Wendy Weiss, Programs & Membership Coordinator
Rumi: "Wherever you stand, be the soul of that place."
Coffee, as the joke goes, is a UU sacrament. We’re serious about our fair trade, organic coffee at Westside and carefully select and train our “Precision Coffee Team” members. Although we’re all missing that freshly brewed ritual each Sunday, we do continue to meet online and chat after the services at virtual coffee hour.
Each week I’m noticing more and more how our conversations are evolving and how the way we are communicating is changing. When we were in person, it was kind of hard to have time to talk and check in with everyone who showed up. People would typically gather in smaller spontaneous groups and only about 3-5 people would be having a conversation, and there’d be several groups, each having different conversations.
Now, around 25-30 people are gathered in one room, so to speak, and we’re all part of one conversation. And the conversations are starting to grow beyond the general check-ins. Each Sunday seems to more quickly and directly speak to current events, and instead of small, fractioned groups, each person is speaking to everyone in the whole group of who’s there.
The conversations have slowed down as the group attentively listens as the one who is speaking ponders out loud or develops a thought all the way through. Usually after a short pause of consideration, others respond to what has been shared and pick up a trail of thought to continue exploring. What I’m witnessing is members of our congregation being heard and considered, sharing different viewpoints, asking questions to learn more. The biggest change is that we’re doing this in a larger, more unified group than ever.
This level and type of conversation has been more common in Adult RE discussions. So it’s a new way of relating in some ways for our more informal coffee hour chats. It seems that even in the time of virtual church, it’s bringing us all a little closer. We’re getting to know each other better. We’re having regular conversations with people we might not have usually spoken with on Sunday mornings. What seems to be a silver lining of all of this (gestures vaguely at society), is that Westside is starting to become more conversant and unified in who Westside is and is becoming.
We’re talking through some difficult times. We’re articulating our personal perspectives and reaching towards some cooperative processes and actions that reflect our shared values and UU principles. At a time when we must learn how to balance the needs of the collective with the needs of the individual, we are already beginning to expand and revision what our community really looks and sounds like. Whose voices have we not heard before? What issues are important for us to consider? How do we, as Westsiders, respond as a community?
We know that this is a time to evolve beyond polarity mindsets. We have to take care to avoid the trappings of us and them thinking. To beware of “othering.” That, as Judy Winchester said on Sunday, “A person is more than one thing.” It’s our greatest act of compassion and inclusion to see and accept that truth. This is a time to be able to hold and wield the complexity of our multifaceted society and the reality that we live in and that we create together.
We are all responsible for what happens next.
The Holistic Psychologist, Dr. Nicole LePera, reminds us: “What you consume becomes what you believe.” As we discussed last week, and in a number of different ways over several Sundays, it’s up to each of us take hold of the power of our conscious attention. That ultimately, it begins in the very simple, daily acts of building relationships with “the people who are close to us and different from us," as Rev. Carol mentioned.
So, we must continue moving in the direction of our values. We must continually revisit these values and consider how open the circle to include more and more people who get to benefit from these values being expressed in our society. To consider deeply what activist Adita Mayer says: "Understanding the interconnected nature of oppression will help us realize the interconnected nature of liberation.”
It is our most important work to find ways to work together, to build relationships within our communities, to put our energy in and invest in the programs, organizations and leaders that are working every day, even (and especially) in small, persistent ways to build a better world for all people. As we’ve seen through our own projects at Westside, we are building community partnerships and taking small, meaningful actions in helping our neighbors. No matter what is happening in the world, we will continue to do this work together.