A pastoral letter to Black UUs

A pastoral letter to Black UUs

How is it with your spirit today? Today, my spirit is struck by grief.

Lauren Smith
Stock photo of a group of black folx holding hands praying in a circle, photo taken from below.

© Delmaine Donson/iStock

© Delmaine Donson/iStock


“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.” —Maya Angelou

I write to you today as a Black Unitarian Universalist, a Black woman, a Black mother, and a Black minister. How is it with your spirit today? Today, my spirit is struck by grief. I trust in the possibility of change, and I know that there is a place for me in bringing about that change. But the grief is deep.

Underneath grief and anger, there is a fierce love that is a saving grace.

I don’t know how it is for you, but I love being Black. I love Black skin—all the varieties of it—and Black hair and Black voices. It’s a pleasure to be a part of communities so beautiful and diverse—communities that have encountered a world of sorrow and have countered with creativity and intellect and embodied resilience. It’s an honor to be part of a lineage that includes Ella Baker and James Baldwin, Michelle Obama and my Granny Inez, Audre Lorde and Jimmy Cliff. The well of my grief and anger is deep, but the well of my love and gratitude is deeper still. Blackness is a healing balm.

What does it mean to survive when so many of us have died recently, unable to breathe? George Floyd and Eric Garner before him killed by a broken system of policing, tens of thousands of Black people killed by COVID-19. Then there’s the economic devastation due to the pandemic, which is ravaging our communities, and the pervasive violence visited on Black trans folks. Tony McDade, I say your name. The roots of these traumas extend down through the centuries. I have to remind myself often to breathe, a practice I learned years ago from healers who understood deep truths about recovery from trauma.

Not long ago, one of my colleagues at the UUA posted a “Five Senses Meditation,” helpful for people experiencing anxiety. I share it as a gift, adaptable to whatever senses are available to you. It begins with the breath.

Find a quiet place and take a few deep breaths.
Then notice five things you can hear
Four things you can see
Three things you can feel
Two things you can smell
One thing you can taste

Take a few more deep breaths.

As you navigate these days, as you discover how to take care of yourself and those you love, how to participate in movements of liberation, may you carry with you the gift of your breath, the beauty of your being, the miracle of your living body, and the vibrant legacy of our elders, ancestors, and communities.

Take care, dear folks,


Spiritual resources for Black UUs: The Black Lives of UU Ministerial Network is a collective of Black UU ministers, religious professionals, and lay leaders providing pastoral care to Black UUs. Black folks, UU or otherwise, requesting pastoral and/or spiritual care can find out more at blacklivesuu.com/bluumin-officehours.