This article by Rev. Rebecca appeared in the Newburyport Daily News on October 6, 2018.
I am still in shock over the events of the past week. Women and men, transgender and other marginalized people alike are being re-traumatized.
Though our pain and confusion may differ in content, we are all affected by what is happening in this country. My job as a minister is to create a space where people learn how to hold their intense feelings with compassion and know that they are not alone. I am also committed to creating a church community where people can share their stories knowing that they are safe to tell their truths.
Church is not the venue for political campaigning. It is, however, the place that calls us to be our best self. This includes helping us to discern when and how we are called to respond to the events of our world.
Being engaged in issues of social justice did not come naturally to me. Politics was, by and large, not part of my upbringing. Not only did my parents have divergent views on these things, but each was a member of the opposite political party and the homogeneity where we lived allowed us to look the other way.
As a child, I was drawn to the spirituality of both nature and church. Although we rarely attended church, I was enamored with the ritual and feeling I got whenever we did go.
My mind and journals were filled with questions such as “Does God exist?” and “What is my purpose?” I was challenged, and I was content grappling with these and other questions and learning all that I could about different forms of spirituality and religion.
The first time that I became aware that politics was something I could no longer ignore was when my children were young. I knew that I would be hypocritical if I did not speak out and act upon my commitment to peace.
Thus, I found myself, reluctantly and with trepidation, putting a lawn sign about peace in our front yard. And so it began. My conversion from a person solely interested in spirituality to someone who engages in issues of morality, which inherently are often political.
Over the years, I’ve changed from being the reluctant participant in anything resembling a political rally to a person who can no longer look away from issues where I know that others are being treated unjustly.
Engaging in issues of social justice has deepened my spirituality and made me a better person and minister. I have also witnessed firsthand the burnout, cynicism and lack of compassion that can come when people are engaged in politics and issues of social justice without having a spiritual foundation and community to which they can return, restore, and rejoice.
It is our spirituality that supports our work for justice, and it is our work for justice that makes our spirituality come alive.
As a Unitarian Universalist minister, I grapple with how to make space and attend to all of this, not only in my own life, but also in my congregants’ lives. When does the church offer respite, a haven away from the happenings of the world?
As people of faith, how often, and in what ways, should we engage in issues of social justice? When is it inappropriate to speak of these things in church services, and when is not talking about them being selfish, if not amoral?
There are no easy answers, and I don’t always get it right. What I do know is that we need both spirituality and social engagement.
Related: Women’s Listening/Healing Circle