With Trust and With Grace

This is the first in a series of posts talking about some of the cracks that I’ve perceived or received from members of the congregation. If we are going to forget our perfect offering and seek to let a healing light in through those cracks, a practice of honesty and accountability, seems essential to moving forward together.

“Forget your perfect offering. Ring the bell that still can ring. There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

Poet and Songwriter Leonard Cohen, inspired by Sufi Mystic and Theologian Jalaluddin Rumi

“What was I thinking?” is what I’ve been asking myself. A weekly reflection on cracks and our struggles in the congregation, at a time when it feels like there’s an inordinate amount of pressure on getting it just right?

My wife, Ariel, asked me earlier this week, when I was fretting over what to say, “What made it possible for you to say things in the past when you feared what you said wasn’t going to be perfect.”

As always, she has just the right question at just the right time.

My answer was easy, “I felt like, with the people I was with, there was trust, and grace for me in my imperfection.”

In talking to folks in our congregation in recent weeks, the absence of that feeling of trust and of grace has come up again and again.

And it is a painful place to be in relation to your faith community, a place where you’ve sought (and sometimes found before) that feeling of being held, but now might feel sometimes more fear than faith.

In the absence of an abiding sense of grace and trust, fear is common,

  • We fear saying the wrong thing, and we fear not saying the right thing (which aren’t the same thing). And in that fear we often say nothing.
  • We fear naming the places or times where we’ve been hurt, for fear that our experience will be denied or dismissed.
  • We fear that our imperfections, our imperfect actions, have hurt someone, and that we have no systems to support healing and repair of our relationships.
  • We fear what people will think of us when we make mistakes, that we will be called out rather than called in, and lose our sense of belonging.

Each of these are areas I’ll spend a little more time with in the weeks to come, and will share others’ resources too. We have lifetimes of experiences and they don’t always serve us well in our desire to be kind to one another. We have patterns and history at Westside that can make it challenging for us to move forward together.

And there are places where we are still seeking that feeling of trust and of grace, in our own lives and in our congregation.

The good news is that there is work that we can do to build trust, to build that sense of grace, to practice being human, in the words of theologian James Luther Adams. What that work looks like, and how best to have it in this time of so much uncertainty, is being worked on in numerous parts of the congregation, and I invite your input into how to bring more trust and more grace to this, our beloved Westside UU Congregation.

May we go blessed and blessing one another, this community and this world.

Rev. Christopher

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