It’s the community’s job to figure out how we can stretch into the so-called margins to broaden our understanding and the ability to be inclusive. Inclusivity is not ‘how do we make you a part of what we are?’ but ‘how do we become more of what you are?
-Sensei angel Kyodo williams
Blessings of the Lunar New Year, Black History Month, and the sacred Islamic month of Rajab [to be in awe]! I am meditating on the powerful words of Sensei Kyodo williams. She is the trailblazing author of Being Black: Zen and the Art of Living with Fearlessness and is the second Black woman to be ordained in the Zen tradition. She invites us to consider inclusion from the perspective of “how do we become more of what you are?” This highlights a common mistake that is often made in the work of countering oppressions and striving to create a multicultural beloved community. Often we define inclusion by the capacity for an oppressed person to be assimilated to the values, assumptions, embodiments, and cultures of the dominant group(s).
White supremacy, cisheteropatriarchy, ableist culture, and other “powers and structures of evil” remain entrenched in our society because of this harmful dynamic. It makes me think of the ministry of Isa ibn Maryam (peace be upon )–better known as our dear brother Jesus in this cultural context–and the ways that he challenged this dynamic by eschewing allegiance to the political, economic, and religious powers of his day and going instead to live with and among those without shelter and food, the persecuted and oppressed, and others outcast by society. I wonder how Unitarian Universalism might be transformed if we behaved likewise and sought to change ourselves to be more like our siblings who are different from “us” in any number of ways. Might we actually become more of ourselves through a deeper encounter with “the other?”
Our Soul Matters theme this month is “Widening the Circle.” Each month we reflect together as a congregation on a spiritual theme through some of our publications, discussions, and worship services. The theme asks us to consider questions of inclusion and how commitments to intersectionality, anti-oppression, and anti-racism can expand our inclusivity as a religious movement. The UUA Commission on Institutional Change published Widening the Circle of Concern (June 2020) to support congregations with this work and you can find this excellent resource here.
Our friends at Soul Matters invite us to consider the following questions as we deepen our exploration of this important theme and work in our congregations: When were you “saved” by someone who widened a circle to let you in? Who needs you to widen the circle for them? Has an experience of being excluded permanently left a mark on you? How has your definition of racism widened or shifted since you were younger? Has your sense of self ever widened so much that you’ve felt “one with the universe”?
Our Pastoral Care teams are available to provide support over these difficult days. They can provide a listening ear, a loving heart, and spiritual companionship. We also welcome contributions from our members and friends to our joys and sorrows to be shared on Sunday morning. Help us stay informed as we mourn, celebrate, and honor special times in your life as a beloved community. To confidentiality request support or share pastoral news with the congregation, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Yours in ministry and love,
Rev. Jeremiah Lal Shahbaz Kalendae