by Nicole Pressley, with Jen Bain and Jennifer Thilo
“We need not think alike to love alike.” -Francis Dávid
We love this quote! It highlights many of the reasons we fell in love with Unitarian Universalism, its openness, its liberal theology, and its anchor in loving connection. We find it framed in the vestibules of our buildings, printed on brochures, and posted on large website banners. It makes us feel good.
We love our welcoming faith. We should. But for a group of people who are continuously in search of truth and meaning, reject creed, and welcome a diversity of beliefs, who we are is significantly defined by how we are with one another. Our covenant creates a sacred bond. It is a promise we make to each other to support loving and trusting relationships throughout our community. It is also there when our differences and disagreements produce conflict. The process of engaging covenant in our UUCA community, especially during conflict, is what we are exploring as we work with congregants and the Board to develop the Healthy Relationships Team.
On Saturday, October 5, the UUA Southern Region held a Healthy Relationships workshop at UUMAN. Our facilitators, Kathy McGowan and Cameron Young, prepared some activities and conversation starters that helped us get to the heart of what was causing many of us deep anxiety: perfectionism. Many of us sat around tables waiting for Kathy and Cameron to give us the answer to our deeply held, but unspoken, question, “What is the right or optimal way to resolve conflict, so we can just get back to getting along?”
The facilitators had us create a list of desirable qualities for people that serve on healthy relationships teams. Hands shot up, eager to construct a list of the perfect person for this role. As you would expect, the list was not only long, but unobtainable. Upon its completion, we stared at one another, realizing the impossibility of our task. There is no perfect person. There is no perfect arrangement of groups and committees to facilitate this work. And the idea of perfect harmony or absolute resolution is a dream.
Soon we were reminded that Unitarian Universalism is a faith born out of moments of conflict. Our desire for liberation, our spiritual curiosity, and our service to justice and community have never existed without conflict. However, through love-centered conflict, we have carved out a beautiful religious home for ourselves and others.
While we tell inspiring stories about UUCA’s history and Unitarian Universalism’s contributions to the world, we also recognize the times when we have fallen short of our values. We acknowledge moments where we haven’t always agreed and grieve the times when our disagreements have caused harm. But, perhaps, most powerfully, we realize that we are at our best when we dream, not of perfection, but of Beloved Community.
That is the reason that we have a covenant. It is our guide. In times of conflict, it is there to pull us closer together, in loving and respectful relationship. We hope that our UUCA Healthy Relationships Team serves to facilitate a restorative process when there is conflict, but also to support and grow healthy covenantal relationships throughout the congregation. Will this be perfect? No. Will it be ambitious? Yes, as ambitious as our covenant and as ambitious as building the Beloved Community. It will be yet another, grand and necessary Unitarian Universalist dream.
If you are interested in learning more about participating in the Healthy Relations Team contact Jennifer Thilo at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can find the UUCA Covenent of Healthy Relationship on the UUCA Governance page.