We are those who reject arrogance, tyranny, and oppression… Amidst it all, may we dare to bless the love.
-Sheikh Dr. Ibrahim “Baba” Farajajé
A love that frees is the gift our society is so badly in need of as we enter this new year. Of course, the giving and receiving of such a liberating love begins with individual hearts and in relationships, families, and communities where it is activated, harnessed, and shared in the many forms it may take. Our congregation is part of a historic and transformative religious tradition that centered love as the motivating power, guide, and destination for the spiritual journey. This year, our Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) will vote once again naming love as the heart from which the liberal religious values of interdependence, equity, transformation, pluralism, generosity, and justice blossom. In a service a few months ago, we were invited to reflect upon the profound observation of bell hooks that a “dangerous narcissism” can emerge from a spirituality that prioritizes individual self-improvement instead of the “spiritual practice of love within the context of community.” Here at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Santa Monica, we believe spiritual growth happens when we practice this fine art of giving and receiving love in community and witnessing to its liberating power to free minds and spirits.
We face unprecedented challenges with wars and violence breaking out around the globe and new threats to democracy and marginalized communities closer to home. One of my spiritual teachers invited me to consider starting this new year open to the possibility that we will find goodness, beauty, and blessing waiting for us as the year unfolds. I think we need to be real about the serious challenges and what it really means to “side with love” in confronting whatever obstacles we may encounter. It is also good for our souls to hold space for unexpected possibilities to greet us and be celebrated in the new year. As my late spiritual father and heart-friend Ibrahim Baba had often challenged, in the midst of it all, we still “dare to bless the love.” Love is available here in abundance in this community and it is scattered throughout our wider world no matter what the future may hold.
Our friends at Soul Matters offer the following questions to support our theme-based ministry as we reflect upon liberating love in worship, Chalice Circles, and committee meetings this month:
- How has love changed as you’ve gotten older? Is it softer? Quieter? Larger? Tougher? Sneakier? More central? More painful? More universal? More ordinary? More mysterious? More demanding?
- Whose love has companioned you the longest?
- Is there anything from your younger years that you now recognize as love, but didn’t understand as such back then? How might that awareness offer you a gift with your present relationships?
- Some say the opposite of love is not hate but indifference. Others say its opposite is fear. What do you say?
- Are you using your busyness to shield you from your heartbreak?
- Is it time to offer “tough love”?
- What might it mean to regularly ask, “What would love do here?”
- What’s the scariest thing that could happen to your heart? How does consciously knowing that call you to protect yourself or pursue new priorities more fiercely?
- Has heartbreak ever held you back? Could some form of heartbreak be holding you back today?
- We know that self-love and self-care are essential. But which part of yourself most needs love and care right now? Your physical self, emotional self, intellectual self, relational self, spiritual self, sensory self, hidden self, pleasure-seeking self, fearful self, childhood self, hopeful self?
- In what new way are you being called to use your personal/social/cultural/economic power in the service of love?
- If Love could speak, what do you think it would want to say to you?
Our Pastoral Care Team is available to support you if you are experiencing a transition, difficulty, or loss and would like confidential spiritual support from the shared ministry of our congregation. You can reach our Co-Chairs at email@example.com.
Perhaps, a new joy, milestone, or sorrow has visited your life and you’d like to share it with our community in our weekly announcements and in our time for Joys and Sorrows on Sunday mornings. If so, please email us at this new address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
May this New Year be one of making peace, sharing love, and reveling in joy!
With love and gratitude,
Rev. Jeremiah Lal Shahbaz Kalendae