Hello everyone! Only a few days until I retire from being your minister at UUCW…. Wowie kazowie – how did the time grow so short? I’ve been meeting one-on-one with some of our members, and those meetings have been very meaningful… I look forward to seeing more people at the in-person and zoom retirement/farewell events on Saturday. Go HERE for more details.
In the meantime, the work of our beloved church rolls on. I have full faith that UUCW is in good hands and that you will continue in beautiful ways.
One of the things I wanted to speak to before I retire are some conversations Rev. Denise and I have been having with some of you regarding the practice of having speakers in worship services identify themselves and their pronouns – i.e., “Good morning, I’m Rev. Suzelle Lynch and the pronouns I use are she and her….” It appears that this practice is uncomfortable for some of us – we don’t understand why we are doing it at UUCW.
Basically? We do this because the language we use makes a difference in our lives!
Let me offer a bit of history. Some of you remember a few years ago when UUCW had a workshop and service from Alex Kapitan, co-leader of the Transforming Hearts Collective and author of the blog Radical Copyeditor. (Alex grew up at UUCW, too.) Alex says, “I launched the Radical Copyeditor website as a public ministry, as a way of trying to put out content that helps folks use language in ways that create liberation and fight oppression, because so much of our culture and the way that we view things as normal or all those norms that we have and hold—a lot of which are unconscious—are completely embedded in our language. Really, the way in which we use language says everything about our values and the world that we are trying to create and that we live in.” (From Meadville Lombard Ministry of Language Interview ) Identifying our pronouns isn’t new at UUCW. Two years ago, when Brianna Laux Kocis was our UUCW Community Builder, she and the Membership Committee began offering nametags for all of us that had a place to write in our pronouns – and we also had sermons and educational materials about pronoun practices.
If you’re a heterosexual baby boomer like me, who takes it for granted that her gender identity and physical appearance match, the idea of telling people what pronouns I use for myself might feel strange. (It does feel strange, my friends!) But if you listen to people from the younger generations who have grown up with a much more expansive understanding of gender identity (as well as a much more expansive understanding of sexual orientation), why it’s important to identify our pronouns becomes more apparent. (Check out these videos to hear those younger voices: HERE and HERE.
Here’s the thing: if I make an assumption about someone’s gender based on their name or physical appearance, and my assumption is wrong – it’s hurtful. And at church, hurtful means that the person does not feel welcome, understood, and they may even feel that they are in danger. The core of the matter is that if we ALL identify ourselves with our pronouns, then no one feels singled out, targeted, or abnormal. It’s also true that at UUCW we want to welcome younger people – and this is one small way to create a more welcoming atmosphere. I believe that the presence of our wonderful Rev. Denise Cawley, a younger-than-Boomer, person of color, queer minister will help UUCW be more attractive to younger people as well. But I have to confess that I find it interesting that the rumblings about identifying our pronouns are rising up now, just as your heterosexual, white Boomer minister is leaving, and Rev. Denise is continuing on in ministry with you.
So here’s what I encourage you to do. If you are feeling uncomfortable about this use of pronouns, I hope you will make friends with your discomfort. Invite it to sit beside you and have a conversation. What does it want? Where is it based? Perhaps the changing world is making you feel old? I know that’s happening to me – I feel like I can’t quite keep up with changing technology, ideas, culture… Does your discomfort simply want to remind you that you can learn and stretch just a bit farther?
We live in anxious times, my friends. I’m sorry that I won’t be here to experience all the beauty you create at UUCW rolling forward. But I trust completely that you and UUCW will be well.