Introduction to Right Relations

by Louise Wilkinson

Many of you have likely heard the term “Right Relations” shared around – at least since our Summit in early February.  I want to tell you what it means and why it’s important.

Right Relations is a term used by the Unitarian Universalist Association to refer to a communications agreement, and communications skills and practices, used in congregations to build and maintain positive relationships between individuals and groups within the congregation.  It is part of the UUA’s support of “healthy congregations,” and it is also the foundation of the beloved community. The Ministerial Search Committee discovered that most ministerial candidates were surprised that we didn’t have a Right Relations covenant and had not gone through education that provides skills in deep listening, trust-building and caring ways of addressing conflicts.

Our congregation is going through many transitions, and people at the Summit in early February brought up the need for a covenant and skills around how we communicate with each other.  You recognized that conflict is normal and healthy, as long as it is within the context of love and trust.  You initiated the idea of bringing Right Relations into East Shore.  And our Mission of “building community” is now supported by the Vision of doing that through the “covenanted practice of spiritual and loving ways of addressing our conflicts and differences.”

So the Board commissioned a team to design this ministry. The Team currently consists of Lee Dorigan (Board Member), Aisha Hauser (staff representative in accordance with Policy-Based Governance and responsible for Life-Long Learning), and Mary Anderson (Membership and Search Committee) and myself (Earth and Social Justice Coordinating Council, Beloved Racial Justice and Vision Team).

I am grateful to be on this team because this East Shore community is so important to me.  I said in a testimonial recently that this church has been a life-line in the last three years, and that this is where I find a community of people willing to join together to become ever better – to learn more, to challenge ourselves, to expand our understanding of the tough realities of our world, to deepen our understanding of ourselves and our roles in this world, and to take action to make the world better – less harsh, more just.  I’ve never been part of a community with so many intelligent, talented, diverse, and caring people before.  Every time I work with someone new, I discover an amazing person with unique experiences and perspectives that add so much to my life and contribute so powerfully to whatever it is we’re doing together.

My ministries here have focused on trying to reduce barriers between people – to create beloved community, and I personally want to see this congregation be a model for beloved community.  I love this church, but sometimes we don’t love each other enough.  It hurts to see people hurt by each other, and I know we can disagree without hurting each other.  A beloved community is one where our commitment to each other is stronger than our need to be right. And this is not because we are people who compromise our ideas or principles, but because we know that we’re not right about everything, and that we will be our best and have the largest truth only if we are open to being transformed by each other.  We’re missing out if we block learning from each other – because everyone here together has wisdom that none of us have individually.  And if one person happens to be right about something, we can arrive there together, with a larger understanding, and all our limbs – and relationships – intact.

So I am very excited to be involved in this Right Relations team.  The Team has researched approaches and interviewed various expert consultants, and we’ve developed a proposal for a year-long program to teach, practice and grow Right Relations at East Shore.  We are in the process of working through the budget and hope to bring you an approved process once the Board has reviewed it.

So save the date – Saturday, October 14 – because we hope to kick off our ministry with a day of experiences that will provide you with insights and skills that will not only serve you in this beloved community right here, but also in all the beloved communities you’re a part of – your family, your work, your neighborhood.  We see this as part of our spiritual practice as Unitarians – to be the best people we can be, and the most awesome beloved community we can be.

Anyone on our team is happy to receive your questions.