The holiday time is an interesting mix of things speeding up and simultaneously slowing down. There is always much to do, many gifts to share yet at the same time many hearts to (re)connect and spirits to lift up. For me, the change of seasons brings on reflective time and deep desire to share what life has given me this year. Perhaps by greatest blessing has been the opportunity to join my personal and professional values here at UUCC.
My story as a UU begins with the heart. More precisely, I met an amazing woman for whom Unitarian Universalism was central to her life. Once here, my journey wasn’t so much an education as a realization that this faith community gave voice and structure to the many beliefs that I already held. I “officially” became a UU more than 10 years ago when I signed the book at Unitarian Universalist Church of Fort Myers (UUCFM). I served in a variety of lay leadership positions at my home church. And while we were enthusiastic supporters of Black Lives Matter and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, we had very few BIPOC members or visitors. I watched and tried to learn how our faith was struggling to be open and inclusive of People of Color, including my own family.
Before coming to UUCC I had a long career in non-profit management in the performing arts. Working with actors, dancers and singers gave me an immense appreciation for the individuals who put themselves on the line for their passions. I also began to see the barriers they had to confront and the ways they were discounted and devalued. For these performing artists the expression, the instrument, and the individual are all the same. Whether dancing, singing, or acting the artist is the art. And it requires a tremendous commitment to practice, to craft and, most importantly, to openness and vulnerably.
Working in the arts also broke my heart because time and again I saw people embrace the performance as a larger social goal but ignore the artist, the process and the individuals in promoting those goals. I vividly remember arguing with a colleague that paying working artists $250 a week reinforced inequality and abused the passion of these individuals and was told “We’re not here to address inequality, we’re here to make theatre.” In the end, I loved being in the arts but ultimately found the disconnect between what we aspired to be onstage and the reality of the work to get there unsustainably incongruent with my values.
So a path of reflection and searching led me here, to UUCC. Here where the values are the work. Hard, messy, and complicated just like the beautiful individuals that make up this community. Because the something that we are creating is the community. We make a better, more inclusive, more just world thru the passions, expressions, and work of our community.
I recently attended a three-day training workshop for community organizers led by the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF), the parent organization of PATH and other social justice organizations in the region such as AIM, and BUILD. The experience gave me a lot to process around serving, participating, and leading but left me ultimately hopeful and energized by the opportunity to build and use people powered community in service of a better, more just world.
My final thought is gratitude and thankfulness to all in our community who have given me this opportunity to join you in this journey. To work together, move forward together, and even bump into each other in service to our principals and each other. Thank you for welcoming me into this community and giving me the opportunity to serve with you.