The Covid-19 virus causes a dreadful illness to which every human being in every community around the world is susceptible. Because we are able to monitor its movements, its infection rates, the disruption of daily life, and of course its death toll, we are beginning to understand what the word ‘pandemic’ really means. We are also being challenged to think about what the word ‘we’ really means.
If we begin each day with a deep breath and focus our mind’s eye on a world-wide view, we are ready to offer a daily prayer for fellow human beings all around the world. With or without a deity, prayers are our most heart-felt streams of pure-love energy sent into the universe as gifts to every part and particle of living creation.
As our focus narrows, we continue our prayer for those who also call the United States their home. Because many of us have family and friends living throughout all the fifty states, it is easy to pray with an image of their respective community, their home, and their faces in our mind’s eye. When your prayer is filled with a life-serving mix of memories (bad and good), then it is an honest prayer with the power to serve the goal of right relationship – and the human world is always in need of forgiveness and joy.
As we bring our focus closer to home, the loving power within our prayer is very strong and so as we inventory the contents of our daily life, the power of love helps us to gently hold each image in order to infuse it with love. From our relationships between each other as individuals to, as James Luther Adams described it, the voluntarily associations between many, these are the churches/spiritual communities and practices we have chosen for ourselves.
As many of you know I serve as minister to both the Unitarian Universalist Community of Casper and the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Laramie. Over the past couple of weeks, I have been experiencing profound gratitude for the effacing of boundaries between our two congregations and so the love within my heart easily overflows into my prayers. Perhaps this strange opportunity to bring our partnership to the forefront is exactly what needed to happen? For me, there are two primary questions which must be guiding all our discussions and decisions: first, are we healthy and resilient enough to come through this crisis unscathed – as two distinct congregations? And if the answer is not a resounding yes, then it is obvious health and resiliency will be enhanced if we come together as partners.
Second, what must we do right now in order to make sure that when the green light is given and we are able to open the doors to our respective buildings, everyone will show up? For me, the answer is a both/and. We must prioritize Sunday services which has required a steep ramping up of our technology prowess; and we must also ramp up our pastoral outreach and care.
Because both Laramie and Casper are family-sized congregations, we are faced with how to do business as usual without really doing business as usual; and the key to tackling this conundrum is communication, transparency, and trust. One of the reasons democratic polity works is because we depend upon, and trust, various committees and boards to share the responsibilities of keeping the church spiritually healthy and administratively operational.
But in a family-sized congregation, especially in a time of crisis, we sometimes feel the challenge to move away from the familiar and comfortable more intimately. Especially right now, representatives from both congregations’ leadership teams must find ways to make space for creativity and courage in ways that sometimes add to anxiety and fear of change. But we have no choice, as Unitarian Universalists, we must pursue creative pragmatic responses and behaviors because, no matter our material capacity, each of our hearts holds a sacred yes.
In that spirit, WE have been saying yes to the unanticipated challenges which arrived at our doorsteps, and so all of us are making progress. Because the Casper folks tackled the technology piece right away, our first UU Zoom service was broadcast and shared between many UUs and friends successfully. The success of this first service has directed attention to the amazing opportunities the gift of technology has ushered in. Because we must streamline all of our ministries, our partnership has become the most logical vehicle for moving forward – one deliberate step at a time.
As UUs who love our individual and collective church/spiritual communities and who have invested so much of ourselves, no matter the number of weeks, months, or years you’ve been here, now is the perfect opportunity to face the here and now with eyes wide open, hearts full of courageous love, and ask ourselves: how do WE figure out how to do both/and – be both partners and UUs whose affirmation of love, diversity, and inclusion is our spiritual home – while sharing our profound message of comfort and hope with the larger community?
Today our responsibility is to draw upon the strengths each congregation brings to this partnership so we can hold them within our covenant of love, creativity, and pragmatism as we enter into a collaborative and shared decision-making process. I firmly believe this is how our partnership will give substance to the word WE.
See you in the Wyoming UU Zoom Room – for Sunday services and more!