers are lauded first and foremost for their political activism and for making the front page for social justice work. I'm waiting to see an image on the front page of the UU web site that depicts a pastor sitting at a hospital bed holding someone's hand. I'm hoping for the image of a group of people sitting quietly, nowhere in particular, not in front of any banner or special event, just sharing a vespers service or a potluck meal or coffeehouse, even.

I would like to see another way of living out UUism supported and celebrated in the images on our web site.
I would like to see some of my gentler, utterly un-public colleagues turned into cover boys and girls, and our gentler, totally un-public laymen and women, too.

I know it's in the nature of organizations to constantly rotate their priorities to keep things fresh and visionary, but when the organization is supposed to represent the eternal and the essential, it gets depressing trying to keep up with the perpetual call to arms. The message always seems to me to be, "All that OTHER stuff you're doing? Those are just the BASICS. You need to do this AND that!"

Well you know, but I'm a pretty talented, energetic and committed minister but ten years into this work, I'm pretty clear that those basics are all many of us can manage on a good day. Sometimes rallying the troops can feel to the troops like a flogging.

"He maketh me lie down in green pastures
He leadeth me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leadeth me in paths of righteousness for His name's sake."

Notice that there's some lying around in the grass before we get going on the paths of righteousness. That David knew what he was talking about. If there's no rest, no restoring of the soul, how can there be walking on paths of righteousness?

I wonder: where does the quiet, the introverted, the chronically ill, the imprisoned, the emotionally debilitated, the poor in spirit fit into this eternally cheerleadery, activist-oriented vision of Unitarian Universalist life? Do we really want any of those to dwell among us and make their home with us? Not to mention the long list of others we effectively manage to bar from our doors? A genuine question.

It doesn't surprise me, even though it deeply upsets me, that somebody or somebodies in our leadership would be so disconnected to the Sabbath as to plan to do away with our Sunday morning worship service at General Assembly. I guess it didn't fit in with the perpetual vision of us marching in the streets changing the world.

I'm glad tonight that the God of my understanding believes in giving it a rest. Without my faith, I could be well nigh dead by now trying to keep up with the expectations of this world and my manically do-gooder denomination, bless its heart.


Blogger PeaceBang said...

Fausto, sorry to delete you but since I changed that quote, I had to! You were quoting something I altered. But I hope you'll weigh in again. This is what happens when you're so snappy you read something before I'm done editing! I should keep it hidden, but I always think I'm done.. anyway, bla bla bla. Onward.

Blogger Kermit's Daughter said...

Well, this is exactly why I like the idea of having a leader who has spent at least ten years serving a parish! Neither this Bill nor the previous Bill did, and I often felt it showed in UUA priorities.

Blogger Jamie Goodwin said...

Amen! Very well said.

And I know it might not mean much from an eteranlly grumpy, opinionated, know it all, novice lay leader, 6 or States away but Thank You for all you do.

Blogger juniper68 said...

I am not UU, but UCC and we have some similar issues I think. We keep forgetting that we're not about trying to indoctrinate people (in our own way) but to help them see how God can CHANGE THEIR LIVES, and then go where that transformation takes them, which may or may not be about getting behind the latest curriculum.

Keep preaching it, sister!

(PS: My letters in the word verification are FKUJC - I hope Jesus isn't trying to tell me to fuck off for this post or anything...)

Blogger Mrs. M said...

I'm not UU, but the Episcopal church certainly has similar struggles (although ours are accompanied with a fair bit of internal turmoil). Anyway, all I could think to say in response to this is "amen."

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Preach it, sister.
I've had visitors who said, I looked at the UUA website and I wasn't sure you were a religion, but I decided to come anyway.
I do a lot of social justice work. I enjoy it. It brings my church vistors. But they don't come back unless the worship and the people connect to them.

Blogger Laura said...

I think you just articulated, far better than I have so far, one of the primary reasons I left the UU church a few months ago.

The constant need to do more and be more and give more (in the social justice context you're talking about as well as within my own limping and dying church)--which I could handle better when I was single, but then I took on a husband with significant emotional baggage, three children, and a house of our own--got completely debilitating and I couldn't find a way to replenish myself. I'm still not sure what to do with myself at this point; I haven't even gotten to the point where I've significantly talked or written about how I got to where I am. What you just posted helped, though.


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