Sorrow, Fear, Frustration and Hope
I feel so much sorrow. Between what is happening in the world right now, combined with the UTUUC staffing changes and financial situation, there is just so much to be sad about. And to be scared about. I am guessing that many of you feel similarly right now. And like me, I bet there is more than a little bit of frustration mixed in there for you, too.
In her new book Atlas of the Heart, Brené Brown breaks down emotions into places that we go when we have certain experiences. She identifies fear and anxiety as a place that we go when things are uncertain or too much. Yeah, there is a lot that is uncertain or that feels too much right now! She identifies frustration as a place that we go when something that feels out of our control is preventing us from achieving our desired outcome. And yeah, there is a lot that is out of our control. And Brown identifies sorrow as a place we go when we are hurting. And yes, there is so much hurt.
Brown writes “Throughout our lives we must experience emotions and feelings that are inevitably painful and devastating. In order to be able to cope with these situations, we must individually find explanations and justifications for having to endure this pain.”
The problem, though, is that sometimes our explanations and justifications turn to blaming others. If the staff never left, or if everyone else did their share, or if people had voted differently in an election, then we would not feel this way. It is helpful, in these situations to instead look at what is going on inside us. Often, what is happening to us is that we are feeling a complex mix of emotions tied to what we thought things were like or what we want things to be like.
Particularly at UTUUC in the past year, there have been a lot of losses and challenges to how we thought things were: The loss of a minister who was beloved to many, now the loss of two more cherished staff members; The loss of a sense that our budget, expenses and values were aligned; The loss of belief that everything was going just fine.
I wonder, what would it be like if we were able to acknowledge these losses, honor them, and, at the same time, see them for the opportunities they present? Let me tell you what is causing me to feel optimistic right now: Y’all have so many opportunities to be involved in the leadership and ministry of this congregation – to help make this community what you want it to be: the Caring Ministry, worship opportunities, leadership positions on committees like the new Stewardship Committee or Properties Committee. Plus, you have the opportunity to demonstrate financially (as you are able) how much the values held by this community mean to you. The eBeacon is full of ways to participate in the life of this congregation!
I am also excited and hopeful because even though the staff at UTUUC have been relatively stable, resignations and shifts in leadership are routine in the world outside congregation life. They present a time to learn, grow, keep what works and shift what doesn’t.
Additionally, I am excited to be working with the Board, the Finance & Investment Committee, and the Personnel Committee to bring in an Acting Director of Operations/Administration (title tbd) who has experience in UU congregations just this size, in just this state of transition, with similar challenges facing UTUUC right now. More about that coming soon, I hope!
And the Board! The UTUUC Board is AMAZING! It is filled with dedicated folks who go above and beyond, who are putting in hours and hours of work each week to lead the congregation through this challenging time. Please do take some time to share with them how much you appreciate their leadership – it is often a thankless position.
We can both mourn the loss of beloved staff people and look forward to what gifts and new eyes that new staff will inevitably bring. We can be both afraid of what will happen if we don’t meet our budgetary goals and excited to participate in creative new ways to fund this religious community. It is okay to feel sad, to feel scared, to feel frustrated – I feel some of those too. And at the same time, there is so, so much to be hopeful about. May we work together to ensure this congregation continues to be the place of care and community that we all love so much.