Lovers of Leaving!

By Natalie Briscoe, Connie Goodbread

Hey, all you “Lovers of Leaving!”

Yeah, you. You know I’m talking to you. We’ve all done it. Maybe we’ve done it a few times. And if we haven’t actually DONE it, then we’ve all certainly THOUGHT about it.

Leaving, I mean. When things get rough, we tend to split. Check-out. Take our ball and go home. Unitarian Universalists are, after all, Lovers of Leaving. It’s in our DNA: our faith was started by the people who LEFT.

I don’t think it’s any secret that times are pretty rough. It may feel like we have been launched into a sudden crisis by naming the ways in which our Unitarian Universalist structures have participated in systems of oppression and white supremacy, but that is misleading. These systems and structures have existed for a long time. The only thing that is new is that more people are being made aware of the issues.

As a staff team, your Southern Region staff has made confronting systems of oppression a priority and has been focusing on this work for about four years. Things have not always gone smoothly. At times it has been frightening, daunting, crushing and painful. But confronting oppression is the work of our time and we feel called.

What can we rely upon in times like these? As the structures that we have built come into question and even fail us, how do our covenants call us to stay in relationship, to continue the work, and to remain loving while doing so?

We create covenants so that we can have a framework for how to treat each other when times are difficult. How we go about the work is as important as what work we do. While our faith is tested both individually and as an Association, we must rely on our covenants to guide us.

Therefore, for this next step into our work together, your Southern Region staff promises you:

We will stay in this struggle with you. We will support you in difficult moments. We will stand with you in the pain and the joy. We will witness your work.

We will do our own work. We will continue to examine the ways in which we have participated in systems of oppression. We reaffirm our commitment to confronting those barriers within our own hearts and minds, in Unitarian Universalism, and in the world.

We will apologize when we misstep. We would rather go fully into the work and make mistakes than shy away from the moral imperative that our Faith calls us to face.

We will not apologize for the work we do which is necessary. We will not apologize for the fact that it is necessarily uncomfortable work. We will be relentlessly truthful. We will be authentic. We will be kind even while confronting unpleasant, uncomfortable, sad or even horrific realities. These things are not nice. We can’t make them nice but we can hold one another in our hearts, be kind and lean into the sadness together.

When you are in pain, we will stand by you. We will not apologize for pointing to the work that is yours to do. We can recognize your discomfort without taking responsibility for it.

We will relentlessly examine our privilege in the system. We will not assume we are owed an answer just because we asked a question. We will not assume an unearned appeal to empathy, wherein two parties who are not equally wounded are presumed to be in equal amounts of pain. Discomfort does not trump pain.

We will confront homeostasis. We will walk a path that we aren’t sure of. We will build the boat as we sail these choppy seas.

We will love you, and we won’t stop. We will make, break, and re-make our covenants a thousand times.

And with these promises, we invite you into this work with us, this work of dismantling racism and confronting oppression. We, you and I, are responsible for what will happen now and what foundation will be laid for future work. This is urgent and imperative work and we are being called. We must rely on our covenants and the values written upon our hearts to do this work now, for the future. This is our legacy.

Though we’ve broken our vows a thousand times, come, yet again come. We need you. We can’t do it alone. Even if you are a Lover of Leaving – Come, yet again Come.

About the Authors

Natalie Briscoe

Natalie Briscoe is the Lead of the Southern Region's Congregational Life staff team.

Connie Goodbread

Connie Goodbread is serving Unitarian Universalism as HOPE for Us Conflict Engagement Team Director. Connie served as Co-Lead of UUA Southern Region for three years.

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