Sinners & Saints: Week 3

I drained my sprinkler pipes and brought in all the tomatoes and peppers tonight – snow is coming! Wherever you are, I hope you’re staying warm and feeling connected to life and its many gifts.  

The last two Sundays we’ve talked a lot about discomfort and harm in relationships. But it’s important to consider how these aren’t the same thing.  

In Conflict is Not Abuse, Sarah Schulman says discomfort is a regular, normal, and even healthy part of all relationships – something that should not require apology or meaningful recovery. But harm is none of these.  Harm requires healing and deserves apology and repair.  

Healing asks us all to get more honest about the experience we’ve had – more real, more specific. Was it discomfort? Was it harm? How so? We shouldn’t understate the harm – or overstate it, either.  

Schulman doesn’t mean to say that discomfort shouldn’t invoke compassion – the opposite, really. She says we’d all do a lot better by lowering the threshold at which we offer each other compassion, so that we don’t have to get to the point of significant harm or abuse before we hear each other for our needs, our struggles, and our dreams. 

I appreciate her insights so much, because they help us claim greater agency in our response to the more challenging moments of our relationships – to pause and discern what’s really going on in ourselves, in the other, and between us –  before seeking blame, or even repair, and to learn to ask for what we need more directly.  

Which would mean that we could take the ideas I shared about recovery – being honest, being heard, and being here – and apply them not just as ways to get over pain, but as practices for the ongoing health of all our relationships.  

The question of our agency – as in, the degree of choice we have our lives as both sinners and saints – is what Rev. Sean is taking up this Sunday when he’s back in the pulpit after a few Sundays away.  

I know I’m looking forward to leading worship with Sean again, and I look forward to seeing you all soon – 8:30, 10, or 11:30 – as well.

See you Sunday,
Rev. Gretchen

P.S. Speaking of Choices! Update from our Congregational meeting Sunday afternoon: After nearly 12 years of talking about it, and the last four weeks filled with 280 of us “focused” on it, the congregation voted unanimously to proceed with a capital campaign. Check out these smiling faces caught making a choice! 

Notes from Sinners & Saints: Week 3 – Over It. 

Text / Readings 



  1. Lovingkindness Meditation. Here’s the lovingkindness meditation we offered in our third service.  If you’re looking for a meditative community of practice, join us on Monday nights.  
  2. Soul Collage. Still time to sign up for our Soul Collage Workshop on October 12th – go here.  


  1.  I first learned about the practices in Sierra Leone from this Hidden Brain podcast.
  2. Find out more about the healing ceremonies and practices here.
  3. I didn’t get to it but I was very moved by the stories shared in this TED Radio Hour episode about forgiveness. 
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