Figuring Out Her Spiritual Practice
INGAby Beth Cortez-Neavel ecortez [dot] neavel [at] gmail [dot] com @ecortez_neavel
Inga Laurent (age 34) lives in Spokane, Washington. She found Unitarian Universalism two years ago. She says she walked into a budget planning meeting in what is now her home congregation and heard the board speaking about money in a transparent and thoughtful way. Something she’s never heard before. She was hooked. She’s been trying out the different workshops and community groups in her church to figure out how she wants to practice her own spirituality.
“I think I’ve always been looking for that piece that says ‘Be any religion,’ but I didn’t have a name for it. But eventually I found it. It’s made me very happy to find that. It’s also been struggle though because you have to find your own spiritual practice. On the one hand I love the freedom, but on the other hand it’s very difficult because you have to be disciplined enough to find or piece together your own kind of spiritual practice. And that’s kind of unique trying to maneuver that.”
On recharging through #LivingUU:
“[Unitarian Universalism] is one of those places that, even though it has its own internal set of struggles, it is one of the places I can come to recharge and to be around people that I feel… have the best interest at heart and are working toward betterment…. Without some place to come back to -- a place that I feel is like a home and a place where I feel like people are really working to be better -- I think it would be really hard to live in Spokane.”
On being Haiti-American, privilege and her experience as a UU of color:
“I’m always navigating spaces where there’s an anger about race relations, really… That’s kind of like par for the course. That’s an everyday occurrence.... Maybe it was a little bit of a false expectation to think that UUism would be the one sacred space where that wouldn’t happen and that’s a little bit disheartening. But it comes from centuries of lived experiences that are so deep that we don’t even recognize the culture and the privilege that we have. I know that there’s a lot of UUs who are white, who are trying, but it is so hard when it’s so deeply ingrained in us.
“Privilege is not just like something you have to check once a day. It’s every minute of every day. That’s really hard. But on the whole… if you call [UUs] on that, I really do believe that they will try. That’s a lot more than I can say for anyone else. Like in my circles, or people that I sort of navigate through…. For me it is an aspiration -- that’s what pushes me to be a better person by being around people who, when called on something, will actually try and address it. Even though we may continue to fail and fall down, that is something that UUs do actually do very well.”
On finding community:
“I still know that my UU community is trying to be true and live out the word. Maybe there are bumps, right, but like I said earlier: if you call them on it, I really do feel they respond by trying to do better. That’s all I can ask for from myself and from any other human.”
The authors of #Living UU are Beth Neavel-Cortez and Kristen Psaki. Beth is a free-lance journalist based in Austin, Texas. She is a life long Unitarian Universalist who knows that story-telling is what saves us. Kristen is a member of First Unitarian Society of Denver. She is pursuing ministerial ordination with Unitarian Universalist Association. Kristen loves chocolate and coffee, together or separately.