“Compassionate Hearts Breaking and Stretching”

Our hearts are breaking and stretching as we try to hold the pain near and far that is erupting from Hamas’ attack on Israeli civilians on October 7 that has now led to the Israeli-Hamas war with terrible loss of life in Gaza and Israel. Yet even this most recent unfolding tragedy is a brief part of a much longer story of struggle, violence, and loss among the Israeli and Palestinian peoples. There is no simple or one-right-way to tell this story. 

The pain and complexity of this moment is a brutal teacher that not one of us has the one right view, no matter how deeply we may feel we are the one who knows best. 

As your Minister, I am in relationship with Jewish and Muslim leaders, colleagues, and UU members near and far. Each one is hurting, each one has a vision and a perspective. Not one is the same. I am reminded that each of these beautiful people needs my compassion far more than anything else I might offer. Let this be a reminder to each of us as we confront this pain in ourselves and one another, that what we need most is our compassion. As a mom, some of the hardest conversations I have had are with my own children. I want to explain this to them, to help them make sense of it. But this situation defies easy explanation. I remind myself that what they need most is compassion and I find consolation in my ability to give them at least this. 

As your Director of Religious Exploration, my heart is with you and your families. Our children and youth may be hearing about violence from others in their communities or on the news, leading us to initiate tough conversations when we do not yet have the right words. I know this is a challenging time to balance all the emotions that may be present at once. All of these feelings are valid, and helping young people name and express their emotions is an important part of this process. As UUs we can enter these conversations by tending to ourselves, responding with curiosity, and prioritizing the humanity of all. 

As your Youth and Young Adult Coordinator, I do not have easy answers.  The violence and pain hurt my heart as they hurt yours.  In the midst of this heartbreaking time I remind myself that our strength lies in connection.  I am reminded of the words our youth shared in their service last year, that we need not think alike to love alike.  I am grateful and honored to be in community with you and to hold a safe and loving space to process the emotions and ask the questions that this crisis raises.  I encourage us all to lean into our UU values and to hold room for compassion both for others and for ourselves.

Sitting with this pain, not knowing simple answers of what to think, what to do, or what to say, what are we called to do? We are called to be present to one another in this pain, to listen with open hearts, to bear witness to suffering and to longing. And we are called to live our values.

Although we each may not know the “right” thing to do or say, we can rest on the shared values of our faith. In these times of grief and heartbreak, we can lean on our values as Unitarian Universalists. As UUs, we believe in the inherent worth and dignity of every human being. As part of the interconnected web of life, we are joined together in the world community, with compassion and hope leading our hearts. Even when peace seems impossible, we can still work for it. 

In the midst of this tragedy, let us join in prayer with the Rev. Dr. Sofía Betancourt, president of the Unitarian Universalist Association, who writes:

“I pray for the people of Israel and Palestine. I pray for leaders around the globe who must respond to this latest flare of violence and the untenable ethical considerations that abound. I pray for Muslim and Jewish UUs who experience the impact of this long strife acutely. I pray that those of us less likely to know the trauma of unending brutality and harm will not turn away from generational loss, from the devastating realities and their root causes, or from the relentless tragedy of war and occupation. Be gentle with yourselves when you need to be, but do not turn away unless you must. We are one global family living tenuously on the same human-impacted Earth. Let us center ourselves in justice as we call for peace.”

In Faith and Compassion,

Rev. Dr. Pippin Whitaker, Minister; Kahla Childers, Director of Religious Exploration; Meredyth Howard, Youth and Young Adult Coordinator

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