by Connie Goodbread, UUA Southern Region Congregational Life Staff
The emotional field is a medical term pertaining to the physical space around each of us that informs us about the world around us and how we should react to it.
The emotional field for organizations is the reality that each of us brings our personal emotional field into every relationship and every community we join. The combination of all those individual emotion fields make up the larger emotional field of community. The individuals in every community are interlocked in a system of emotional processes.
The same is true for nations and continents and a planet---at least this planet populated by human beings. As the Earth gets smaller and we come to know a lot about each other, we find ourselves connected in ways that were impossible in the past.
News, both true and false, screams at us all the time---look at me, look at me, look at me---and is maniacally focused on hatred, racism, and misogyny. These ugly sides of humanity are pretty rampant and leave us all sad, exhausted, and wanting to run for cover. Don’t think for a moment that the current emotional field isn’t having an effect on each of us and our congregations.
There is an Elie Wiesel story about a wiseman in Sodom. This is my version so I paraphrase. He preaches love and justice from a corner at the same time every day. In the beginning the people stop and listen. Then they begin to jeer and laugh at him. Then they begin to throw things. Then they ignore him all together, walking by as if he does not exist. All of this time there is a child who watches.
The child says, “Do you know that no one is listening to you?”
The man says, “Yes.”
The child asks, “Why do you keep preaching?”
He answers, “I used to preach to change them. Now I preach so they won’t change me.”
I share this story because if we are to stand, roll, sit, and fight on the side of love, then nothing can force us from that path. Therefore, even though the current emotional field is charged with ugly rhetoric and behavior, we stand on the side of love and we will not be moved.
Unitarian Universalism is a covenantal faith. Covenant is the binding of one to another in love. Therefore, how we do what we do makes all the difference.
The writing of a Covenant is only the beginning and, quite frankly, the easiest part. We are accountable to the deep abiding promises of love that we make to each other in Covenant. The Covenant is tested in practice. The test comes when the Covenant is broken. In order for us to come back into Covenant we must lean into one another, stay at the table, and work it out. If that cannot happen, someone is leaving.
Ugliness and hatred is all around us. Within our congregations, we should practice building the community that we would like to see exist in the rest of the world. Within our congregations, we need to learn how to lean in, and to practice deep listening and understanding. We should approach our differences (as the St Petersburg, Florida congregation says) with humility, curiosity, and humor. We need to learn to set healthy boundaries and expectations. We should not tolerate bullying, coercion, or manipulation---this is not the way of love.
We can make a great difference in the world, but don’t think that the work of making that difference won’t leave scars and test our courage each and every day. Thankfully we have one another and this fabulous faithful path of just loving and loving justice. I am grateful to have your hands to hold. I am grateful for this faith and discipline.