Covenant and Challenge A Homily by Julia Landis

Each year Summer Seminary students select 4 or 5 student-written homilies to be shared at Sunday worship of the host Unitarian Universalist congregation. This year Julia Landis delivered her homily, "Covenant and Challenge", at First Unitarian Church Chicago Sunday Worship on July 29, 2018.

Watch it here, and read the transcript, below.


On August 12th, 2017 the city of Charlottesville had an estimated 1,000 people gathered to protest the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue in a park in the center of the city. The events that took place in my home on that day were unspeakable. The City of Charlottesville Police Department was ill equipped to handle the rally, which allowed for more destruction to occur than should have ever been allowed. Seeing the location of events I love, Dogwood parade and the Charlottesville pride festival, transformed into a center of hate was truly heartbreaking.

There were three deaths on August 12th due to that rally, two were state troopers who died in a helicopter crash and the third was a young woman named Heather Heyer. Heather was murdered by a car that plowed through a crowd of counter protestors which injured 19 other people, one being a member of my church.

This rally challenged my belief about many things, like my trust in local government and law enforcement agencies and also my faith. I had just come back from a Unitarian Universalist youth event where I had been living my values in every interaction I had. I struggled for a long time with my ability to respect the inherent worth and dignity of the people who attended the rally, to offer justice, equity and compassion when thinking about Jason Kessler and the organizers, who tried to plan a similar rally for this year. These are the thoughts as Unitarian Universalists that we must discern in order to stay in covenant with our faith.

The way my community responded to the events of the rally were inspirational. Vigils were held in memorial of Heather, the President of the Unitarian Universalist Association, Susan Frederick-Gray and Civil Rights Activist, Jesse Jackson preached at my church, there was a benefit concert, my school had a Unity day where we were “Stronger Together, Monticello” as the shirts said and my friends and I painted pebbles with messages of love then placed them around town where the rally took place.

There was a memorial to Heather on the street where she was killed. Amidst a bed of flowers, tealight candles, posters, pebbles and gifts, there was a handwritten Martin Luther King Jr. quote, on a damp piece of paper, that said “Darkness cannot drive out Darkness, only Light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only Love can do that.” This quote helped me check back into my faith after being shaken to the core. I had to go back to the foundation of Unitarian Universalism, love, and practice loving everybody in the world, regardless of race, gender orientation and sexuality, but in my case specifically- their ideology. I had to find the love in my heart for men whose souls had been deeply corrupted by white supremacy, but trust that their inherent worth was still there. Despite the hatred they practiced in my town, being able to love them enabled Charlottesville, my congregation and myself the ability to forgive.