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Opening (3 minutes), Workshop 8: Understanding Ethics from the Margins

In "What We Choose: Ethics for Unitarian Universalists," a Tapestry of Faith program

Materials for Activity

  • Worship table or designated space
  • Chalice, candle, and lighter, or LED/battery-operated candle

Preparation for Activity

  • Arrange the worship table or designated space.
  • Practice the opening reading aloud.

Description of Activity

Share these words of mid-20th-century Christian theologian Howard Thurman, from his book Jesus and the Disinherited, as you or one of the participants lights the chalice:

During much of my boyhood I was cared for by my grandmother, who was born a slave and lived until the Civil War in a plantation near Madison, Florida. My regular chore was to do all of the reading for my grandmother—she could neither read nor write. Two or three times a week I read the Bible to her. I was deeply impressed by the fact that she was most particular about her choice of Scripture. For instance, I might read many of the devotional Psalms, some of Isaiah, the Gospels again and again. But the Pauline epistles, never—except, at long intervals, the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians. My curiosity knew no bounds, but we did not question her about anything.

When I was older and was half through college, I chanced to be spending a few days at home near the end of summer vacation. With a feeling of great temerity I asked her one day why it was that she would not let me read any of the Pauline letters. What she told me I shall never forget. "During the days of slavery," she said, "the master's minister would occasionally hold services for the slaves. Old man McGhee was so mean that he would not let a Negro minister preach to the slaves. Always the white minister used as his text something from Paul. At least three or four times a year he used as a text: 'Slaves, be obedient to them that are your masters . . . , as unto Christ.' Then he would go on to show how it was God's will that we were slaves and how, if we were good and happy slaves, God would bless us. I promised my Maker that if I ever learned to read and if freedom ever came, I would not read that part of the Bible."

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Last updated on Thursday, January 19, 2012.

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