Everywhere, this time of pandemic and uprisings is offering us lessons that we need to carry forward.
As I write this column, we just finished our first-ever entirely virtual General Assembly, and I am inspired! Gathering virtually with nearly 5,000 Unitarian Universalists was powerful. The experience of connection, community building, learning together, sharing worship, and taking action together to call over 117,000 voters with UU the Vote was remarkable.
As we contemplate a year of virtual gatherings, we have an opportunity to partner across congregations and share ministry in ways we know we’ve long needed and struggled to embrace. As we ready ourselves for changes in the wider world, we must begin to change our ministries and the ways we nurture our spirits within Unitarian Universalism. Models of religious life steeped in individualism, exceptionalism, scarcity, and competition will not meet this moment.
Everywhere, this time of pandemic and uprisings is offering us lessons that we need to carry forward. The science of the coronavirus reminds us that we are fundamentally interconnected, that our actions and ways of being impact the health and well-being of others. As we meet virtually and do ministry differently, we are discovering doors we did not realize were closed, and more powerful opportunities for pastoral and prophetic ministry.
The COVID-19 pandemic is the most significant and life-altering event of my lifetime. And there is a seductive urge to wish everything could return to “normal.” But what has become abundantly clear in this crisis is that we cannot go back. The deadly effects of what was considered normal, or business as usual, are undeniable.
We must be honest about how frail and corrupt our democracy is. Our democracy is under direct attack—and has been for a long time. What this means is that we ALL need to be ALL IN for systemic change that puts people first, that sees racism, xenophobia, poverty, ableism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, voter suppression, and climate destruction as one issue—a disease we must all organize to address together. So much is on the line.
Right now, many of us are finding ways to support the uprisings in the streets while also navigating the dangers of the pandemic. It is imperative that we all find ways to support the movement in the ways we can. We can offer organizing and support and activism from home. There are ways our buildings can support movement leaders and community care.
Now is the time to invest more of ourselves, our resources, our prophetic voices, and our pastoral spirits for a future where all can thrive, where no one is expendable. This is after all the vision of Unitarian Universalism. This is where our faith calls us.
And there is hope in this moment! Things that previously seemed too radical or impossible—universal healthcare, vote by mail for all, defunding police, decarcerating people from jails and detention centers—are gaining traction. Our powerful GA Ware Lecturer, Naomi Klein, made this case clearly: “The future will be determined by whoever is willing to fight and organize harder for their vision of a post-COVID economy. This is no time to lose our nerve.”
One of the key ways that Unitarian Universalists can show up is through UU the Vote. (See “All Hands on Deck” on page 9.) Rooted in our core values of equity, dignity, justice, compassion, and interdependence, UU the Vote is inspired by the movement of peoples across the world to push back against this deadly status quo. We need to give all we can to defend democracy, dignity, and liberation and to put people and the planet finally and resolutely above profits. We need to imagine and breathe life into the world we need to survive and thrive.
I am committed to this life-saving movement. I am committed to the life-saving role Unitarian Universalism can play in this time. I invite you all to be a part of this work. When this UU World magazine arrives in your mailbox, the November election will be just two months away. This is no time to be on the sidelines; we have got to be all in right now.
Will you join me? This is no time to go it alone! Let’s all help UU the Vote!
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The Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray is the ninth president of the Unitarian Universalist Association. She was elected in June 2017 to a six-year term after serving congregations in Phoenix, Arizona; Youngstown, Ohio; and Nashville, Tennessee. She lives with her husband, the Rev. Brian Frederick-Gray, and their son.