This month our worship theme is “Widening the Circle.” Widening the circle of care, concern, and inclusion in our congregations requires us to consider who has historically been marginalized, or simply not present at all, in Unitarian Universalist congregations, and to proactively work to be more welcoming to these groups. We are called to become more welcoming to those who are Black, Indiginous and other people of color, LGBTQIA+ individuals, disabled individuals and more. Creating a more welcoming and inclusive community requires us to consider the impact of our words and actions, and to be open to feedback when our words and actions cause harm, even when we did not mean for them to do so. It requires us to be open to feedback about the impact of our actions, even when we feel uncomfortable receiving that feedback.
I once heard a powerful metaphor to describe those moments when someone tells us our words were harmful and we didn’t realize it. Writer Ibram X Kendi explains that white people in the United States are constantly absorbing racist messages that white lives have more value than the lives of people of color. These messages are like rain falling on us. Sometimes a white person, with all good intentions, will say or do something that is racially offensive or insensitive. If someone else tells that person that their words or actions are harmful, they are offering the person an umbrella. The white person didn’t even realize it was raining. The person offering the feedback is actually helping. For the white person who has made a mistake, it feels uncomfortable. Maybe they even feel shame or guilt. Being open to feedback requires us to be able to sit with that discomfort, listen, and learn. It requires us to say, “Thank you for the umbrella. I didn’t realize it was raining.” I learned this in the podcast “Unlocking Us” where Brene Brown interviews Ibram X Kendi. You can listen to the podcast or read the transcript here:
Learning about intent and impact is a powerful way to help create a more inclusive, loving and welcoming Unitarian Universalist community. Our congregation is a little learning lab where we can practice making mistakes, offering feedback with love and care, learning, growing, and doing better. We don’t need to be perfect all the time and never make mistakes. Rather, love requires us to accept that we are flawed and imperfect and will make mistakes from time to time. When we make a mistake, we have the opportunity to be curious, and see how we can do better the next time. I am grateful to be in a learning community with you where we strive to live into our values of love, care and compassion.
Reverend Amy Moses-Lagos