Worship Script 3
Worship Script (3 of 5)
Living the Question of Identity
“Amid All the Noise In Our Lives” by Tim Haley
Amid all the noise in our lives,
we take this moment to sit in silence --
to give thanks for another day;
to give thanks for all those in our lives
who have brought us warmth and love;
to give thanks for the gift of life.
We know we are on our pilgrimage here but a brief moment in time.
Let us open ourselves, here, now,
to the process of becoming more whole --
of living more fully;
of giving and forgiving more freely;
of understanding more completely
the meaning of our lives here on this earth.
HYMN #123 Spirit of Life
“We Never Know Who We Are” by Margaret Wheatley
We never know who we are
(this is strange, isn’t it?)
or what vows we made
or who we knew
or what we hoped for
or where we were
when the world’s dreams
Until the day just one of us
sighs a gentle longing
and we all feel the change
one of us calls a name
and we all know to be there
one of us tells a dream
and we all breathe life into it
one of us asks “why?”
and we all know the answer.
It is very strange.
We never know who we are.
“I Realized” by Kayla Parker
I realized I was a woman, or more precisely at the time, a girl, the day in first grade I noticed boys were looking up my dress when I was on the monkey bars. I started wearing shorts under my dresses. I now prefer pants.
I realized I liked other women when I was nineteen and noticed I was heartbroken when my friend, who burned a hole in my jacket with her clove cigarette the year before, was no longer in school. I started kissing a lot of people; I now have an amazing girlfriend.
I realized I was white when I was twenty-two and noticed the invisible backpack of privilege I carried around. I started reading a lot about race. I’m still reading now, and am adjusting my actions and interactions accordingly.
This, of course, is not an exhaustive list of my identities. I could add cisgender and middle class; I could add daughter and lover. When I look at my many identities, I am struck by how old I was when I truly realized the privilege of being white, and how young I was when I understood the oppression of being a woman. Although the discrimination I faced because of my gender hit me in the face pretty early, privilege is a part of my identity and a reality of my culture I could not have figured out on my own.
I am grateful to Unitarian Universalism for helping me develop and analyze my identities. This faith has helped me deal with the oppression I face, and realize the privilege I have. I am grateful that my religion has fostered and spurred my development and pushed me to develop aspects of myself as I could not have done alone. By growing older amid the support of this community, I have realized many aspects of my identity. I am still growing into them. I’d like to think that I’m a more out queer woman last year than I was five years ago, a more racially aware white person this year than I was last year, and that I will be a stronger woman tomorrow than I am today.
The sad yet relieving truth about all of these identities is this: I’m not good at being any one of them. And I probably never will be. Yet it is helpful for me to think about these different aspects of myself, so I intentionally develop my different parts and maintain balance.
I am still growing into my many identities, and for that, I am grateful. I know I will never perfectly be any one of them, and so I’ll keep growing and getting better at being the intersection of them all.
HYMN #396 I Know This Rose Will Open
STORY FOR ALL AGES
Becoming Ourselves by Amanda Poppei
When I was pregnant with my second child, one of the things I was most curious (and anxious!) about was telling my first child the news of her expected sibling. She was three at the time, and I wasn't sure how much she would be able to grasp about the major change her life was about to undergo.
I was ready to answer any question she might have, honestly and age-appropriately. I started off by being as literal as possible. "Guess what?" I said. “You're going to have a sibling! There’s a baby growing in my tummy!" That seemed like a good start, though I was ready to switch over to the anatomically correct uterus if needed.
But my older child isn't a scientist, it turns out. She’s a philosopher, and so she asked the one question I hadn't prepared for.
"Oh!" she said. "Who is it going to be?"
"I don't know!" I said. "We're going to have to wait and see."
Isn't that always the way? We’re still waiting to see who that second child is going to be, although she's been with us for seven years now and is very much her own person. But she’s also changing and growing, becoming someone new all the time — as her older sister is, and as I am, and as you are.
Sometimes our becomings are dramatic: we realize that the gender we thought we were, or others thought we were, isn't correct after all; or we discover that the career we had planned or the marriage we had begun isn't really who we are, or is no longer right for who we have become.
Sometimes, though, our becoming is gradual, a kind of unfolding and changing and shifting over time. Always, it is lifelong. Which isn't to say we aren't already who we are—we are that, too. We are already ourselves, the minute we are born, and every minute thereafter. However long our lives end up being, even when they are cut painfully and tragically short, we are our full selves for every second, every month, every year of those lives. And we are also becoming ourselves, growing and stretching.
In the “growing” time of my life, my soul experienced something like the growing pains I remembered in my legs as a child. I became a minister; a mother; a middle-aged person. It’s usually been uncomfortable, and almost always inconvenient. The old me seemed fine, the one I was just yesterday; why bother with all this shifting? And yet when I come out the other side, I invariably think, Ah yes: this is the me I was supposed to become. This is who I am. Until next time. Who is it going to be?
Who are you going to be, today? And tomorrow? Who are we all becoming, together?
Spirit of life and love, come to me in this moment. Wrap around the fullness of me, the now-ness of me, the me-ness of me. Let me breathe in who I am, right now. Wrap around the fullness of me, and leave room. Leave room for the rest of me, the me I haven't yet discovered, the me I am becoming. Let me breathe in who I am going to be. Spirit of life and love, stay with me as I become.
“In the Silence” by Sara Eileen LaWall
Spirit of Life and Love,
In the silence
In the stillness
We hear the call of our own heart
Its tender dreams
Its sorrows and its triumphs
In the silence
In the stillness
We hear whispers of days gone by
Of dreams still becoming
The promise of the future
We celebrate together
Our individual journeys and dreams
And our collective ones
Knowing the journey is so much richer
With others to share in it.
In the name of all that is holy we pray.
CANDLES OF JOY AND CONCERN
Those who are so moved are now invited to come forward to light a candle, expressing a joy or concern in their lives. As you do, you may briefly share what it is. We ask that people coming forward speak for no more than a sentence or two, and speak from the heart about issues in their lives, rather than political issues, which we can take up at coffee hour or in the parking lot.
Who Am I?
By Seth Carrier-Ladd
If asked to answer the question “Who am I?” – how would you answer? No context, no setting, no defined purpose for asking, just the question: who am I? If you haven’t already, stop reading and take a moment to think about it, right now. What would your answer be? Who are you?
* * * * *
Identity is such a tricky thing – it’s fluid, and our answers to the question of who we are both change and don’t change over time. Ten years ago, I wouldn’t have answered “minister,” but now that’s a central part of who I am. Five years ago, I wouldn’t have answered “husband,” but my marriage is now a central part of my life. Three years and one week ago, I wouldn’t have answer “father,” but now parenting is a central focus of my day-to-day activities. On the other-hand, male, straight, white, and Unitarian Universalist are all identities that have remained a constant throughout my life. Even those though – my understanding of them has changed over time. For example, I have a much more nuanced understanding of my whiteness now than I did ten years ago. And the way that I am Unitarian Universalist in the world has evolved considerably across my lifespan. So even my relatively “fixed” identities have changed. And yet, despite all this change, I still feel like the same me at my core. A changed me, but me nonetheless.
And, there are other ways to define ourselves still. When I paused just now, to answer the question “who am I?” the first response that came into my head was “I’m someone who is committed to learning and growing throughout my lifetime.” That’s a value, a belief. It’s not the only way I identify myself, but in this moment at least it felt like the most important. There’s also of course parts of identities that we might consider of lesser import or weight – for example, I’m also someone who loves science fiction and fantasy novels, I’m also a Boston sports fan, and I’m also a technology enthusiast. I wouldn’t say those are “the most important” things to know about me, but they’re part of who I am.
Then there’s the value in our identities to consider. I’ll never forget the sermon I heard, as a layperson attending my UU church in Philadelphia, from a UU minister who was serving as the director of a retirement home. She lifted up her concern for the folks she was working with that they seemed to have lost value in the eyes of so many in our society because they were no longer working. One of the first questions we typically ask when we get to know people is “what do you do?” with the clear assumption being that everyone has a job. Which is why if someone is answers that question by saying they are a stay-at-home parent, or they currently unemployed, the ensuing conversation often feels awkward. Our culture places value on, and assumes that we all are, working. This minister shared with us how she was aware of how often her clients seemed to be diminished by no longer having a “culturally valued” job – not just in interactions with others, but also in many cases just in life in general, and challenged us to remember everyone’s inherent worth and dignity.
Which parts of your identity are valued most by our American culture? Which parts of your identity do you value the most yourself? Is there ever any conflict or tension between the two?
As we embark on our exploration of our April theme of Identity, I hope you will join me in wrestling with these questions and more. Our identities change over the course of time, sometimes by intentional choice, sometimes by natural evolution, and sometimes against our will – think loss of a job or loss of a spouse, among many other possibilities. Taking the time to name our identities, and to think about which ones have value for ourselves, and in our culture, can help us better understand who we are and what is most important to us in our lives. And it can help us better understand and deal with threats to our identity, as well as help us better navigate identity transitions.
May we engage in identity exploration together this month with intention and thoughtfulness, so that we may deepen ourselves, each other, and our community.
HYMN #1064 Blue Boat Home
Closing Words By the Youth by Anyonomous
We are never complete. We are never finished. We are always yet to be. May we
always allow others to be, and help and enable each other to grow toward all
that we are capable of becoming. Amen