Warm and Welcoming?

At first, these questions seem impossible for me, as a Unitarian Universalist minister, to speak to. But then again, our work in the world is dependent upon finding solidarity with those who know who they are and understand how they are called to identity and justice.

Knowing who we are means knowing who our people are, finding a community where we can live into our best values – that is the community of harmony and resonance, a place where we are loved, and loving, no matter what our flaws or struggles might be. Living into our values includes working, reflecting, and studying, but also relating to others, because our individuality, no matter how valuable it is, simply cannot shape us the way that community can. This first form of community to which we belong helps us form a core identity, but it is never enough.

We also need people who are different from us, people with whom we may have some things in common yet who see the world from perspectives different from our own. We need those people – whose values are the same as ours or so nearly adjacent to ours that we share them, but whose perspectives are different from ours – so that we are challenged to expand our own world view.

This second form of community, when embraced with integrity and genuine respect, leads us to a deepening of reflection, both for ourselves and for everyone involved – a greater effectiveness in building a more just world; and a wider understanding of who we are, and how we might be together.

Put more simply, we all would be better off if we could be even more authentically who we are, while being in respectful, creative relationship with each other.

I believe that if the divine exists at all, it must be larger than our understanding, more compassionate than our hearts, and would surely welcome all forms of belief and non-belief, for creation has brought forth all varieties of people, and the nature of the creator is to love its creation.

With that said, I serve many congregants who hold a Jewish identity alongside their Unitarian Universalist congregational involvement or membership. We each have the right to define ourselves, and we each have the right to change our minds.

Frankly, I’m not sure I can tell anyone how to be Unitarian Universalist, much less advise anyone on how to be Jewish. But I can ask questions, and I can sit with questions others ask of me.

In finding the space between, and in entering that space together, the work of religion, of re-connection, begins.

– Reverend Jafarzadeh