Archive for October, 2010

Oct 27 2010

Season of Incarnation: Embodying Our Faith

Published by under Minister's Musings

Can you sense it? With our passage through the Day of the Dead on October 31, we have journeyed through the Season of Transformation with which we opened First Unitarian’s liturgical year. This is a wonderful time to pause, take stock, and begin to integrate all that we have learned together in recent months. What conversations, worship services, ministries, activities, consultations, and relationships have made a difference in your life since Homecoming Sunday? How have you been changed during these fall months, and how are you wanting to change?

Now, from November 1 through December 25, we celebrate the Season of Incarnation. In this season, we explore and practice ways to embody our faith. As the days continue to shorten, we settle deeper into our minds, hearts, bodies, and spirits; we continue to let go of old assumptions and patterns. We use meditative practices to allow our inner knowing to emerge. We ask, “How do we meet our spiritual needs in these bodies that we are given?” Gratitude and fun become spiritual practices, too! And we “try on” new ways of being—practices that can open and deepen our relationships across differences of all sorts.

There are so many ways in which we, as individuals and as a community, are “making Love visible.” We have talked about and experienced some of them this fall. In this newsletter, I offer a set of suggested spiritual practices that form a “covenant for dialogue.” What a wonderful way to “incarnate” our Unitarian Universalist values and principles!

This suggested covenant originates with a group called Visions, Inc. (, which specializes in facilitating multicultural growth and understanding. My colleague, the Rev. Leslie Takahashi Morris (co-minister of Mount Diablo Unitarian Universalist Church in Walnut Creek), recently helped me to think through these practices again. They are inspiring, intriguing, challenging, and hopeful; I have seen how they can transform groups of people into multicultural, multigenerational, “multidimensional” Beloved Community, communities of depth, inclusion, spiritual satisfaction, and delight. I hope with all my heart that you will join me in exploring these practices during our Season of Incarnation and beyond!

Can you sense it? A new season is beginning! Let us dive into it with all our minds, hearts, and bodies, discovering in the process what is longing to be born in us and through us. For that is what it means to participate in the Season of Incarnation!

With profound gratitude for all the ways in which you embody our loving and inclusive faith,   Nancy

Practices to “Try On”: A Suggested Covenant for Dialogue

Adapted from Visions, Inc., with thanks to Rev. Leslie Takahashi Morris and interpretations from Rev. Nancy Palmer Jones 

Try on ideas: If someone expresses an idea, opinion, or point of view new to you or different from your own, try it on; try to see it from within that other person’s perspective.


Practice both/and thinking: In this culture, we often practice either/or thinking, believing that ideas, situations, plans, and so on can only be “this way” orthat way.” What happens if both ideas—more than one plan or situation or perspective—can be meaningful, valuable, true? What kind of creativity and collaboration can be unleashed by both/and thinking?


It is OK to disagree, but not OK to shame, blame, or attack another person: We will surely disagree; this is natural, and we may even come to better ideas or deeper understandings because of our disagreements. Let us learn to sit with disagreement, even if it feels uncomfortable. Shaming, blaming, or attacking another is not OK. What feelings might cause us to express ourselves in shaming, blaming, or attacking mode?


Use “I” statements: Let us speak from our own personal experience rather than speaking of another’s experience or generalizing about a group, whether that group is our own or another’s.


Take responsibility for your own learning: If there is something that you do not understand, ask for clarification. Seek out sources of new learning. Come to the conversation with an “intent to learn,” rather than an “intent to control.”


Respect confidentiality: It is good to share our learnings and experiences from dialogue with others, but it is not OK to share another’s story and to name that person unless that person gives specific permission to do so.


It is OK to be messy: Real dialogue, especially when it takes place across various kinds of differences, will be messy—inconclusive, sometimes uncomfortable or unclear, not all “thought out” or logical. Welcome the messiness as a sign of authenticity and honesty. Practice bringing to the conversation a spirit of compassion and flexibility.


Step up / step back: If you are a person who often remains silent in group conversations, step up to share your experience and perspectives. If you are someone who often speaks in such conversations, step back to leave space for others. Be intentional about both contributing to the conversation and sharing the “air space.”

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