Workshop invites UUs to ask, ‘Whose are we?’

“What transcends our small, individual being? Whose are we?” asked the Rev. Don Southworth, executive director of the UU Ministers Association, at the start of a workshop on spiritual discernment and theological reflection.

The Rev. Burton Carley affirmed that Unitarian Universalist communities are centered not around belief but covenant. “We come together to share right relationship rather than right beliefs,” said Carley. “Covenants allow for the trust and vulnerability that allows us to go deeper.”

The Rev. Laurel Hallman then had the assembled workshop participants get into pairs for an exercise. The first person in the pair asked the second, “Whose are you?” The second person would respond with the first answer that came to mind. The first person would then say, “God be merciful, whose are you?” This exchange would continue for five minutes and then each pair would switch roles.

After the exercise, participants were asked to share their reflections on the experience if they felt so moved. Several people reported being moved to tears by the exchange. Many described a feeling of deepening or expanding during the exercise as both the act of naming and the act of listening and then responding with a blessing made the experience especially meaningful.

Responding to these comments, Hallman said, “It is important to be blessed and it is important to bless.”

A few participants spoke to their struggle with the language “God be merciful.” Another participant mentioned difficultly with the phrase “whose are you?” saying that in implying ownership in a relationship.

Hallman and Carley affirmed these concerns and encouraged participants to engage with the language anyway, speaking to the importance of metaphor in articulating our spiritual lives. “We [humans] are wired for metaphor,” said Carley. “The worst thing we can do to a metaphor is to make it literal.”

The “Whose are we?” workshop was developed within the UUMA for use at collegial gatherings. The workshop had such enthusiastic response among ministers over the past few years that the UUMA wanted to bring it to a broader Unitarian Universalist community as a means of deepening spiritual conversation in our movement.

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