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Where the Personal and the Public Meet

Dear friends,

As you may know, this year we are focusing our congregational attention on a variety of social justice themes. This summer, we focused on the environment. In the fall, we’ll be talking about citizenship and immigration, in the winter diversity, and in the spring we’ll turn our attention to economic justice issues such as homelessness and poverty. Each of these topics is, in many ways, a matter of collective, state and national concern. And yet each is also personal.

When we choose liturgical themes—liturgy refers to the expression of theological concepts in public worship—UU’s have a greater challenge than many other denominations. For many religious communities, the liturgical year is pre-determined; the topic for each month’s or week’s gathering is pre-set by the sacred texts or religious calendar of their denomination. We UU’s have to create our own template, and each community goes about that differently, and may change plans from year to year. But no matter how a religious community decides upon its topics of interest, each topic can be seen to have relevance to our very personal spiritual journeys, and also to the larger public sphere.

In fact, one could argue that it is the intersection of the personal and public that is most important to a faith community. Where do my personal interests, needs, concerns, and values intersect with those of my family, friends, neighbors, and nation? In order to answer that question, we must each understand not only what’s going on in the outside world, but also what’s going on inside our hearts, minds and lives. This year, in addition to thinking about the public issues of immigration, diversity, and economic justice, we can also think about these issues relative to our private lives.

For me, issues of immigration and citizenship boil down to a concern for belonging. We all need to belong, but how do we define ‘us’ vs. ‘them,’ or ‘in’ vs. ‘out’? And our personal sense of belonging may affect how we consider more public matters of belonging. Likewise, public diversity concerns—justice for minority groups, or non-dominate communities—are really about how accepting we are of each person’s humanness. And how we feel about our own humanness, our own acceptability, may shape our ability to be open and accepting to others. Finally, our own sense of abundance, wealth and well-being may have an impact on the ways we approach financial matters in our families and our communities. Ultimately, public matters are simply the collection of a number (perhaps a large number) of individual private matters. So how we approach our inner journey has an enormous impact on our collective journey. This year, let’s see if we can explore how our personal values and aspirations can give life to a richer, healthier and more vibrant collective experience.

In faith and hope,

Rev. Carol

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