October 2022 Minister’s Column

Dear Ones,

In my September 18 sermon on belonging, I spoke about the challenge of learning to ask for help. I quoted a passage from Emergent Strategy, the 2017 book by writer, activist, facilitator, and organizer, adrienne maree brown. In this passage, brown talks about learning to ask for help. It wasn’t easy. It took practice. There were a lot of cultural norms around not sharing that got in her way. But she learned to ask, even when she knew there was no way she could return the favor to the person helping her. It changed her life. She writes: “The result of this experience is that I feel so much more woven into the world. I still anticipate independence, my default can-do self space. But I don’t want to sever any of this connecting fabric between myself and all of the incredible people who held me … saw me, corrected me, held me in my contradictions, met my needs. I want more of my life to feel this interdependent, this of community and humanity.” (I highly recommend this book!)

In a similar vein, I’d like to share with you some words from How We Show Up: Reclaiming Family, Friendship, and Community, by Mia Songbird, another writer, activist, facilitator and organizer. She quotes Amoretta Morris (a wise woman she knows), who wrote: “It’s okay to ask for help. In fact, by doing so, you are taking part in the divine circle of giving and receiving. While we often focus on what the request means for the asker/recipient, we should remember that giving can be transformative for the helper…. By not asking for help when you need it, you are blocking that flow.” Mia Songbird adds: “This is one of the most liberating things I’ve ever read. We have a responsibility to each other to ask for help when we need it. Instead of listening to the fictitious lone wolf in us, we must listen to the wolf in the pack, and tap into the impulse that moves us to co-create opportunities for mutuality, opportunities to care for and be there for one another.” (I highly recommend this book!)

I’m going to continue talking about asking for help, naming our vulnerabilities, addressing our feelings of isolation, etc. As we move more fully into this post-pandemic era, our congregational community will benefit as we learn to ask for, receive, and give help. I suppose this ties in nicely with our ministry theme for October: courage. As I said in my September 18 sermon, asking for help, confessing our vulnerabilities, naming how we don’t feel like we fully belong—these are not our natural inclinations. They require practice. They require intentionality. They require courage. But the benefit, as both adrienne maree brown and Mia Songbird point out, is that we live more fully into interdependence. We feel more secure in the world. And that matters.

For now, if you’re feeling isolated, or if you’re living with vulnerabilities that you have trouble sharing, I encourage you to tell someone at UUS:E. Tell me. Tell a member of the Pastoral Friends Committee (Sally Gifford, Ellen Williams, Sid Soderholm, Sue McMillen, Gene Sestero, Ann Stowe, Peg Darrah, Laurie Semprebon). Tell someone to whom you feel close. It very well may take courage. Indeed, such feelings are often difficult to name openly. But naming them gives others a chance to respond in creative ways. And even if there is no way for us to fully address how you feel, at least someone else will know. You will be seen, held, loved. And that matters. Take courage friends!


With love,

Rev. JoshRev. Joshua Pawelek