One reason I moved to Tulsa for my internship was a desire to live in a city in the Bible Belt where Unitarian Universalism was thriving. There were many experiences I hoped to gain, including visiting conservative, fast growing, evangelical congregations to better understand what was attracting so many people. While there were a number of things I heard, saw, and experienced on these visits that I wouldn’t want to replicate, there were also a number of things I thought we could learn from.
One thing that struck me was how clearly the evangelical churches I visited named the struggles people in the congregation were going through. For example, they named that there were people actively struggling with addiction in their community who were in need of help right now. They were not afraid to say out loud the brokenness that is present in some form and at different points in our lives. Up to that point, my experience in Unitarian Universalist congregations was a message that focused on addressing brokenness out in the world and that held an assumption that the people in our sanctuary had their lives largely pulled together. Let me be clear. I am certain that everyone knew that their fellow UUs were struggling with careers, family life, personal life, and health, but still I had never heard it named so clearly from the pulpit.
I think we are getting better at this, but we can be more intentional in creating a community where people have permission to bring their whole selves – brokenness and wholeness, failures and success. As we reflect on Building the Beloved Community (our annual theme) let us do our best to offer safe and sacred space for people in our community to show up whether or not they “have it all together.” Please, know that if you are struggling, you are not the only one – no matter how put together others may present themselves.
Let me be more specific: You are welcome to come red-eyed from crying, and you are welcome to cry with us. You are welcome to show up while you are struggling financially. You are welcome to come when you are in pain. You are welcome to show up with your doubts about religion, or about whether what you are doing with your life is worth it. You are welcome no matter your range of ability (and, please, let us know if we have barriers that are obstacles to your participation). You are welcome to show up when you are afraid you will drink, or use again. You are welcome to come when you are recovering from abuse, or when you are learning to refrain from violence. In fact, please show up, at all of these times. And, let us show up for you.
As our new Caring Taskforce re-imagines how we support one another, let us grow together into a community of healing and hope that offers compassion, presence and love during times of great joy and times of great trial. All of us will go through a measure of both. May we be a house of welcome to all people on their best days, their worst days, and all the days in between.