Proximity is key in any of this necessary work: proximity across race, across faiths, and across cultures. Only by getting proximate can we learn about each other and live and serve and worship in a diverse world. This calls for a coming together across boundaries. This calls for interacting with folks we may not entirely understand and yet joining together with that holy humbleness to learn more. The aim is to learn more and to make connections. And in making connections to work towards the betterment of all. To white folks like myself, this means understanding privilege, without shame. Only with deep reflection and a willingness to get messy can we move forward together in this sacred work.
In an effort to promote discussion and awareness on race and ethnicity, I embraced the opportunity to co-facilitate Beloved Conversations at First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis and White Bear Unitarian Universalist Church. Through these experiences, I was able to guide groups of people through an exploration of race and ethnicity. In doing this work, I saw a progression of awareness in those involved.
This connection and boundary crossing extends to our interfaith colleagues as we work to build a better world together. Our UU faith demands that we love partners of any faith and work together intentionally to better the world. Whether standing in a vigil at a bombed mosque, listening to a Christian pastor lead a rally lamenting the racist laws that severely impacted his family, or sitting in a classroom as Christians and Jews learn to worship together, we need these connections to build a better world. I see this in today’s political climate as we navigate hate and fear and attempt to serve those suffering.
I learned about the importance of proximity when I traveled to the clergy days at Standing Rock to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline. I traveled there with 500 other clergy members from around the nation. We used our presence to bring attention to the issue at hand: the drinking water of the Sioux tribe was threatened. It was important to remember that we were there to support the work led by the Sioux people. We were present to be in solidarity with the Water Protectors of the Sioux Tribe, to stand beside and not to lead. Together we prayed, sang, ate, and bore witness. By getting close, we grappled with the real, lived experience at hand.