Each month you can deepen your experience of our worship theme by engaging in the monthly spiritual exercise. If you are not part of the Soul Matters Circle, share your experience of the spiritual exercise with others on the “Friends of UCM” Facebook group, at coffee hour on Sundays, or even with your family and friends in your day-to-day life.

October 2019 Spiritual Exercises

Option A: Whose Are You?… All in One Place

We all know that belonging is not just about place, but people as well. Quaker teacher, Douglas Steer gets at this beautifully:

“The ancient question, ‘Who am I?’ inevitably leads to a deeper one: ‘Whose am I?’ – because there is no identity outside of relationship. You cannot be a person by yourself. To ask “Whose am I” is to extend the question far beyond the little self-absorbed self, and wonder: Who needs you?  Who loves you?  To whom are you accountable?  To whom do you answer?  Whose life is altered by your choices?  With whose life is your own bound up, inextricably, in obvious or invisible ways?’

It’s such a powerful and important truth: we are who we belong to. But it’s also a hard truth to remember. The world around us doesn’t help. Its focus is on becoming not belonging. It wants us to wake up every morning and ask, “Am I succeeding?” not “Who needs me?” “ Who loves me?” or “With whose life is my own bound up?”

So this month why not engage in a bit of course correction? Why not see what happens when who we belong to is front and center at the start of every day?

This exercise is designed to help with this. Here are your instructions:

  1. Clear off a space on a table, dresser, desk or shelf in your house.
  2. Over a few days or a week populate that space with pictures of people who come to mind when you ask yourself “Whose am I?” Find or print out the pictures. Add as many as feels right. Push yourself to think beyond the obvious answers: your family, your church community, etc. Treat the question as a meditation practice. Asking it each day will lead you to unexpected pictures: a mentor from your past, an unknown boy on the other side of the world suffering because climate change caused by us, those who have been exclude from our faith because of white-centered structures. Or maybe it will take you beyond people, to a pet from your childhood or that park you walk in every Saturday of the Fall.
  3. Once the space is filled with your chosen pictures, send another week or two using it as an altar of sorts. Pause briefly before it every morning. Or maybe more than briefly.
  4. Pay attention to how bringing your network of belonging changes your days. Journal about it. Discuss it with your partner or friend.

Note: You don’t have to do this exercise by yourself. Consider doing it with your partner or with your children as well.

Option B: Belonging to the Earth

When talking about belonging, one soon meanders around to the idea that we all belong to the Earth.  What is your connection to the particular plot of Earth on which you live?  Take some time this month to be outside around your home.  This might be a time of sitting and observing, or mindful walking. In walking around the neighborhood or the plot of land, note particular landmarks.  Use your various senses to pick up the sounds and smells of the place.  Ask yourself other questions, like, do you know where and when the sun is currently rising and setting on your horizon?  What plant or animal species also call this plot of land their home?

If you like, journal or take some notes during or after your time outside. Or different options might include doing a sketch or writing a letter to the plot of land on which you live. Share your writing, sketch or your reflections with a friend or loved one.   

Optional ways to take it further:

Consider doing some investigation to learn more about what that land might have looked like 20, 50, 100, or 200 years ago.

You might try walking barefoot on the earth a practice still done all over the world, and certainly by our ancestors that is showing some promising health benefits: Earthing: Health Implications of Reconnecting the Human Body to the Earth’s Surface Electrons.

Option C: Find Your Place in the Work of Belonging

Belonging always comes with blindsides. When we receive a generous welcome it’s hard for us to imagine and notice the ways in which that open door doesn’t work the same for everyone. Our faith is slowly waking up to the fact that we haven’t been and aren’t the “welcoming congregations” we aspire to be. This is especially true when it comes to race and systems of white supremacy. The gap between our intentions and impact remains painfully large. The work is urgent and large.

This exercise is intended to help you find your place in that large work. Below are a number of resources and discussions that speak to the work our faith is doing around de-centering whiteness. As we know, the work needs to be systemic, but in the midst of systemic work there is also personal work to be done. Identifying “your work” is as important as participating in “our work.” So during this month where we are all trying to “be belonging” for others, not just find belonging for ourselves, use the resources below to better identify and deepen “your work.”