A message from Dave Cicero, Director of Lifespan Religious Education

Liberation was the monthly Soul Matters theme we used to guide our original plans for April 2020. But with the threat of COVID-19, and subsequent recommendations for workers in non-essential industries (and students of all ages) to stay at home in order to reduce its spread, those plans changed radically. Today, many of us may be dreaming of being liberated from our home life. Or from the need to take the many precautions designed to keep the most vulnerable among us safer.

This brings me, at least, to wonder, “What relevance does this theme have for us, then?” Rev. Suzelle has provided some soothing thoughts the past few weeks reminding us that we perhaps should consider how we’ve been freed from the need to be and do more. We can be OK with stopping, breathing, and appreciating the small but important things in our lives. We can consider this “down” time as a time to recharge in anticipation of whatever is to come next.

I’ve found that I have broken free of some old patterns and habits recently. Like listening to sports talk radio (my commuting “partner”) and staying up later than I ought to catch up on the latest news. Somehow, things I earlier felt compelled to spend time doing now seem repetitive and pointless. A former classmate once told me (in their native Scottish accent) of a saying they grew up with – “A change is as good as a holiday!” The changes we’ve needed to make in the past month have certainly given us new perspectives on previous routines…and relationships. I’m calling my mom more because I worry about her isolation. Never one to “skype” in the past, I now routinely use videoconferencing and have become more involved in (and less fatigued by) the nearly daily communications with our daughter – often done visually.

Of course, I’ve also developed some new habits during this time, leading me to wonder how those will shape my future. I often worry that the challenges to my self-discipline will be problematic. Rev. Suzelle’s proposal that this is “fallow time” for a coming age relieves my anxiety – and hopefully does the same for you. It also foreshadows next month’s Soul Matters theme of Thresholds. As we settle into new routines and ways of living, how will we emerge? What will greet us, and how will we deal with what we encounter when we cross over into the “new normal”?

Time will tell. But I am reassured by the belief that “things always turn out OK in the end. And if things aren’t yet OK, then it isn’t the end.” What do you have faith in? And how do you cope when challenged with doubt or worry? I invite you to share those strategies with others – even if done while “giving others their space”. (That’s an alternative I’ve heard to “social distancing”!) What’s good for you might be just what someone else is looking for.

I took the opportunity to attend the UUA Midwest Region’s annual assembly a week or so ago. It was originally going to take place in Rockford, IL, and I planned to use the travel time to re-connect with a DRE I once worked within another congregation. We figured a short road trip would give us time to catch up. As it turns out, the Regional Assembly became an online event, and my colleague chose not to participate.

I almost decided to forget about it, too. But I value lifelong learning and was interested in seeing how this part of the UUA infrastructure governed itself. I figured that I didn’t have much to lose – especially since I’d be sheltering at home most of the day anyway. I’d like to share some takeaways with you.

The workshop I attended reminded me that, even using technology to connect with others across long distances, it is still vital to recognize and honor what each individual brings into that congregation of persons. The keynote address, given by Taquiena Boston of Washington, DC, was an insightful reflection on systems, and how they always work…for somebody or for something! When we see or experience inequities, that’s a sign that the systems involved need to change. And we all, by engaging with others, are co-designers of those systems. “The future,” she said, “is a co-creation.” These were encouraging words that can help us navigate our entry into the coming days, months, years.

Contact Dave Cicero, Director of Lifespan Religious Education.