Rev. Cathleen Cox
Last month I had the privilege of facilitating a meeting with members of the congregation who met to share their views on what is best for UUCB regarding the future of Freestone. This is a topic which will be the subject of a congregational vote in the coming church year.
At the meeting, I saw how many good people on all sides of this issue have put in countless hours as well as heartfelt effort and devoted care into thinking about this question.
The focus of our time together was understanding the hopes, concerns, needs, and values motivating those who saw this issue differently. The goal was not for each side to present a case, which tends to build walls, but for each side, as well as those who are still questioning, to hear and listen to the perspective of those who are in a different place than they are, which tends to build bridges.
This is the most spiritually demanding work I know. No matter which part of my ministry of spiritual guidance I am engaged in – dealing with issues needing conflict resolution for individuals, couples, or congregations and their leaders – this spiritual challenge is always at the core. It’s present in your life too – and in mine!
To stay grounded in what matters deeply to oneself and also to open to what matters deeply to others is black belt level spiritual practice, whether in our individual or community lives. It’s also what saves us. It’s what brings us back together, what enables us to “walk the talk” – and live our covenants and ideals. There is no more powerful way to honor “the inherent worth and dignity of every person” or to build “a world community of peace, liberty and justice for all” than to renew again and again – as we all inevitably must – our commitment to listen with open hearts and minds, to speak both authentically and respectfully, and to reach to understand core needs and values that are driving others who see issues differently than ourselves.
Often we are surprised to find how much we have in common, and this happened at the Freestone discussion. Both those who believe it would be in the best interests of the future of UUCB to keep Freestone, and those who believe it would be best to sell it, as well as those who are still questioning and/or are interested in the possibility of finding some third way – all lifted up the importance of being guided by the mission of this congregation!
I always find it valuable to ask: What could this difficult thing be good for? What is there here for me to learn? How is the Spirit of Life moving through us in this moment? Where is the opening that can bring us through together? It often takes time and patience (more time than we wish it did!) to live into the answer. I invite all of us to hold these questions both in our individual lives and in our life as a community regarding whatever challenging situations arise for us.
I am grateful to the many people on all sides of the Freestone question who stretched to hold these questions with thoughtful care and open hearts in our time together. It was truly an honor to be with you. I am looking forward to our next time together in the fall.
With You on the Path,