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The Promise and the Practice: Lamentation for Two Voices
The Promise and the Practice: Lamentation for Two Voices
Responsive Reading

This Lamentation is for two voices: one white, and one person of color/indigenous (POCI). Both voices invite people to repeat a refrain several times: white voices say, “So much has been lost,” and voices of color say, “Beloved, you must not be defensive when you hear our hurt.” The latter, as well as the words in bold, are adapted from Michael Eric Dyson’s Tears We Cannot Stop.


Voice 1:
We need one another. This is the core of our Unitarian Universalist theology: we are the human agents of the Holy, the vessels through which redemption, healing, salvation occur. There is only us, and this short lifetime, to create the shimmering, glorious WE that might exist.

We needed one another before we arrived here, this morning. We needed one another before we found our way to this congregation. We have needed one another all along—and we have failed one another: we who are white have failed people of color and, by extension, the shimmering, glorious WE that might exist.

Voice 2:
One thing you must understand, beloved, is that whiteness isn’t a solo act. It’s got a supporting cast. Lots of other things got created to uphold and justify whiteness—and you, beloved, have benefited from them without questioning.

We need one another… but we have not needed one another equally. We contain equal amounts of dignity and worth, but we do not need one another equally.

If our need for one other were reciprocal; if our craving for each other’s truth and experience were genuine—if we longed for others to feel as deep a sense of belonging as our own belonging—that need would have long ago forced us, my white kin of faith, to surrender our grip on our certainty, our preferences, our standards of comfort.

My dear friends, please try to understand that whiteness is limitless possibility. It is universal and invisible. You swim in its waters and breathe in its air and take for granted that whiteness is the status quo. That’s why many of you are offended by any reference to race. You believe you are acting and thinking neutrally, objectively, without preference for one group or the next, including your own. You see yourselves as colorless until [people of color] dump the garbage of race on your heads… You have no idea how absurd and hurtful that notion is, and yet we have grown accustomed to your defiance of our pain, struggle, and daily reality.

In our limitless possibility, consciously and unconsciously, we who are white have inflicted wounds on the spirits and psyches of people of color. So much has been lost.

Those who identify as white: repeat with me: So much has been lost.

Beloved, you must not be defensive when you hear our hurt.
Invite other people of color to repeat: “Beloved, you must not be defensive when you hear our hurt.”

We confess before the Spirit of Wholeness and Reconciliation that we have needed to be right, and needed to be white, more than we needed to listen. We have entrenched our white obliviousness in our identity as “good people.” So much has been lost.

White congregants: "So much has been lost."

Beloved, you must not be defensive when you hear our hurt.

POC: “Beloved, you must not be defensive when you hear our hurt.”

The Gentle Mystery in whose heart we’re suspended calls us to make room for all people to be their fullest selves: seen, heard, valued, included, empowered. We who are white, we whose hearts are drunk with the wine of our own privilege, have not yet risen to that call. So much has been lost.

White congregants: "So much has been lost."

Beloved, you must not be defensive when you hear our hurt.

POC: “Beloved, you must not be defensive when you hear our hurt.”

We need one another—in different ways. May we who are white hear the hurt, and resolve to do one better than we did before.

We need one another: now and moving forward. We need one another: now, though for some it is too late. This is the call of our Unitarian Universalist theology: we are the human agents of the Holy, the vessels through which redemption, healing, and salvation occur.

Beloved, we need each other. Let us live our calling in the world as a light of reconciliation (or redemption, healing, etc.) together.

About the Authors

  • Erika Hewitt is the UUA's Minister of Worship Arts and Editor of Braver/Wiser, a weekly spirituality series. In addition to serving the UUA half-time, Erika also serves as a Unitarian Universalist parish minister and wedding officiant in Maine. ...
  • Rev. Rebekah Savage (formerly Montgomery) is the full time Associate Minister at the UU Congregation of Rockville, MD, serves in the US Army Reserve and is completing a Doctorate in Ministry at Wesley Seminary in Washington, DC.

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