News December 15, 2023

Cover December 17, 2023(2)
Dear Friends and Members,

At a Liberal Religious Educator Conference I attended a few years ago, the main speaker provided an experience that shifted my thinking and how I spend my energy.  It gets at the ways caring people get pulled in so many directions to help that we get overwhelmed and shut down.  Perhaps you have felt this way sometimes.

The conference leader had each of us write down the issues in the world that “should not be” - especially the ones that called us to act.   She then had us reflect on which one called us the most.  She also asked us to reflect on which one we had some connections or infrastructure where we could more likely take some action.  We could choose one, or if we had to we could choose two, but no more.  Then she had us think about the issue we chose and write down any ideas and feelings.

Next, she had the group call aloud all these issues and led us in all speaking together “this should not be”.  Someone said “hunger” and we collectively said “this should not be”.  Another said “the degradation of the planet” and we collectively said “this should not be”.  It went on for a long while.  There are so many things that should not be.

The leader began to speak about each of us choosing to say “no” to some things so that we can more fully embrace others.  She had us think about all the things we said “should not be” and to let go of taking care of all of them, but to focus on the one we chose.   She said that other people in the world are working on many of these issues, but we would each do our best if we focused on just our one.

It is true that relationship building, learning about how things work, building coalitions one issue at a time, takes time and that if we do it, we will be more effective.  We are not better or more effective by “spreading ourselves too thin”.  Yes, that old saying has some relevance here.  It feels like a huge relief to allow this shift and to let go.  It’s called saying “no” so that we may more fully say “yes”.

 I’m thinking about how it’s true in general: deciding what to do and what not too do is a useful practice. And perhaps in December especially.  At the holiday potluck this past week, we heard about the book Unplug the Christmas Machine:  A Complete Guide to Putting Love and Joy back into the Season, by Jean Coppock Staeheli and Jo Robinson.  In it, we are invited to do a similar kind of discernment about our holiday activities.  Do you enjoy parties?  Sending end of year letters about the family with Christmas cards or photos?  Do you enjoy baking cookies?  Hosting family for the big celebration?  Choosing and wrapping presents?  Giving to non-profits on behalf of a relative?  Volunteering to make dinner for those who don’t have much?  

Do some provide more of the kind of connection you long for?  For each of us, these will be different.  Since we are in the middle of the season, I invite you to notice how you feel as you engage in any of your holiday activities and decide which ones are most important to you, take some notes and plan for next year.  And if possible, say “no” this year to activities that don’t bring joy, so that you can more fully live out those that do.    

We hope you’ll join us for the Christmas Pageant this Sunday, December 17th at 11:30 am.  Children in costumes!  Lots of singing Christmas carols!  And the play we are doing, written by Rev. Scott Cooper, is one that brings in all the sources of Unitarian Universalism, creating a richer, deeper understanding of this old story.  May your holidays bring you love and joy!

With love and care ,

Carol Burrus
Director of Religious Community