During this month of February, we are exploring the two-fold theme of “Identity and Belonging.” These two concepts are really two sides of one coin, in a sense. Identity asks the question, “Who am I?” while Belonging asks the question, “Whose am I?” And there is in these two questions an inherent tension, the tension between the individual and the community, between independence and interdependence.
There are, of course, many aspects of one’s identity: gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, religion, theology, political affiliation, to name a few. I identify as cis-gendered female; lesbian; white; ethnically largely English, Scottish, Irish and Welsh; middle class; well-educated; Unitarian Universalist; progressive Christian; progressive Democrat; and from what I like to call the “Shallow South,” the culture of which is distinct from that of both the “Deep South” and “New England.”
Some of these aspects of identity we have in common, I’m sure. Others we do not. Diversity in UU congregations is not always very broad or apparent, but there are important differences between us, and those differences shape and are shaped by our experiences living in this world. We might be able to fairly assume that we have shared values, but we cannot assume shared points of view or opinions. Nor can we, during this electoral primary season, assume that we share political affiliations or that we support the same candidates.
In our communities, we strive to be like-hearted, but we are not always like-minded. And so we always have to tread a little carefully, mindful of potential differences (which are sometimes invisible). In fact, it is important, I think, to assume difference rather than sameness, and to be open to and curious about those differences. Diversity is a strength, after all. And the more we are able to safely share with one another those things that make us each unique, the stronger our communities can become.
I look forward to a month of reflecting with you on who you are and on what it means to belong. See you in church!