I've been thinking about someone I knew in Divinity School. She'd come to Boston from Texas, and one day early on she decided to get the lay of the land by driving around a bit. She told me that as she drove she kept crying. She cried because her UU church in Texas -- the only one anywhere around -- met in the basement of a store in a strip mall. Around Boston, though, every town had a UU church, and they were often in a place of honor -- at the end of the town green, or at the top of the highest hill. She couldn't keep from crying to see this.
In the next days, weeks, months, I came to know that Unitarian Universalism was not just a good-time religion. My liberal religious, non-creedal faith sustained and saved. Whether it was the presence at her Memorial Service of many area Unitarian Universalist colleagues I had not yet met, or the theological reassurance of the prevailing goodness of existence despite momentary times of suffering, or the abiding emphasis on the fact that there can be meaning on the other side of anything (and we are the agents of finding it), or the awareness that all of this was not either a judgment nor a infliction on us personally, or the quiet embracing community who offered no magic words others but rather their comforting care, we moved through the passage of deep loss. Nothing was denied, nothing was explained away, nothing was converted into vengeance, nothing was made supernatural, nothing was done or said that would later linger as a vestigial remnant of either fear or doubt.
This all became all the more evident as the larger world, the world of the families of the fellow victims and the world of the larger community, tried to salve the wounds and bind up lives with pronouncements, prayers, judgments, and calls for retribution, all of which would have denied us our identities. Yes, we had suffered a loss, a profound loss, a gut-wrenching loss, but our Unitarian Universalism helped us see that we did not have to also lose ourselves in the process. We, life, existence, meaning, were all affirmed because our values and our community helped us walk the grief journey.
I’ve been saving this one for last because, well, it’s perhaps the hardest to believe.