A Pastoral Message from the Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray

Person stands at podium speaking

Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) President the Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray issued the following pastoral message for the Unitarian Universalist community:

My Fellow Unitarian Universalists,

I invite you to join me in continuing to hold in our hearts, in our thoughts, and in our prayers, our UUA staff colleagues, James Curran and Tim Byrne who are recovering after being attacked and robbed in New Orleans. Both are continuing to recover physically and to navigate the trauma of the event. James is back home in Boston. Tim remains hospitalized in New Orleans but is making steady progress each day. His doctors are cautiously optimistic about the prognosis for his recovery. We are profoundly grateful to the dedicated medical professionals who initially treated and continue to care for James and Tim.

We continue to send Tim and James and their partners and loved ones our positive thoughts, care, and support in this time. As the new President of the UUA, I am doing my best to be present to these staff members and to honor the time and space they need to attend to their recovery.

I also want to acknowledge the sorrow, fear, anger, and heartbreak of seeing a loved one, a member of our community, violently attacked. I have experienced all of these emotions in the last few days, as have so many of the UUA staff and wider UU community. Throughout the General Assembly, we reflected on the narratives and wider systems of oppression that perpetuate both systemic and personal violence. This week, those reflections became personal and proximate.

As I have listened to Unitarian Universalists reflect on this situation, I have been moved by the connections made to Bryan Stevenson’s powerful message to us at General Assembly that “simply punishing the broken—walking away from them or hiding them from sight—only ensures that they remain broken and we do, too. There is no wholeness outside of our reciprocal humanity.” May we hold the young adults who are accused of carrying out the robbery, Rashaad Piper (20), Nicholas Polgowski (18), DeJuan Paul (18), and Joshua Simmons (18), with the universal love that we hold Tim Byrne and James Curran. This is so very important. Many voices have lifted up hope for a process of restorative justice.

These are our Unitarian Universalist values calling us to live in the reality of the heartbreak of our world, while remembering that no one is outside the circle of love – that compassion is always our guide, and that as a religious community, we seek the well-being of all people and the dismantlement of systems of oppression that undermine our collective humanity.

As President, I am waiting to make any official statements to New Orleans authorities in order to give our staff members time to be in the conversation. At the same time, I am encouraged by the local grassroots leadership of Unitarian Universalists in New Orleans, including the Center for Ethical Living and Social Justice Renewal (CELSJR) and their partners, to help us see both the proximate and larger realities and humanity of this incident. I ask for your patience in this time, and for your faithful presence as Unitarian Universalists.

In faith,

Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray