The Seven Principles don’t directly mention it, but memory is an important part of striving to be a justice-based community. The act of remembrance is the building block by which we understand the present and plan for the future. Through memory, we honor our personal truth, our experiences, and those of our shared community. It is how we tell our story.
Congregations, like all communities or families, are not immune from conflict. In recent years, multiple intersecting rifts shook our understanding of who we are, individually and together. In remembering, we feel the tinge of division, how we disconnected from people we love and care for. We wonder, will that feeling subside? Can we forget our differences and get along again?
I believe that an ethical and justice-based community like our own should not strive to forget, but to understand each other through our memory and to embrace that pain of disconnection. We are an interfaith community precisely because we believe we are better when we open ourselves to those who are different, not just through identity or practice, but also to how they think and feel. We strive to honor them exactly for the way they are. We remember to understand where we come from, to find both the places in ourselves that need healing, and the parts of our spiritual or emotional selves we are ready to grow into — for ourselves and for each other.
Our Work Is Changing
The Congregational Covenant of Right Relations manifests the community’s work to live into our shared values of justice and affirmation of all people in the face of division. Right Relation Team’s mission has been to develop more concerted ways to understand each other and live into the Seven Principles through a covenant reflecting our beliefs, our story, our memory.
The Team, in its charge to help us to live into our covenant together, understands that, as individuals and as a community, we are not the same as when we first began this process. Together we do not forget the conflicts, but grow from where they brought change, and so the Team evolves in the ways we aid the community’s growth. We do so not as enforcers of a particular idea of order, but as a group holding space for church members to remember and honor their own development in living into the covenant.
Our work shifts now towards building opportunities for each person to develop an understanding of how conflict is a means for growth. We will continue to support individuals who feel stuck in biases or complex relational dynamics to move from conflict to growth. Yet we remember and honor that through this process many have felt empowered, on their own, to transform situations through understanding and empathy. We plan to provide the community with more forums for listening to one another’s stories, topical dialogue spaces where we share our truths, and workshops in which we embrace those things outside our comfort zones to develop strategies for living into our Covenant in difficult times.
We are grateful for the trust and engagement the community has bestowed on us during these first years of building and living into our Covenant. I am excited to grow with each member of this community, not in spite of our conflicts or differences, but because of them. Together we can honor that growth by remembering not only the pain but the way we haven’t given up on the interdependent web between us.
— Aubrey Sassoon
On behalf of the Right Relations Team: Audrey Lyness, Alicia MacLennan, Vilma Ortiz,
Sue Stoyanoff, Linda vanLigten, and Cassie Winters