At the end of the week of Summer Seminary 2014, students participated in a "preach off." Each student was given a prompt and instructed to write a two minute sermon on the topic. Students practiced their sermons in front of one another, late Saturday night, high in the pulpit of the main sanctuary of First Unitarian Church of Chicago. First Unitarian Church of Chicago is one of the oldest churches in Chicago, founded in 1836. Senior Kara Marler, from outside Seattle, WA, was one of five students voted to preach her sermon on Sunday morning. Here is her account of that experience. – Ed.
Adults Said She Had Potential, Witness What She Did With It
By Kara Marler.
A lot of adults in my life have liked to use the word “potential”. “You have a lot of potential, keep it up”
Evaluating me like I’m a young colt they’re putting bets on,
Waiting for me to sprint around the track again and again with my blinders on.
No one here looks at you like that.
No one here waits for you to meet their own standards
Instead they look at you in loving anticipation
Confident that the ideas, the words, the colors that run out of your mouth were not meant for the track but for the soil
Where they will be watered with reception
And protected by a genuine curiosity that knows fulfillment as watching your words finally emerge out of the ground
Peaking their way through
Or bursting into the air that feeds us and we grow and climb and reach in to grasp at the call and reach out to hear the miracles of the rest of the universe
And our words grow.
My words grew when I first listened to a little, grand something inside me that whispered ‘this is right’ whenever I lit a chalice.
My branches arched with every verse I sung
Breathing “love will guide us”
Believing “love will guide us”.
My roots dug deeper as I walked to the pulpit, breaking the expectant silence with even steps that betrayed the swirling, spiraling nerves running through me
There were rows upon rows of congregants in the pews,
Stacked in rows
Watching like a jury
Waiting with eyes that clung to words and all I could do was hope mine weren’t slippery.
As I scanned these infantry rows, a patch of soft hair caught my eye and I realized my great aunt was somehow here, in this church, looking vaguely lost but grinning with pride I had yet to prove.
I was about to come out to a sanctuary full of strangers and my 82 year old aunt.
I had written a piece on identity for this sermon, prompted with “The hardest thing I’ve ever done is…”
So I had unfolded my telescope and looked far off down the loneliest, most winding streets of my spirit until I had collected enough rubble to build a lighthouse, and had written on my struggle of self-acceptance as I had come to the realization I was gay.
I only got to the pulpit that morning because my friend sitting beside me had taken my hand and whispered
“It’s going to be okay”
Of all the sermons preached that morning, these were the words that preached to me
Potential are the forces you have yet to believe in
We are not potential
We are a force that someone believes in
Watch the video of the sermon that blew us all away.[vimeo 106962875 600px wide 600px height]
Kara Marler is 17 years old and lives outside Seattle, Washington with her family. She plays a variety of instruments, tap dances, likes to pretend she can rap, and sometimes does a combination of all three. Unitarian Universalism is where she has found a family of friends, a sense of identity, and a love of words.