Dependent Pause

Dependent Pause

At the start of this week I observed one of my personal high holy days — July 2. This day each year is important to me because it is the precise middle of the year — the 183rd day. 182 days down, 182 days to go. It’s a moment to pause and to consider. What have I done? What do I want to do, hope to do? What am I willing to do? What seeds have I planted that I hope will bear fruit in the next part of the year? What soil has not been overturned, where has my attention not been drawn? What am I embracing? What am I avoiding?

What if what I am embracing and what I am avoiding are the same thing?

It strikes me as fitting that I sit to write this weekly pause for reflection on July 4 — Independence Day. An important and complicated day in the history of this deeply complicated nation, that I love with the kind of love that often feels both unsettled and unsettling: How can I keep loving you when I know what I know? How much do I still not know about your history, all that you have left in your wake and all those who have suffered to bring about your existence — acknowledged and unacknowledged? How can I be a part of something that feels so fraught and fractured? If I admit I am inextricably American, that this nation formed and shaped me, how complicit am I in all it has done and all it has damaged? How much pride can I take in the times where we did get it right, where we did make the strides that have changed the face of human history?

What if what I am embracing and what I am avoiding are the same thing?

Community is complicated.
My relationship with community is complicated.

Right now I write to you as both a member of the UU Congregation of Columbia, Maryland, and also as the minister serving the UU Congregation of York, Pennsylvania. Both these roles exist in a liminal space: I am not able to be a fully contributing member of the Columbia community because of my geographic distance and my role in York; I am not able to be a fully contributing member of the York community because that is not the task of the minister and because my time here grows short (my contract ends next year and I will be searching for a new position at the start of 2024).

The task of the minister is to serve the community and to lead — with heart, by example, even, and especially when that example is falling short of the mark and trying to enter the work of repair with honesty and forthrightness — that community towards a deeper understanding and faithful grounding of its work in this hurting world. In this hurting nation.

The task of the community member is to lead with love, to take the examples presented to heart, to engage in the ongoing work of community with honesty and forthrightness, a willingness to admit when one is wrong and one’s community has done wrong, and a desire to celebrate all that connects us without diminishing the importance of that which separates us.

This work can be lonely work. The work of being human, I mean, before we even add in all that minister stuff. And so, we gather. We come together in spaces specifically created to be sacred and those made so by our presence. By our shared laughter, tears, stories, and songs. We celebrate the sacred “yes” of community at the same time as we celebrate the sacred “no” that allows us time for rest, reflection, and renewal.

What if what I am embracing and what I am avoiding are the same thing?

Beloved community, let us be unafraid to declare our shared spaces and times as sacred, and let us not avoid examining the places where we fall short of what that sacredness asks of us. Let us say yes to the complication of the communities we are a part of. Let us say no to the pressures that tell us there is not time to rest or renew or reflect. Let us move together to embrace our complicated human selves and our communities, our independence, and our interdependence. May we rest, may we renew, may we reflect — and may we arise to the work. May we arise.


  1. Suzi Gerb

    We miss you Jen. Hope your career in the Wide World is blossoming. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  2. Kathy Parker

    Hi Jen… I don’t know you at all, really. Maybe someday I will know you better. This message from you is quite lovely. Thank you so much for taking the time to pass it on to us!

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