|From the Minsitry Days Planning Team|
So much has happened within our faith in the last three months – revelations of white supremacy and patriarchy operating in our institutions: the resignation of Peter Morales and other colleagues from the UUA; the arrest of a beloved colleague on child pornography charges: Don Southworth’s Easter letter to the UUA Board and the UUMA Board’s public response to it; disclosure of edits and redactions to last June's Berry Street essay. There’s more. So much has happened within the UUMA and the UUA that has been the cause of pain and hurt, anger and rage, disenchantment and disillusion. For many, trust has eroded. Yes, for some there have been initial moments of reconciliation, healing, and even joy. But as colleagues we have barely begun to work through all that has happened.
Since April the UUMA Board and Staff have recognized that this year’s Ministry Days in New Orleans cannot follow the usual patterns. This year must be different. We have also recognized that Ministry Days is the first time many of us will be together in the flesh, face-to-face since the difficult events of 2017 began unfolding. It is the first opportunity many of us will have had to take stock of what has happened in person, to name hard truths, to atone for sins, to seek forgiveness, and ultimately to begin a process of collective healing, reconciliation and, we hope, transformation.
Ministry Days will be different, especially Tuesday morning. Originally, our southern Louisiana colleagues had planned to conduct the Tuesday morning worship. They have graciously agreed to conduct the Tuesday evening vespers service (and it will be awesome!). This will enable us to hold a very different service on Tuesday morning, one in which we name the recent painful events within our faith—not in an attempt to solve problems or fix what is broken, but simply to be together amidst our hard truths. We will ask: How do we hold together, honoring each other’s worth, knowing that some of us disagree mightily, knowing that some of us are hurt, angry, even wondering if Unitarian Universalism still equals home? We will sing together, pray together, welcome new members, dedicate our children, and begin to imagine what healing, reconciliation and transformation might look like for us.
Worship will be followed by an opportunity for small group interaction. Small groups will provide each of us with the opportunity to continue naming our experience of Unitarian Universalism during the past three months; naming how we’ve felt; naming what we need for healing and reconciliation; naming what transformation might look like. Colleagues will have the option to join small groups for specific identities or affinities. Following small group meetings we will reconvene for closing reflections, worship and ritual. Again, we are not expecting to solve problems or create plans for fixing the UUMA. The solving and fixing will come. On the morning of Tuesday, June 20th, we will humbly begin a process of healing, reconciliation and transformation.
Tuesday afternoon will feature keynote speaker, Colette Pichon Battle, Executive Director of the US Human Rights Network, followed by an hour of collegial conversations and an hour with the UUA interim co-presidents. Tuesday evening’s vesper service on recovery, rebirth and renewal will round out the day.
If you find yourself reading these words and feeling that something is missing, or that we’re missing the mark in terms of what we need as colleagues, please do not hesitate to share your thoughts with me at firstname.lastname@example.org or (860) 652-8961. Time is tight, but we can continue to edit and adapt in response to your ideas.
Ministry Days in New Orleans will indeed be different. To all of you who will be making the trip to New Orleans, we wish you safe travels. Those of you who are unable to join us in person are warmly invited to participate virtually. In addition to the live stream, we are making plans for off site participants to be able to participate in the small group sessions on Tuesday morning using Zoom break out rooms.We wish for you an experience of Ministry Days that begins an authentic process of healing, reconciliation, and transformation.
Rev. Josh Pawelek
UUMA Board of Trustee - At Large (ARAOMC)