Last week in this space we shared a beautiful song of resilience from the Rev. Wendy Luella Perkins.We included a recording of the song, along with some comments on its origins from Wendy Luella.Shortly after we shared it, I received an email from a member of the UUMA's Ableism Task Force who was deeply dismayed that we had chosen to share a song that begins with walking in the first verse.I write today to apologize both for the pain the song caused as well as for centering ableist imagery in this space intended, in part, to nurture our capacity for anti-racist, anti-oppressive practice.
I'm especially sorry because Wendy Luella and I actually had a conversation about the limits of walking imagery before we shared her song.She told me about how the song came to her in her walking meditation practice and that is why she began the lyrics with the word walk.Recognizing that not everyone walks, she wanted to encourage people to replace the word walk with other words that resonate with them like sing or dream or pray.Having not yet titled the song, she reflected on our conversation and choseSpirits Strongas a way of lifting up the hope in her work.In our efforts to bring her song to you, Wendy Luella and I did our best to be inclusive.I am grateful for the invitation to consider ways we could have done better.
In my introduction to her work, I could have told you about our conversation and recognized the limitation of walking imagery.Another possibility might have been that the song could have been recorded with a more inclusive verse sung first.Yet another possibility might have been that the song could have been recorded without the verse about walking at all.In my conversation with Wendy Luella, I was thinking about trying to avoid harm while also affirming her experience of finding inspiration in her personal spiritual practice.Like most of us, I imagine, it is really clear to me that negative laden imagery about all the ways we have bodies is problematic. What I've come to understand in a deeper way this week is that even neutral able bodied imagery is problematic. The problem with words like walking isn't that some people connect with the divine through walking.The problem with able bodied imagery is the way the cumulative effect of such images privileges and prioritizes some bodies over others, which helps to maintain the system of ableism among us and in society at large. I write this today to share my own learning in hopes that it might be helpful to some of you in your work.
I know that there is no perfection when it comes to ministry, but the chance to practice turning again and again toward wholeness is one of the blessings of our vocation.To inspire your own turning toward wholeness in the imagery you include in the hymns you choose and words you write for the worship services you create, I commend to you this excellent essay from our colleague the Rev. Suzanne Fast, shared with her permission. May her words be one of our guides as we work toward the world we dream.
Feel free to share these weekly reflections with proper attribution to the author.
Do you have something to say to your colleagues about resistance and resilience?We are inviting your pastoral and/or prophetic reflections, poems, stories, meditations, etc. for possible inclusion in this weekly electronic publication.Submissions need not need be tied to current events, though timely messages are welcome and should be noted as such.Submissions should be no more than 250 words.We will make selections among submissions and will edit as needed. Submit to:firstname.lastname@example.org