Love and Fear

By Wren Bellavance-Grace

An arrangement of various flowers and leaves on a marble top with the words "DO", "LOVE", "HOPE, "PEACE", "CARE", and "LIVE" written in black sharpie on pieces of masking tape.

Julian, do you not know? Do you not know about sorrow?
And Julian, do you not know? Do you not know about pain?

As our November newsletter was approaching final edits, horrific news of our country’s 565th mass shooting of the calendar year broke out of the city of Lewiston, Maine. As sometimes happens in the work of ministry, we were called to shift our work and pivot our attention to respond. We have reached out to every one of our congregations in Maine, because although it is New England’s largest state, it feels very much like a big small town. We heard back from colleagues and siblings in faith -
We are fine
We are scared
We are listening to a helicopter overhead
We are sad, but safe
It is good to feel connected

New England is a small and close knit region. Our colleagues in greater Boston who sheltered in place in the hours following the Boston Marathon tragedy are remembering those days of shock, and sadness, and collective sense of powerlessness. Mainers, we hope you have felt the waves of love and support heading your way.

Some days, this beautiful broken world feels like just too much to hold. How do we abide a world where such violence can erupt in a local bowling alley? At a music festival? Anywhere? It is so overwhelming it can almost crowd out faith; there is scant space left for hope.

How do we abide?

I often turn to folk singer Meg Barnhouse’s song All Will Be Well (YouTube) in times like these. It’s a rhetorical cry to the heavens for answers never received.
Julian, do you not know? Do you not know about sorrow?
And Julian, do you not know? Do you not know about pain?
Do you not know about loneliness? About cruelty?

Do you not know we are scared? That we are listening to helicopters?
That we haven’t heard from our cousin?

Julian, it’s too much; it brings me to my knees.

Barnhouse conjures Saint Julian of Norwich, who answers only, All will be well.

But we still don’t know how.

How will we abide?
Only together.

We know for many grieving friends and families today, it feels like nothing will ever be okay again. We know that trauma will linger for individuals, for the city of Lewiston, and its neighbors. Julian never promises things will go back to normal. Scores of families and friends and co-workers and neighbors know that their lives will never be the same again. Someday - not today - life’s rhythm will return, adapting to its new shape and one by one, we will be helped up from our knees.

How will we get through this?
Only by turning to each other.

Last weekend at our online national workshop called Trauma From Without, Care From Within, Rev. Aaron Payson (of the Worcester, MA UU church) shared some wisdom from his years working with the UU Trauma Ministry Response Team. Especially for our friends and colleagues in Maine let me offer some suggestions for faith communities in the aftermath of trauma:

  • Listen to each others’ stories. They will be different, but they will each be true: whatever you experienced is fact. Hear each others’ stories without judgment.
  • The stories will be quilted into a larger narrative. Storytelling is the beginning of making meaning.
  • Hold on to what Rev. Aaron calls the “sacred ambiguity” - multiple things are all true in this moment:we are scared; we are sad; we are safe.
  • Reach out with special care to those who have been especially impacted, or are particularly vulnerable.

This is not the first, not the last moment we have collectively been brought to our knees. The hurt and horror of this world is too overwhelming to abide alone. All the sorrow. All the loneliness. All the cruelty and pain.

Meg imagines Julian’s response:
Dear ones, do you not know? Do you not know about tenderness?
And dear ones, do you not know about friends?
Dear ones, do you not know? Do you not know about Spirit?
And dear ones, do you not know, it’s only love that never ends.

May we remember this friends: we are wrapped in a Love large enough to hold all our fear, sorrow, despair, and grief. Through our covenant we have been gifted the grace of each other: we need not grieve alone. Even when we are sad, we are scared, we are fine - let’s together keep the hope alive that one day in this broken old world, we may know Peace, Salaam, Shalom.

About the Author

Wren Bellavance-Grace

Wren works with the New England Region team to support congregations across New England with particular experience in Safer Congregations, faith formation, and spiritual leadership.

For more information contact .