We enter the third week of our “30 Days of Love” as part of the Side of Love campaign of the UUA.
This week we focus on the power of healing in the service of love. Healing is hard even with time on our side. Healing requires at least the beginnings of forgiveness. All of us have been hurt. Some of the hurts heal quickly, some, usually the ones on the inside, can take a lifetime. One of the reasons we belong to a religious community such as ours is to help in the healing for ourselves and the world in which we love. We won’t always be able to forgive the injury, but we can place our wounds in the context of growing. While I generally dislike the line “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” I do believe that our wounds make us fully ourselves.
As the Dutch theologian Henri Nouwen put it: “We need to be angels for each other, to give each other strength and consolation. Because only when we fully realize that the cup of life is not only a cup of sorrow but also a cup of joy will we be able to drink it.” He said that all those who enter fully into deep relationship with others become “wounded healers” in growing stronger in our own healing and those we love.
I am shocked again (if it is even possible to be shocked again) over the brutal murder of Tyre Nichols by the Memphis Police over a week ago. Even as we are called to heal ourselves in the love of community, so are we called as a community to reach out and stand for justice. Our work towards that healing continues whether it is lunches to the homeless or vigils for justice.
Last Sunday we voted to ratify our new name as the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Westport. I am proud we were able to realize this larger identity. As Unitarian Universalists we embrace our entire religious movement which is at the front lines of healing the wounds of racism, ableism, transphobia, and so many of the other collective wounds we carry. We embrace a wider identity as UUs in seeing our congregation as larger than any one religion. We embrace the open mind of Unitarianism with the open heart of Universalism towards the collective healing we seek on the path of love.
I offer this prayer from my colleague Rev. Jason Lydon:
We begin in thanks, thankful for the breath in our lungs, the beauty of our earth and the strength of our community.
We are praying together in the spirit of abolition, in the vision of those who have come before us and with our heart’s attention to liberation.
Our prayer is in our actions. Our prayer is in our resistant theology. Our prayer is in the communities that we build up. Our prayer is in the open doors that lead to sanctuaries where we can find respite, renewal, and rejuvenation. This is our prayer, this is our Unitarian Universalism.
As Unitarian Universalists we do not usually pray about hell. We know that there is no hell to fear after death. During this life we share though, there is much hell to be overcome, hell that must be eradicated, hell that our faith demands we abolish:
Each time a family mourns their loved one gunned down by the police, hell is real
Each time a prisoner is strip searched before and after a visit, hell is real
Each time bail is set so high that freedom is impossible to find, hell is real
Each time someone spends 23 hours locked in a cell, hell is real
When phone calls from prison cost $25 for 15 minutes, hell is real.
Our Universalist ancestors teach us that punishment does not transform the soul after death and yet, and yet, and yet punishment culture permeates our world and creates hell after hell right here on earth.
Hells may be built up all around us but our faith teaches us that we can and must abolish each and every hell that people are living in. We pray for abolition beloveds, abolition is our prayer. We make this prayer real each time we whittle away at that which denies life. We make this prayer real when we dismantle anti-Blackness….
We make this prayer real when we harness the power of God, Gaia, or our human family and give life to something new. You are the prayer. I am the prayer. We are the prayer, and we are answering it even as we articulate it…. Amen.
Yours, Rev. John