From the Board: February 2022

Each month, a member of the board will share a reflection on the Soul Matters monthly theme and the state of the church. The theme for February is Widening the Circle. This month’s post is offered by Betty Hartnett.

In June 2020, the UUA Commission on Institutional Change published the report: Widening the Circle of Concern. It is the result of the UUA’s attempt to grapple with racism within its own UU realm, using many tools including testimony, focus groups, collaboration, an outside audit, surveys and social science research tools. During February’s Soul Matters theme, Widening the Circle, we are called to grapple with racism in ourselves and in society, our communities, our country, and our world.

As I reflected on this month’s Soul Matters theme, I began to think about how circles around groups or communities form. Do they form automatically when a group of people live near one another or when they share certain beliefs or values or goals or history, or a combination of these? Are people even aware of the circle around them? Do people sometimes purposely make a circle impossible to penetrate?

As a child, the first time I encountered a circle drawn was when a woman, White, newly married to a male resident, moved into our very small town of about 200 people. She was younger than many of the residents, pretty, friendly, thinner than most of the women, grew her hair long, and mowed her grass on Sundays (!). She was held at arm’s length by almost all of the neighbors and gossiped about by many. Even neighbors who generally didn’t like each other could find time to talk with each other if it included such gossip. She eventually left.

Why do we create these circles, perhaps better understood as walls? Is it threatening to have people who are different from us come near our circle? Why? Do we fear we’ll lose something? Are we protecting something? Is it jealousy? Is it fear of the unfamiliar or unknown that leads us to keep the circle rigid? Do these circles or walls somehow make us feel more safe or secure or superior? Do they prop up our convictions or our beliefs about ourselves? Or do we just not care enough about others who are not in our circle?

I would like to close by offering the following Soul Matters resource, a spiritual exercise called “How Can We Win?”. It speaks to some of the questions this month’s theme has been stirring in me:

You are invited to meditate and reflect on a powerful, brilliant and unfiltered response by activist and author Kimberly Jones to the protests surrounding the killing of George Floyd. Whether it widens your understanding or helps articulate your own pain and anger, it’s a perspective that has the potential to widen us all.

Center yourself before watching. Open your heart and mind to wherever Jones’ words, courage, anger and honesty take you. We suggest you set aside at least 30 minutes to journal your thoughts after watching. We also encourage you to watch it again with a friend and discuss it together.

How Can We Win, Kimberly Jones

Here’s an interview between Kimberly Jones and Trevor Noah about the video. It’s a perfect way to dig deeper:

Betty Hartnett
Member, UUCM Board of Trustees

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