Cindy Davidson, Ministerial Intern
I love learning. And so, I am often grappling with questions like how do we learn from our past shortcomings and disappointments and strive to live into our faith more fully? How do we learn to compassionately love our beautiful, yet flawed, world, kin and selves more fully?
These are questions that underscored much of my month away from CUUC in seminary classes in Chicago and then in workshops at our UU Minister’s Association’s retreat in Florida. Whether focusing on our Unitarian, Universalist and Unitarian Universalist history in seminary or focusing on the challenges of ministry in today’s climate, I noticed several common threads re-occurring.
Now, I’ve never been much of a history buff, but noting the telling and re-telling of stories, themes and variations, suspensions and resolutions we encounter as we move through periods of our collective and even congregation-specific histories really is fascinating. There is, for me, the thrill of recognizing the repeating themes and appreciating the nuances and contexts that have changed (or not). And then, there’s the creative task of imagining the possibilities for a new ending, an evolution, or an emergent strategy, and considering ways to do things differently, if not better, in the present and next time.
Along with my seminarian classmates, the disappointments of certain aspects of our denominational history pulled me into deeper learning about truth, reconciliation and moving towards a culture that centers voices of those historically on the margins. With my ministerial colleagues, theory of centering “marginalized” voices met practice repeatedly, in worship, in singing in the choir …. and I confess to some discomfort and wrestling with my own “growing edges” and preferences. I was being immersed in a learning and collegial atmosphere that asked me to examine and think critically about what part I would play to dismantle oppressive aspects of a heteronormative, white and male superiority culture in order to construct a more welcoming and fully-embodied experience for all in and beyond our congregations.
A part of the move to transparency in our denomination is the acknowledgement that we are not immune to the #MeToo and #Time’sUp movements. In fact, several meet-up groups at the Minister’s retreat continued the dialogue on how best to move forward in holding ministerial colleagues accountable for their legacy and/or instances of ministerial misconduct, ranging from sexual harassment to sexual abuse, financial malfeasance, and other abuses of power. How do we support affected congregants and congregations in their healing and restorative justice? What about the offenders – those who stray and those who are more egregious repeat offenders and perpetrators?
Beneath the expressions of outrage and zero-tolerance, there is a hope running in the veins of my female colleagues who have been engaged in confronting these uncomfortable truths about our society and our denomination. This is a hope I was surprised to witness and feel – a hope borne out of not just calling out bad behavior and holding others accountable, but of repeated and tireless dialogue to put in place more comprehensive policies and structures to address such instances and work towards healing and wholeness for all involved. (And, I did witness that many of our male ministerial colleagues share similar feelings and commitments.)
At times, challenges like these seem insurmountable – the urge to re-write history is thwarted by not being able to turn the clock back for a second take. By moving forward, in dialogue with the wisdom from everyone at the table, we learn as we go. The pathway can be messy, but I'm learning ... We can do this.