Minister’s Column May 2019

Dear Ones:

Our ministry theme for May is curiosity. We’ve considered this theme before. As I have preached, the human quality of being curious aligns very naturally with Unitarian Universalism. Our fourth principle, “the free and responsible search for truth and meaning,” implies that curiosity lives at the heart of our faith. We search because, at some level, we are curious about something we don’t know. Our emphasis on questioning conventional wisdom, questioning traditional theologies, questioning God, questioning authority, questioning the uses of power, questioning religious doctrine and dogma, questioning either/or, black/white, binary conceptions of the world—all of it implies that our liberal faith requires, even demands, a curious spirit.

As a parish minister, it has always been critical to me that the people I serve are curious about each other. Can we approach each other with a spirit of curiosity, with a sense of wonder? After all, that is the best way to build strong relationships within the congregation. I found this list of “curious questions” in a sermon I preached a few years ago. I commend them to you now as ways to get to know each other better. Consider these questions as tools for taking a conversation to a deeper level:

I’m interested. Can you tell me…?

I’m fascinated. How did you…?

I’m intrigued. How old were you when you decided…?

May I ask you about…?

I heard your sharing in Joys and Concerns. Can you tell me more about…?

Where are you from originally?

Who are your people?

Were you scared?

How did you get through it?

What have you learned?

You had this same operation. What can you tell me about it?

“One day at a time”—what does that really mean to you?

Do you miss her?

Do you miss him/her/them?

What’s next for you?

I’m curious. Tell me about yourself.

I’m curious. Tell me what you’re passionate about.

I’m curious. Tell me your story.

And as my colleague, the Rev. Marta Valentin asks, “How is your heart?”

Obviously, a person has to want to share, has to feel safe enough to share, must be willing to risk being vulnerable in that moment—our stories are so precious, our hurts so tender, our fears so raw. It may not be the right time to share. But I ask you to contemplate the difference in experience between a person who is invited to share some piece of their story and a person who never receives such an invitation. The former knows their story matters to someone, even if they can’t share. The latter cannot be sure, and may suspect they don’t matter.

Our curiosity about each other’s stories is a sign of our willingness to know, to hold, to love. Our curiosity about each other’s stories is the foundation of a caring congregation. It is also builds the relationships that provide the the foundation for our social and environmental justice work.

With love,

—Rev. Josh