How Big Is Our Tent

This week, I joined a small team of clergy in convening a “big tent” meeting of clergy around Modesto for relationship building.  We organized the gathering to address the growing divides in our country that the election revealed.  There was no agenda other than getting to know each other and speaking across the political, religious, and ethnic divides.  18 total clergy showed up: Liberal Protestant, Evangelical Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, and of course Unitarian Universalist.  We were 14 men, 4 women. 2/3  of the clergy were White, 1/3 were Brown or Black.  I sat in the meeting and was aware how reserved I was being– this was a group where I’m not sure where everyone stands on the legitimacy of women’s ordination for example, let alone a queer woman.   Who else was feeling tightly reserved?  Who else wondered how others would judge their humanity if we weren’t keeping our full selves so constrained?  How was the one Black pastor in the meeting feeling?

As Unitarian Universalists, we believe that our differences should be valued and embraced in community. We also believe in the inherent worth and dignity of every person. As the adage goes, “we need not think alike to love alike.”   But, there are limits to how much difference a community or meeting can hold.  Whose humanity is affirmed and valued? And whose is not?    In an ideal world, I would never need to choose whose humanity to support or affirm.  But in these strange post-Election days, I feel like I am being asked to choose.  For example, to be frank, I am far more concerned about the humanity and well-being of Mexican immigrants than I am about White Evangelical Christians


Remember to look up so you can see colors like these along our streets!

I am more concerned not because I think a Mexican immigrant is somehow better or more worthy than a White Evangelic Christian but because the humanity of the Mexican immigrant is far more threatened and un-affirmed by our broader culture.   Even a big tent ends somewhere.

I find myself wondering: are smaller tents the places where I/we should invest our energy?  The tents where gays, lesbians, Black folks, Brown folks, immigrants, and the White working class can enter, not needing to wonder if their/our humanity will be affirmed and respected? Maybe that’s not a smaller tent after all– maybe that “tent” is the biggest tent of all.

This Sunday: Waiting in Uncertainty
We humans struggle so much with uncertainty, even though uncertainty is the reality of every one of our days. In the moments when we feel the uncertainty, to what can we turn to soothe our anxious minds?  Worship Leaders: Rev. Darcy, Matthew Mason, and guest musician Sydney Gorham