How Policy Governance Helps the Board

It may be true that I am a church governance geek, but I don’t think it affects my perception that the use of policy governance at UUCA has done just as it was hoped—it has provided vision, clarity and accountability in the work of the congregation.  Here are a few key advantages.

I’ve been on the Board and I can say with absolute certainty that the boards that have been in place since we began using policy governance (just about a year and a half) are getting substantially more useful information from staff about what is going on in the life of the congregation than they have ever had before.  And since this information comes to them in the form of written reports from the Executive, they have more meeting time to devote to matters other than program and staff management.

For each board meeting, the Executive (Mark) submits a “What’s Happening Now” report that briefly describes what’s going on in the organization that the board members ought to know about.  It requires no action but gives board members information they might need when speaking with congregants, everything from changes in staff responsibilities (e.g., Benette’s illness-induced change to part-time status and Nick’s subsequent increase to full-time status) to the status of the Annual Budget Drive.

By way of the Board’s Governance Document, the Executive is required to report on various aspects of the congregation’s management each month.  Therefore unlike any previous Board, the board members not only receive monthly financial data as they did prior to policy governance, but they also get a written document from the Executive describing the compliance of every “The Executive shall not” sentence in the Executive Limitations section of the Governance Document.  Over the course of a year, the Board receives a report about every part of the Governance Document that affects the Executive.

For example, for the Board’s February 4 meeting, Mark will provide a report on Executive Limitation H which has to do with communications to the board and the congregation along with a few other miscellaneous items that can loosely be in this category.  For each item, we provide evidence of our compliance or an explanation of why we are not in compliance.  I assure you that no previous boards ever got a yearly report on whether we maintain an accurate membership record or whether there has been a statement of the assets and liabilities presented to the Congregation each year.  It may have always been done, but if it were missed, there was no systematic way to “remember” it.

The Executive reports on every single Limitation and Ends Statement at least once a year.  I’m quite certain no previous Board has ever been so well informed and then freed to do visioning and planning work rather than management.  Upon receiving the report, the Board determines if what we are reporting is the direction they want the congregation to be moving.  If not, they are free to change the Governance Document to get what they want.

DLRE Search Committee Up and Running

This is the time of year when Unitarian Universalist job searches and changes happen.  In order to be included in this cycle, Mark has worked quickly to assemble a very able DLRE Search Committee.  Because this information should have been in yesterday’s e-news (not Jules’ fault, she would want me to say), we thought getting it out to you now would at least be helpful.  Please feel free to tell anyone who asks.  The information is public and will be published next week.

Committee Members:  Louise Anderson, Ben Fleming, Lisa Horak, Susan Kitson and Pat Morell

The Arc of the Universe–MLK Jr. Day (text & audio)

Rev. Mark Ward, Lead Minister
The figure of Thomas Wentworth Higginson, the Civil War colonel who collected this beautiful spiritual you just heard the choir sing, evokes the kind of story that we Unitarian Universalists like to tell ourselves about our historical engagement with civil rights.


From “Justice and Conscience” by Theodore Parker

“Look at the facts of the world.  You see a continual and progressive triumph of the right. I do not pretend to understand the moral universe; the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but a little ways; I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure that it bends toward justice. Things refuse to be mismanaged long.”


The figure of Thomas Wentworth Higginson, the Civil War colonel who collected this beautiful spiritual you just heard the choir sing, evokes the kind of story that we Unitarian Universalists like to tell ourselves about our historical engagement with civil rights.

A crusading abolitionist and Unitarian minister, Higginson made his churches in Newburyport and then Worcester, Massachusetts focal points in the fight for freedom for America’s enslaved blacks. He helped harbor runaway slaves and was a member of the Secret Six in Boston who funded John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry. Theodore Parker, author of the quote at the center of our service today, was another member of that group.

When war came, Higginson joined as an officer. Then he got word that the Union was looking for a leader of its first regiment of freed slaves, the 1st South Carolina, and even though he had little military experience, he jumped at it. He joined the regiment in November 1862, and it set off for its first engagement the following January. As the regiment was leaving, Massachusetts Governor John Albion Andrew – another Unitarian – furnished Higginson with a supply of copies of Lincoln’s newly signed Emancipation Proclamation. Higginson later wrote in his memoir, “Army Life in a Black Regiment,” that many in the regiment couldn’t read, but that, in his words, “they all seemed to feel more secure when they held it in their hands.”

The regiment took part in no major battles. Instead, it was assigned to raids to capture supplies, but even then they engaged in some sharp combat and, Higginson reported, acquitted themselves well. It was the first time in the Civil War that blacks had taken part in combat, and their success persuaded the Union to muster more black regiments. Higginson later recalled in his memoir, “it was their demeanor under arms that shamed the nation into recognizing them as men.”

You see what I mean? Great story!

And then there’s Theodore Parker, whose words recast by Martin Luther King Jr. became a rallying cry for the Civil Rights movement. In that sermon on justice and conscience, he declared that there is a moral law in the universe as inexorable as physical law and that justice is its demand. It is something, he said, that we feel like a physical tug on our conscience. We may falter, we may quail, we may turn aside, but there it remains. And when we pay attention, in Parker’s words “in (our) cool and personal hours” when we are most ourselves, we cannot help but acknowledge that we “love justice with a firm, unwavering love.” It is, he said, the “natural fealty” of our conscience.

It was both the spirit and the theology of Parker’s words that appealed to Dr. King: justice was not a convenient or conditioned concept. Its demands are woven into who we are and ever have been, and it will out, it will push relentlessly to be realized. In Parker’s words, “things refuse to be mismanaged long.”

Inspiring words, inspiring story. And yet, it turns out that even Theodore Parker had his personal reservations about just what abolition might bring. Toward the end of his life, he wrote “an Anglo-Saxon with common sense does not like the Africanization of America; he wishes the superior race to multiply, rather than the inferior.”

I have been reading Theodore Parker for years, but I only read those words in the last year or so, and I have to say that when I did my heart sank. Really? Even Parker, the radical, arch abolitionist whose 3,000-member congregation in the 1840s was the most integrated Boston had seen, underneath his defiant public stands was privately mired in prejudice?

But let’s be honest, in that time how many weren’t? Even as Thomas Higginson cut across the grain in his defense of African slaves, there was a noblesse oblige to his crusading, and even then he was regarded as a renegade among Unitarians. Both of the churches he served before the war eased him out after just a few years in favor of preachers who were less inclined to rock the boat.

We cast about for figures whose purity makes them idols to emulate and find that they all have dirt on their hands. And that makes it all the easier for us to throw up our hands in defeat. “See, even Parker was a racist. What hope do we have of changing this?” What hope?

It’s a question that resonates in my mind this Martin Luther King Sunday. We have each struggled in our own ways with the pall of what has been called “America’s original sin,” racism that is marbled so deeply into American life that none of us escapes its stain and its wound. And we Unitarian Universalists are not exempt. It has taken us some time to accept that. To see that even nice, liberal-minded folks live amid, benefit from and sometimes inadvertently advance practices that demean and oppress other people.

It is a hard learning. It’s not the way we want to be. And yet, there is a release in coming to terms with it, a chance for us to shift our perspective, to open our eyes to things we previously chose not to see, to shed our hubris and open our hearts.

Many teachers are available to help us in this work. Today I want to tell you about two who have been helpful to me. I begin with a professional colleague, the Rev. Mark Morrison-Reed. Mark has told his own story of growing up in Chicago and ultimately entering our ministry as, in his words, an “integration baby.”

His most recent book, Darkening the Doorways, collects stories that answer the puzzling question of why we Unitarian Universalists learn so little of African Americans in our movement. The answer is not that African-Americans have not been among us, but that most of their stories have been lost or never told. And so Mark has made it a practice to seek out and raise up those stories. It was in Mark’s book that I read that dismaying quote from Theodore Parker, a common opinion at the time that may help explain the result of an early encounter.

In October 1860 at their annual meeting Unitarian ministers were joined by an African-American Baptist minister, the Rev. William Jackson. Jackson had been active in the abolitionist movement and likely had come to know Unitarian ministers in that way. But even more he had found himself drawn by the message that he heard from them.

So toward the end of the day, Jackson stood and declared that from what he had heard at that assembly he had been converted to the Unitarian perspective and stood ready to preach it. When he was done, one of the Unitarians, William Potter, rose to say that the ministers should raise money support Jackson and his congregation. A collection was taken that garnered $49, a respectable sum at that time, but there the matter ended. As historical accounts put it, “Mr. Jackson was sent on his way.” That ended his contacts with the Unitarians.

Sad to say, for much of the next 100 years while African-Americans still came, that chilly reception was pretty much the norm for aspiring clergy. Even though as early as the 1840s black candidates were graduating from the Unitarian seminary in Meadville, the trick was finding congregations that might ordain and settle them. And, aside from a few abortive attempts, that didn’t happen. Exceptions included churches in Cincinnati, Ohio, and Harlem, New York, both founded in the early 20th century by determined African-American ministers. Neither one, though, was fully recognized by the denomination, and both closed after a matter of decades.

Universalists also attracted interest from African-Americans, who were among the charter members at congregations in Philadelphia and Gloucester, Massachusetts. But with the exception of a long-standing mission settlement in the Tidewater area of Virginia, Mark reports, the movement’s appeal to African-Americans proved limited.

The story of our denomination’s struggle with race in the 1960s and 70s is a bigger tale than I have time to tell today. Still, Mark Morrison-Reed offers one telling anecdote that opens a window on it. Shortly after our two movements joined in 1961, the denomination embarked on creating a new hymnal intended to represent our radically inclusive faith.

Unfortunately, that hymnal, while innovative and expansive, failed to include, as Mark puts it, “one word or song written by an African American or reflective of that experience.” Our current hymnal, printed in 1993, corrected that omission.

Still, that incident speaks to a blind spot that has haunted us. Deeply and authentically committed as we are to racial justice, we have not always done a good job of living it, of making room for experience beyond our ken. These days, anxiety over how we respond to racial oppression tends to focus on the relative lack of diversity in our congregations. I’ve heard it raised in this congregation.

Mark offers counsel on this point that I find helpful. We are caught in a paradox, he says, because while we say we want diversity, the truth is that emotionally we really don’t want to change. We like our congregations as they are, the people we know, the things we do. Promoting diversity involves welcoming and even seeking out people who are different from us, and that will change our community – perhaps in good, even necessary ways – but change us all the same, and it’s bound to be uncomfortable.

So, why do it? Not to meet some self-appointed authority’s notion of what is morally appropriate for a liberal religious congregation. No, we seek out and welcome diversity because of who and how we understand ourselves to be.

As Mark puts it, this drive is spiritually rooted in an intuition central to our religious identity: that “we are deeply and inextricably connected to one another and all that ever was or shall be. We want one another. We yearn to feel connected – and whole.” And in the end, it’s not about who we hope to bring in our doors. “It’s about healing ourselves.”

So, that brings me to my second teacher – actually not just one teacher but many involved in precisely the sort of work Mark was talking about.

Shortly after moving to Asheville, I was looking for ways to get oriented to this town, and several people encouraged me to consider signing up for a program that would introduce my to a side of this city most people don’t see.

It’s a gathering where people of many different backgrounds and experiences, white and black, talk about their experience with racism and the effect it’s had on their lives. Building Bridges, it’s called, and over each nine-week session participants learn much about how racism works – about the stereotypes we all carry, the privilege that we with white skin live with, the way racism is promoted through institutional practices and how it appears in schools and housing and even the simplest economic transactions.

There are readings and presentations, but the heart of the program is found in small groups, each facilitated by two people, one white and one black, who invite participants to share their own stories, their own struggles.

It is a place where white people like me get to hear for the first time what it’s like to have store clerks follow you around with suspicious eyes, to have landlords lament that they have no openings, to have police officers pull you out of a car and search you for no apparent reason. And it changes you to hear it.

Building Bridges took shape here in the early 1990s. Our member Sue Walton, one of the early organizers, says there was a lot of skepticism, especially among black leaders, that Asheville was ready for this. But one of the African-American ministers offered his church for a starting place. That first night, she says, the organizers were overwhelmed with the turn out, scrambling for space wherever they could find it. They were off and running.

Our member Dawn Klug, a long-time small group facilitator, says the program appealed to her because it taught her Asheville’s unique story around race. “As a white woman, I grew up never talking about race,” she said. “It’s helped me start to learn.”

Jackie Simms heard about Building Bridges while attending this congregation. She and her husband, Fred, had been in Asheville a few years and were feeling isolated, wondering if they had made the right choice. The program, she says, gave her access to people she never would have met, and also a new vocabulary and a constellation of friendly faces that made opening and exploring feel safe. Asked at the time to say something in a service here about her experience, she wrote and delivered this poem:


A Bele Chere Festival some years ago –

My husband, my daughter, my mother, me –

Genetically sun kissed all.

Having fun, Exploring this possible new home.

Very hot July day, A cool drink – good idea!

Hmm (yummy). A frozen fruit drink,

Small paper parasol in it.

Good drink.              Cold, refreshing.    Slowly sipped.

The last few sips.                The drink gone but enjoyed.

The parasol – pretty. Bright colors, tiny.

I wear it in my hair.                     No one knows me here.

More to see.  More to eat.                        Tired now. Let’s leave.

Hmm. A single guy – white face, black pants

black shirt, black motorcycle helmet.

Does he have on a black leather jacket, too??

Stay away.  Stay away.

A gust of wind. Parasol swept away – toward the guy!

Don’t go near him – Hell’s Angel.

He stoops to reach parasol. Now what??

Parasol inches from his hand! Another gust.

Parasol swept farther.      Far away.

He looks at me. . .  Kindness in his eyes!

Realization: He wanted to retrieve it for me!

I’m touched. I thank him for his kindness.

His caring – more important than the parasol.

Parasol gone. It’s OK. Caring stays. I hope he knows. . .

He walks forever – chasing parasol.

In his clasp – returned to me. Emotion rises –

Tears fill my eyes.

Prejudiced, me?     Wrong, me?     Touched, me?

A lesson here. How to live it.

A need for bridges.

You see, I happen to believe that Theodore Parker, flawed and fallible as he may have been, had it right when he is said that there is a moral force for justice that is inherent to our nature, something that works on us and will not let us go. The only error in his great metaphor – the arc that bends toward justice – is that it omits the benders.

Yes, justice is imminent in the world, but agents are needed to bring it into being. I think that he knew that; indeed, he was a great bender himself. But it needs to be said. We cannot wait for justice to happen. We need shoulders brought to the wheel, and they may as well be ours.

I have told you about Building Bridges, a good place to start, and the group’s next session begins next Monday. Check the flyer in Sandburg Hall for details. If you can’t make this one, another starts this fall. And there are other opportunities for good work that you can learn about at our social justice table.

My colleague Rosemary Bray McNatt was right: it is hard work, but in the end if there is no justice, there will be no peace. We can read and applaud all the good and noble thoughts of inspiring leaders, but if we do not bring justice to the world, none of us is safe.

So, I close with her admonition: Nothing that Unitarian Universalists need to do is more important than making justice real – here, where we are.


It seems that the first posting of UUCA News4Leaders was well-received.  We even got a few comments.  We like comments.  We like it even better when a conversation develops among our readers through the comments.  So, feel free to comment on a comment.  We really want to hear from our leaders on all kinds of topics.

How about a little discussion about communications?  As you know, we’ve been experimenting with our publications, trying to give our congregants the information they want while 1) keeping our Communications Specialist’s work time to 40 hours per week, 2) dramatically reducing postal mailing, 3) reducing copying costs when we can and 4) trying to protect members from too much email.  We know we don’t have it right yet.

One of the things we struggle with is the tension between every leader’s desire to get their word out and the tolerance/attention level of our congregants for our messages. Here are some of the things we talk about in staff meetings:

In worship

If a person comes to UUCA to worship as a religious community, do they really want to hear 15 minutes of announcements and skits each week?  Well, OK, maybe not 15.  Five?  Well, who will get the 5 minutes?  How do we choose?  And WHEN will that five minutes happen?  Five minutes BEFORE the official start of the service?  At the end?  Shall we reduce the sermon to 15 minutes to fit in announcements?  We’ve chosen the most conservative option we can which is to RARELY have a special announcement and keep the number of announcements mentioned by the worship leader to a minimum.  Does that feel about right?

In the order of service

All the information about all the upcoming events of the church show up in the Thursday enews.  The enews gets sent to more than 900 people.  Do we really need to print on Sundays the very thing everyone received on Thursday?  (Yes, we need to accommodate the 20 people we know do not receive email.)  Why do leaders WANT inserts in the Order of Service?  Do our congregants actually respond better when they get a separate sheet of paper in their order of service?  Who gets inserts?  Anyone that asks?  How do we prioritize?

In the newsletter

In addition to all the information that appears in the Thursday enews, we include a complete schedule for children’s religious education, “columns” by the lead minister, assistant minister, LRE director and board chair.    Is this redundant?  Why do we duplicate information in the monthly newsletter and the Thursday enews?

At the present time, the newsletter is laid out for printing.  It would be more logical for the newsletter to be laid out for easier reading on a computer.  How might that feel?  And then what would we send to the 20 or so non-email members/friends?  We are thinking about changing the monthly newsletter columns by paid staff and the board chair to a website blog and then creating a website-based “newsletter” of all the upcoming events that would be updated weekly.  How might that feel?

Overall philosophy

Are these the right questions?

1)      What do our congregants want to know and how do we make that information easily accessible for them?

2)      How do we gain our congregants’ attention and move them to act on what we’re offering or asking?

It’s All Good (text & audio)


It usually comes at the end of a list. A list of bad things. Like this: Well, at least one of the kids has been sick since mid-December, I got in a fender bender yesterday, and I just found out that my company is outsourcing my whole department. But it’s all good. Usually followed by a half smile and a rapid change of subject.

It’s all good. It makes me think of the famous scene from the Princess Bride – that word? I do not think it means what you think it means!

It’s all good. I can’t say I don’t appreciate what the phrase is trying to accomplish. I think it comes out of a wish to appear strong and capable – to be “looking on the bright side.” When things are really going badly, we don’t want to be a downer. We don’t want people to think we’re not competent, or that we are falling apart at the seams. We think we want or need privacy.

This glossing over our lived reality may help us hold it together in the short term, but in the long run, we are losing an important opportunity. We lose the opportunity to pull off the mask of attempted perfection and show our true face.

What would it look like, do you think, if we told each other the truth? So often, we know, through conversations with other friends, or through social media that something is “up” with a friend. But we aren’t sure how to broach the subject, and so we say nothing. Perhaps we ask something general, like, “are you ok?” And then our friend says, “I’m fine,” because how do you begin to answer the question when it feels like everything is falling apart around you.

When I worked as a chaplain, a colleague and I developed a shorthand that was very helpful – we’d say “good morning,” or “hey, how has your day been?” and if one of us answered, “oh, I’m fine,” without thinking it through, the other would pause, and say, “Hmm… are you? Or is this, ‘I’m fine, I’m fine?’” Because we had learned that when either of us said quickly, “I’m fine, I’m fine,” we usually weren’t.

Why are we so set on convincing each other that it’s all good? That we’re just fine, really. Is it some kind of competitiveness or one-upmanship? Or is it something else? Perhaps we have an honest wish to not be a “downer,” a need to go unnoticed. But if you are truly self-differentiated, you can say, “things are difficult, but I’m in a strong place.” “All of those things – about my sick kids, my job and the rest of my life – are true, but we are coping.” Or, “you know, this has been a really hard time for me, and I’m having a hard time getting back on my feet.”

This is NOT glossing over the truth, but diving deep and allowing the truth to stand on its own.  And when we are not trying to avoid our lived reality, we can more easily move through it.

We might also say ‘it’s all good’ because we aren’t sure the listener has the courage to hear what we have to say. Did my friend ask me how I am as a perfunctory conversational trope? Or did she really want to know the answer? Will he listen as I tell him the truth?

Telling the truth requires us to risk vulnerability.

Hearing the truth requires us to acknowledge that we can’t fix or change another person’s pain.

And neither of these is easy to do.

When we risk vulnerability, we are exposing a soft underbelly that is actually full of possibility, full of depth and potential relationship. I am not suggesting that we bare our souls to every person we meet. The first step is being a good listener – when we allow ourselves to practice, we can model the response we wish to receive.

Try it. Ask a friend how they are, and really mean it. Make eye contact. Pause. And listen.

Remember the Velveteen Rabbit of children’s nursery fame? What is it that made him “real?” Living. Fulfilling his life’s purpose, which for the rabbit, was to inhabit the dreams and imagination of a little boy. In the story, it is called becoming “real.” Brené Brown calls it authenticity. She says, “Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.” [1]

My life’s purpose is to risk being present with people, to hold up a mirror, to be available to truly see you when you need to be seen, to hear your story and listen deeply.  With that in mind, being real, for me, is accomplished by showing up as fully engaged and fully committed to my ministry as I can be in a given moment—risking the experience of vulnerability with you at the same time I am listening deeply to your lived reality.

In my first sermon here at UUCA, I used a reading that includes my favorite quote, “What you risk reveals what you value.” Some moments the commitment is clear and simple. But sometimes it isn’t easy. It has been especially difficult to stay present these past few months since the second minister call process began. It’s an odd process, to be sure. It is kind of like having a performance evaluation done by 600 people. Well, no, it’s not kind of like that. It is that.

As the process unfolds, there is a fair amount of anxiety in the system – which is related to many different things. Some of you are not sure what the process exactly means. Others of you are so close in the middle of it that you can’t imagine thinking of anything else. There are questions on the table about whether I am a good fit for this congregation and questions about what it means to commit to a second called minister.

And through it all, I am getting an extended object lesson in vulnerability. I have no action to take at this point but to continue to show up and do what I do. To continue my ministry of presence. To continue to risk. To lean into the uncomfortable moments and let the discomfort remind me who I am and why I am here. I am here to witness and honor your moments of discomfort and struggle, to celebrate your joys and to help you dive deeper. And as you dive deeper, I am reminded of my own experience of depth, my own ability to stand firm in the midst of chaos.

I am made real by my engagement in this process.

We each have an opportunity to reflect upon our own life’s purpose. How do you become real? How do you find a way to express your own authentic experience in a fast-moving life? The vulnerability required to do this can feel impossibly daunting, and so you can start small. Start by looking at your own experience and being honest about where you are in it. Do you feel grounded? What are you dodging or avoiding?

This month’s theme is “Capital T Truth.” If we risk sharing our “lower case t truth,” which is whatever happens to be true for us in a given moment, we open the door to finding the capital T Truth. We live in a consumer culture that teaches us that the capital T Truth is an idea or a concept we can learn how to do and once we master it, we are fixed.  But this is not accurate. You are true when you allow yourself to be all of who you are. The capital T truth is YOU. Do you have a face you show to the world, and a face you are afraid for anyone to see? The more you are able to peel away the mask and show your true face, the more the two faces begin to be the same face.

It’s NOT all good – is it really OK to say it? The line between being a downer and being honest is, again, about authenticity and self-differentiation. It’s NOT all good, so try something like this, instead, ‘You know, I’ve got to be honest, this is a hard time, but I am doing my best to stay grounded. To remember the things that are good. And to let myself feel how I feel.’

Perhaps the line between honesty and obfuscation can be our engagement in trying to shift what can be shifted. What are your coping mechanisms? How are you getting yourself through? It’s ok to say that you are struggling without being stuck. And sometimes you are stuck.

The Real You is worthy of honor. The real you is capable of being stuck and OK at the same time. The real you is strong and bold and can push forward with the same force and commitment you used to use to avoid the feelings of vulnerability. The real you can handle the capital T Truth. And only you can decide who in your life can hold this truth with you.

What are the consequences of true honesty? “you know, things are pretty difficult these days, but we are coping.”

What would you lose?

The illusion of perfection?

A self-protected place that feels safe but is really quite lonely?

Authenticity requires vulnerability, and “it’s all good” shuts down all possibility of either vulnerability or connection.

Part of the problem is our fixit culture. If you are talking to someone who is going to try to fix your problem and won’t be able to hear your full experience, then of course you won’t want to share what’s true. But what if we interacted in a different way. There is a different paradigm. A paradigm based on connection and honesty instead of fear of exposure

According to Brown, “One of the greatest barriers to connection is the cultural importance we place on “going it alone.” Somehow we’ve come to equate success with not needing anyone. Many of us are willing to extend a helping hand, but we’re very reluctant to reach out for help when we need it ourselves. It’s as if we’ve divided the world into “those who offer help” and “those who need help.” The truth is that we are both.”[2]

And if we are both offerers of help and needers of help, then the truth is that we can learn from one another. We can sit together in the midst of the capital T Truth

The true cost of honesty is connection. It is the risk of deeper relationship.

Brown “…defines connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.” [3]

I feel this same kind of connective energy in our weekly candle lighting ritual. It is such a beautiful dance. There is a profound power in the silence – in the honoring of our joys and sorrows without speaking them aloud. These profound moments, shared in silence, sometimes with a tear or a smile, the touch of a hand, a pause as the candle is placed in the chalice. These moments are pure and authentic and have a depth to them – it seems as if I can feel the currents of your lives as you come forward and share the light that represents your heart.

And yet, even in those moments of deep connection, we do not know the substance of one another’s lived experience.

Joyce Sidman tells us

“It is time to look into

each other’s faces,

we who glide along the surface,

time to dive down

and feel the currents

of each other’s lives.

Time to speak until the air

holds all of our voices.

Time to weave for each other

a garment of brightness.

To dive down and feel the currents of each other’s lives.

This requires presence and attention.

To speak until the air holds all of our voices.

This requires strength and trust.

And so I trust you with my voice today.