Grace Notes: Nov 11, 2023 – Rev. Kimberley Debus

Here we are again, facing a great deal of uncertainty, horror, and frustration. The world just isn’t letting up, and again we are wondering what the other shoe is that’s going to drop – because we have pretty good proof that it is. (Whoever is in charge of that metaphor must be a cobbler, because there’s always a shoe to drop.)

And of course, the violence in the Middle East is on top of the invasion of Ukraine, threats in our own nation, state, and communities to our safety, democracy, and security.

Our spirits are tired and aching, as much as our bodies, and as much as our minds as we try to make sense of all the things, some of which we feel deeply – in some cases in that way that generational trauma shows up. And certainly the conflict in Gaza evokes deep generational trauma.

We want to understand what’s happening. We want to know who’s in the right and who’s in the wrong. We seek some kind of answer in a world that is loathe to offer them, and are frustrated when we can’t seem to get a handle on it.

But in our need for some kind of answer, we often turn to applying control onto those things we can control. We don’t know what to do but we should do something, so we often rush in to do something, or we hold on tight to the thing we can do – not because it’s necessarily the right next thing, but it is something. Even if it may cause more harm.

Our instinct is to to apply technical solutions to what are, in fact, adaptive problems.

I’m talking about this, because I realized in myself and others that as we wrestle with the horrific loss of life in Gaza and seeing a rise in violence in the US from antisemites and islamophobes, we want to respond with clear action, right now, here in White Plains.

We are holding tight to the things we can control, yet so much of this is out of our control.

So what do we do?

It’s a question I’ve been wrestling with for the last few weeks – and I’ve been in conversation with folks here at CUUC and with ministerial colleagues across the country. And we are all struggling to know exactly what to do – or even what to say.

So I may err a bit, but here’s what I think is true:

Individually, your Unitarian Universalist faith may be calling you to certain actions, from urging elected officials  to work for peace, or volunteering for particular organizations, or attending rallies, or whatever action your faith leads you to. You may want to learn more, or make decisions about your position that feel just and compassionate.

As a congregation, we must prioritize relationships and engage in a learning process that helps us collectively be more effective. Just as the Racial Justice Team spent time leading us in study and learning best practices for addressing racism against blacks and other people of color, I’m asking them to do a similar process – one we’ve already begun.

We have copies of a book about antisemitism, Jews Don’t Count by David Baddiel, already available – with a discussion group planned for late January. We are also seeking a similarly accessible book on islamophobia, which we will also make available and engage a discussion group.

In December, Rev. Paul will lead a Difficult Conversations listening circle, for people to share and connect over this issue.

And we are slowly receiving resources and materials from the UUA to help us hold each other in relationship and do the work of justice in ways that do no harm to each other while also doing our part to bend the moral arc of the universe toward justice.

This isn’t easy. We are most assuredly in the worst timeline.

I want people to stop terrorizing and kidnapping and killing other people. And. I want to make sure that we are not trying so hard and going so fast because of our own fear and trauma that we harm our relationships with one another.

I think I’m right about this. Let’s stay in conversation.


Rev. Kimberley