We See You

By Carlton Elliott Smith

Thank you to all the Board Presidents, Ministers and other congregational leaders who took our call or got back to us when we reached out to you during our COVID-19 check-ins early in the spring. We were grateful that many of you were doing as well as could be hoped for, adapting to the new demands of remote worship services and meetings, pastoral care done from a distance and figuring out how to receive pledges and offerings on platforms like CashApp, PayPal and Venmo. Some of you had members, family and friends who contracted COVID-19 and have thankfully lived to tell the tale.

Some of you had challenges and even tragedies that you were finding your way through. You were in the middle of capital campaigns, renovation projects and pledge drives when the quarantine went into effect. You had medical professionals, grocery store workers and other essential employees in your congregations and in your families, who didn’t have the liberty to shelter-in-place as others did.

You had beloveds who have contracted COVID-19, and people who couldn’t get the medical help they need because of healthy distancing protocols. Some of you had dear ones who are on ventilators now, whose full recovery or survival couldn’t be taken for granted. Others had already lost partners, relatives, and friends to this novel coronavirus, one that required you grieve alone or in very small groups.

We see the strain. We weep with you. We acknowledge that we ourselves as your UUA Southern Region Staff bear our share of sorrows and griefs as we minister to you and with you.

As we have said many times before and say again now, you are not alone. We are here with you, in the fullness of our humanity. As always, we are showing our love for each other, for each of you and for our planet by choosing daily to be present to all that is our life.

We appreciate your patience. We didn’t do everything perfectly before the pandemic and certainly haven’t since. We pray that for whatever we lack, that your need will not go unmet. On top of that, for places where we fall short in our agreements with you, we commit to restoring relationships and trust.

We also see you buckling under the weight of your own expectations and unrealistic demands. For those of us who aren’t centenarians, this is our first highly contagious global pandemic. We are living in circumstances we could hardly have imagined at the start of the new year. We are going easy on ourselves as much as possible and encourage you to do the same.

No time in history is certain, and these times are especially unpredictable. The news brings new shocks hour-to-hour. We find ourselves at the mercy of environmental, political, societal and economic forces beyond our control. The truth rings clearest when reliable sources simply say things will get harder before they become better.

Slowly, our lives are coming back around to what feels more familiar. Some of us can go to restaurants to pick-up take-out orders. Some of us are learning to navigate the aisles of grocery stores with new arrows and stop signs on the floor. We look around and many have chosen not to wear masks, even though the pandemic isn’t over and COVID-19 cases in some states have yet to peak.

And now, of course, we have had a string of killings of Black people across the nation, several while in police custody. We lift up the names of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, who was choked out under an officer’s knee, his death setting off protests in cities at home and abroad. Just this weekend in Atlanta, another Black man, Rayshard Brooks, was killed in a Wendy’s drive-thru.

We see you in the streets and on the curbs with your signs, crying out for justice in the midst of the pandemic. People of color and Black people in particular experience the tremendous strain of being targeted. Some white people find their way into solidarity with Black, Indigenous, and other people of color, some sit on the sidelines and others feel threatened by the idea of defunding or abolishing the police. Our experiences and perspectives are diverse across our identities.

In the midst of it all, let’s find ways to be kind and generous with ourselves and each other. In our struggles, let’s be grateful that things are as well as they are. And through all the various means at our disposal, let's draw closer to the “goal of world community, with peace, liberty and justice for all.”*

*from the Sixth Principle of our UUA’s Seven Principles

About the Author

Carlton Elliott Smith

Rev. Carlton E. Smith is the Regional Lead for the Pacific Western Region. From 2013 to 2020, he was a member of the UUA Congregational Life Staff Group serving in the Southern Region....

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