There were a couple years in which I felt particularly crafty. I would print out blank cards with black and white chalices for my small children to color. Or we would make chalice stamps out of sponges or reused Styrofoam. The back of the card sported a simple chalice and the words:
Come recharge your spirit within our religious community.
<name of congregation>
<times of worship>
My children and I would keep these cards handy for times when we saw someone living out our Unitarian Universalist values and send them a thank you note. Often we’d gather around the Sunday newspaper and search scavenger-hunt style for our values in action. We’d make a list of people and note their good deeds or courageous decisions. We’d look up their address, write a thank you note, and then pop it in the mail. As our little project gained momentum we’d keep a stack of cards in our car and then leave notes in our wake whenever we were out in the community.
I noticed a positive shift in myself and in my children. We found what we were looking for. We found Unitarian Universalist values that we hold dear alive throughout our community. And we started feeling powerful and supportive in our witnessing.
I figured these good vibes would ripple out in some way, but I had no idea of the impact magnitude until I was at a community gathering. My towns mayor kept looking over at me throughout the evening and then final came over and asked, “Did I do something wrong? Have I offended you?”
“What on earth? No. Why?”
“Well, everyone on City Council has received a note from you in the past year except me…”
I gave him a bear hug and assured him that my children looked up to him and appreciated his job. I also made a mental reminder to send a note as soon as we could.
When the mayor notices, something is working. Witnessing, appreciating, thanking is powerful and transforming for both the sender and receiver.
Religious Education is in the noticing and the appreciating.
Note: If your social justice committee effort has become a checklist of issues, consider picking this effort as congregational justice making. It has real potential to breathe life and love back into a community.