Author Tony Hillerman writes, “The Navajo word hozro ... means a sort of blend of being in harmony with one’s environment, at peace with one’s circumstances, content with the day, devoid of anger, and free from anxieties.” Our task is to find our hozro, our way of living in harmony and in beauty. Harmony is a way of walking through life.
Harmony is our theme for this month in our church life. Harmony has been my preferred way to walk through life, and has been my way most of my life. My passion for racial justice has sometimes made this difficult for me in my ministerial life, as I have challenged myself and congregants to look at our complicity in continuing white supremacy culture. One part of my call to ministry has been from these infamous words, written interestingly by a newspaper person. “Our work is to comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable”. Any time you have diametrically opposing values, it is hard to do both.
At the annual Minsters’ Days at our annual UU General Assembly, one concept in honoring 50 year ministry talks brought me to tears, in a flash of recognition of myself and my call to ministry. I have spent much of my ministerial time afflicting the comfortable. This minister asked if we gave our congregants what they deserved. He was talking about that equally important call to comfort the afflicted. In churches we most often call that pastoral care.
I am so aware that I have not brought that part of my call to ministry to this congregation as much as was needed. I knew that moving the physical location to Bryan instead of College Station, would require our congregants and leaders to be more involved in Bryan, which is much more diverse than College Station. In my work and awakening in racial justice I have become aware that well-intentioned people can often still bring harm to minority populations. This is often called ‘intent versus impact’.
There are two main ways to change that impact – education and relationships. Learning about impact and harm done is challenging work. Well intentioned white people have to become aware of how little they understand about the lives and worlds of anyone who is not white. And yet, the saying "In life, understanding is the booby prize" by Werner Erhard, founder of est, keeps coming to mind and leads us to the second part of changing impact – through relationships. Relationships are hard work, and take time, effort, and a willingness to truly understand and accept that there are many ways to be in this world. Reading books written by Black people is a good way to begin. James Baldwin and Howard Thurman. Michelle Alexander and Daina Ramey Berry. For those savvy on social media, I highly recommend following my former congregant, Leslie Mac.
I was one of the many UU ministers who did not make a church match this year. My landlords needed for me to leave or sign a new lease. I signed a lease for another year here in BCS. I will work out with Rev Christian my presence in the community, and follow our guidelines of having no contact with former congregants. I hope to have a chaplain position, and continue working for justice. I am still officially contracted with UUCBV thru Aug 31. I will lead my last worship on August 2. I will take the last of my study and vacation leave those last two weeks in August, when Rev. Christian will have begun his ministry here on August 15.
I am honored to have accompanied this church in finding a wonderful site for its new church building, and being on the Sacred Space Team to help in the design of the church building and grounds. I realize now I didn’t recognize the grief work that still needed to be done around the loss of the former building and former identity, and frequent turnover of ministers. I pushed for you to go forward into the future, when there were present every day concerns that needed more care. Shared ministry between congregants and minister is essential to healthy church functioning, and requires everyone to stay at the table and work on common goals and values. I believe UUCBV is ready to move forward to a healthier future with a new minister and new lay leadership. BCS needs a UU presence. I wish you all the best, to be the church YOU want to be. I leave you with the words from the Prophet Micah, the second part of my call to ministry – Do Justice, Love Kindness, Walk Humbly. With sadness and gratitude, Rev. Donna