Jonalu’s Journal – Oct 2020

German religious philosopher, Martin Buber, reminds us:  “Humans are a promise-making, promise-keeping, promise-breaking, promise-renewing people.”  We can look at ancient promises like the rainbow in the sky, which according to the story of Noah was God’s promise not to flood the world again.  We can recall contemporary promises like the “I do” in a wedding ceremony.  Because we are social beings, always embedded in a social context, we rely on being able to trust one another’s promises.

Yet, we humans are also promise breakers.  Every one of us who has experienced a broken heart knows this–and who hasn’t in some way?  Because we are human, because we are imperfect, we fail.  And when we fail, we do not only fail ourselves, we fail those we love, those we work with, those we share our society with.  Even if promise-breaking is unintentional, it can still shatter hearts.

The core nature of promises as a human enterprise makes us a covenantal faith.  That is, as Unitarian Universalists, we may believe many different ideas, so what matters to us is the promises that we make to one another.

Perhaps nothing enables those promises better than deep listening.  We need to listen to the promises others make to us, listen to those who are broken-hearted or even a little disappointed by a broken promise, listen to one another as we embark on renewing promises to one another.

This quality of listening can enable many processes.  If we listen carefully to one another, we will do a better job of remaking our mission (something you can read about elsewhere in this newsletter).  If we listen carefully to the broken-hearted, we can find our way through racism and other forms of oppression.  If we listen deeply to those with whom we disagree, we may be able to make it to the other side of the election without destroying one another.

A year ago, I could not have imagined the challenges before us now–as individuals, as a fellowship, as a society.  May deep listening and taking our promises seriously help us navigate the depths.

See you on Zoom!          Jonalu Johnstone

Contact Rev Jonalu Johnstone at

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