Leah’s Blog
Editor Albany UU | Oct 03, 2019

Whose Are You?… All in One Place

From our Soul Matters partners
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 of climate change caused by us, those who have been excluded 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 in the Fall.
  3. Once the space is filled with your chosen pictures, spend 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, roommate, a friend, or with your children as well.
I’m giving this a try this month. It will be interesting for me because I come from a small family, and my husband and I are “empty nesters”. So, I will certainly have to move beyond the obvious. And I’d like to think about how other people think of who they belong to. A congregant shared a video about “belonging” and a middle school aged girl. I was really struck by how she grounded herself in remembering who she belonged to. I hope you check it out. Is it something that you were taught as a child? How does your childhood influence your questions of “whose am I?”
“Whose are you?” is also the topic of the service I’m presenting October 20th. This is the second year I’m presenting the service on the Sunday of UU Weekend at Silver Bay. When I’m in the pulpit, it’s a chance for me to try out new things.  
In a summer service this past August, I presented on what I learned on my sabbatical. Of particular interest to those there and people I’ve talked to since, was how the UU congregation in Marietta, GA (outside Atlanta) does their Sunday mornings. There, they have a “Two Hour Model”: with the worship service and “RE for All” separately every Sunday morning and a half hour “coffee and snack time” in between. It does make for a long morning – if you go to both “hours”- but they have choices built in to make it accessible to all. For example, they have childcare for young children after the story. Albany UU parents and adults without children at home have told me they are excited about the possibilities this model would create – RE guides would have the opportunity to go to the service every week; in the RE for All time, children and youth could partner with adults on projects.
The service on Oct 20th will be a small trial of the “first hour” of the “Two Hour Model”. I’ll make it much like our regular services, but more interactive, and with a slightly shorter sermon. And childcare for children ages 7 and under will be available after the story in the service. I hope those of you who won’t be at UU Weekend at Silver Bay will come try this out with me. I’ll have time after the service to chat with anyone who would care to stay for about 15 minutes about what they thought of the style of this service and talk more about the “Two Hour Model”.
In joyful service
Leah Purcell
Director of Religious Education and Family Ministry