The school board election this week – and the long months preceding it – reminded us again just how difficult it has become to talk to one another when we disagree. Even in our relatively small community, our public dialogue has become so polarized that we often forget the power of direct conversation. The power of deep listening even if, in the end, our opinions don’t change.
In watching the divisions in our broader national and Northern Colorado communities deepen, I’ve been reminded of just how grateful I am that our covenant at Foothills and as Unitarian Universalists invites us to practice something different. Not only the covenant you may be most familiar with – the one we say together every Sunday – but also our Covenant of Right Relations, which states;
We covenant to build a religious community guided by love and sustained by respectful relationships which work towards the greater and common good. Believing that building healthy relationships is a spiritual practice, we aim to listen appreciatively, speak with care, express gratitude, honor and value our differences, and assume good intentions. We will communicate directly, honestly and compassionately, particularly when we are in conflict, and we will not expect to always get our own way. When we feel hurt or when we hurt others, we will try to forgive, make amends and connect in a spirit of love. In celebration of the common purpose that unites us, we will do our best to abide by this covenant.
This covenant asks us to go back to the simple yet sometimes difficult practice of open and direct communication, and the now radical act of assuming good intentions. It reminds me of Brene Brown’s suggestion that we should always assume that people are doing the best they can. Which doesn’t mean that every behavior is ok. Not at all. But it does remind us that we are all human. And being human is often really hard. Especially in the middle of this pandemic that just won’t end, and with job and money stress flying high, and issues of grief, and illness and struggle in so many people’s lives. Maybe we’re all doing the best we can. Which brings us back to compassion.
This fundamental challenge of being human – with other humans – is basically our topic every Sunday! But it is the particular focus of our new series we are launching this week, Living with Ghosts. During this series, we’ll explore coming to terms with the stories and people and experiences that haunt us.
We’ll consider the history that lives in every challenges we face today (i.e. how hard it is to talk to each other when we disagree!), and ways to exorcise shame and create space for something entirely new to take shape.
We’ll explore beliefs that we’ve outgrown, and how to form new beliefs.
Just in time for the upcoming holiday season, we’ll consider our family stories that we’re holding on to, and the cultural myths we’ve inherited – and we’ll engage in practices of both ghost busting and ghost be-friending.
In the same way that our covenant creates space to safely and lovingly face conflict with each other head-on, Living with Ghosts will offer space for each of us to contend with the memories, people, and choices that remain unresolved within us, and give us a chance to come to terms with the past so that we can better embrace the future. Especially in these darkening days of winter, it’s a good time to lean in to the work of looking within and taking stock.
Speaking of darkening days, don’t forget that daylight savings time ends this Sunday – enjoy what I’ve always called the Holy Autumnal Day of Refreshment 😉
There are four ways to join us this Sunday. Visit foothillsuu.org/Sunday to save your spot. And check out our series spiritual practice below.
Make space for exploring, coming to terms, and making peace with the things (memories, people, choices, and more) that haunt you. Twice a week for four weeks, you will receive a practice or meditation via text or email. There isn’t a set outcome. It’s an invitation to explore acceptance, release, and integration.