Communal care

Communal care is the living promise of faith communities. It encompasses all that we offer to each another and all that might come into being because of our choices to freely associate together over time. This is an idea born from activists who teach us to better our lives through acts of compassion for others. In communities and congregations, we know communal care as a type of interdependence. Our Unitarian Universalist Association holds us and resources the promises that we make to one another, just as our communities and congregations meet those promises by sharing their leaders and vision, promoting our values in the public square, and—perhaps most importantly—by attending to the spiritual needs and faith formation of individuals and families in ways that a national institution cannot. Communal care is a multidirectional commitment, one that seeks to minimize the impact of historical exclusion and build beloved communities with the capacity to hold us in our living. In these times it is critical to invest in greater equity for how these relationships can best serve all UUs. All of UU life can be thought of in this way.

Communal care is how we work for justice. It is how we teach one another and learn together. And it is how we resource our faith. Communal care is found in the small acts that tie communities together and it is found in the seemingly impossible visions we carry for the future, visions that can only be realized across the generations. Communal care calls us to become good ancestors, to provide a foundation of love and justice that will sustain those who are yet to come.

Collaborative leadership

Multiple task forces and commissions over the last fifteen years have called us as a national body to reengage and reconsider how we understand leadership in Unitarian Universalism. We have long emphasized the authority and agency of our individual institutions and congregations, and emphasized individualism in how we are in relationship with one another. Yet the Commission on Institutional Change reminds us that our historical agreements such as the Cambridge Platform emphasized our covenant to help one another stay accountable to the values that we hold in common. We benefit when power and authority are shared. And we rely on one another for help when we lose our way.

We have moved away from several leadership development structures in Unitarian Universalism over the years and are just beginning to replace them with new opportunities for growth. This has particularly impacted our youth and young adults, though they regularly model for us creative solutions for community building. It is time to shift some of the authority of the Presidency to other expressions of leadership in our movement. It is time for collaborative leadership that is nimble in how it promotes our collective well-being.

Facing the unknown together

We are facing an unknown future where daily life, religious community, human connection, and our relationship to Earth all are shifting in directions that we cannot accurately predict. As so often happens in times of uncertainty and upheaval, our worst human tendencies come to the foreground. We each carry stories of beauty, of communal care, and of living our values every day in this season. Yet history teaches us how quickly human communities can slide into cycles of violence following extended experiences of loss.

The faithfulness we have shown in encouraging others to live into the inherent human goodness that we teach and preach about is a heavier lift when collective trauma continues over multiple years. So we must create resources and tools for facing theological despair, for imagining new formations of Unitarian Universalism that meet the needs of our communities today. Together we will lean into communal efforts to care for one another; center a collaborative vision for Unitarian Universalism born of love, compassion, and justice; and trust that living those values in new ways can point us to a way through. 

The handmade textiles pictured on this page were crafted by Rev. Dr. Betancourt