As I quickly approach the end of my time as Unitarian Universalist Association president, The Parable of the Trapeze by the late environmentalist Danaan Parry has been much on my mind:
“Most of the time, I spend my life hanging on for dear life to my trapeze-bar-of-the-moment. It carries me along . . . and I have the feeling that I am in control of my life. But every once in a while . . . I see another trapeze bar swinging toward me . . . Each time it happens . . . I pray that I won’t have to let go of my old bar completely before I grab the new one . . . but you do it anyway because somehow to keep hanging on to that old bar is no longer on the list of alternatives.”
We have been living in the midst of challenging transitions for years. The pandemic upended so much, and too many bars we relied on simply disappeared. And yet the reality is that more change is ahead, in all the ways our world is changing and in need of change.
Inspired by this parable, I have been watching the breathtaking art of blind aerialists and disabled gymnasts whose grace and athleticism offers the same metaphors of letting go and risk and faith of Parry’s story. They also share what I have found to be the most potent wisdom.
Our values, our history and ancestors, our spiritual imagination of the Beloved Community—these give us momentum and draw us forward always
When the trapeze artist lets go, they do not free fall. There is momentum carrying them, as it carries us all. Our values, our history and ancestors, our spiritual imagination of the Beloved Community—these give us momentum and draw us forward always. And as a covenanted spiritual community, none of us are swinging alone. We belong to each other and are a source of strength and courage for the journey.
Parry ends his parable, musing that the transition zone is the only real thing and the bars are just illusions. He says these transition times are “the most alive, most growth-filled, passionate, expansive moments in our lives.”
I have witnessed this as our faith has grown through answering the call to dismantle white supremacy culture and deepen our practices of Beloved Community. It is shaping and changing us in powerful and beautiful ways. And for this I am grateful. Because in this world where so much is unsettled, we need communities willing to remain unsettled—willing to lean into the creative, challenging, sometimes messy, and powerful growth-filled space of faithfully becoming prophetic, lifesaving, and justice-making ministries.
It has been my profound honor to serve as your UUA president. And I am excited as we cross a threshold at this upcoming General Assembly, with the election of our next president. Alongside you, I am ready to reach that next bar.