Sunday Morning Worship: In This Delicate Turning, General Assembly 2019
General Assembly 2019 Event #502
Unedited live captions of the Sunday Morning Worship (TXT) were created during the event, and contain some errors. Captioning is not available for some copyrighted material.
After exploring el poder de nosotros/the power of we, what are we ready to do/¿que estamos listo para hacer? Let’s not be servants of the past in new cups. Let’s all get free by planting faithful seeds of change and together turn to free the faith we love.
The following final script was completed before this event took place; actual words spoken may vary.
Invocation: "Keep on Moving Forward" by Pat Humphries
Blessing the Land/Honoring Our Ancestors
Reverend Sunshine Wolfe: Here We Are
We are here
on land we did not create and that no one can really own
We are here
Because generation after generation people committed to life
We are here
The product of sun and rain and earth
We are here
Inheritors of the best and worst of all our ancestors gave us
Here we are
Taking responsibility for our world
Action by action
Word by word
Here we are
The embodiment of responsibility
through action and word
of thousands upon thousands of lives we will never know
Here we are
A piece of the earth, the sky, the ancestors,
and the harbingers of those who will call us ancestor
Here we are
Broken and whole
And unwholly broken
We are here and here we are permeable pieces connected
Grateful for every strand of life
from the core of the earth
to the dust at the edge of the universe
to each and every being
May all of our ancestors
from the smallest microbe
to the largest ecosystem
live in us and beyond us now and for generations to come
Singing Together: "Morning Has Come" by Jason Shelton
Rev. Marta I. Valentín: I breathe in the love of the universe,
I breathe out and bless the world…
Buenos días! Welcome, to those present in this great hall and to those participating from away,
All: te damos la bienvenida!
Rev. Lindasusan V. Ulrich: we welcome you into this worship space, our ‘church in a box’ that moves annually, and this year we are live and alive in Spokane, WA!
Julica Hermann de la Fuente: We extend a special greeting, un saludo muy cariñoso, to members and friends from our local communities, which we extend 250 miles out, so that our Spokane friends won’t feel alone. We welcome journeyers from our churches and covenanted communities, some of whom have made their way here this morning that we might all worship together.
Rev. Sunshine Wolfe: We are in awe and have deep gratitude for all those “devoted to our GA experience” folks in front and behind the scenes who are making this service possible, and who have made this entire week together possible.
All: Muchisimas gracias!
Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray: To the delegates and attendees of this 58th General Assembly, we thank you for your open-hearted desire to join us and experience a different kind of GA. In the arc of this week we have gathered and come home to this chosen family; where we’ve allowed ourselves to be cracked open to vulnerability; opened up to theological possibilities; that moved us to proclaim out loud our “yes we must” attitude for the next chapter of our herstory, theystory, history, we are creating and writing together…
Lindasusan: And today…ah, today is today, and what shall we do with this day we have been given?
Julica: It is our prayer that we are ready to not just live this faith but BE the best that our faith has to offer.
Sunshine: It is our prayer that we who are offering this service today will help you remember that we have all chosen to accompany each other and may we do so with love and compassion.
Marta: Let us fortify ourselves by beginning in a luminous way. I invite forward the lights of my life to set our aspirational flame, the chalice, ablaze, my wife Alison Chase and our daughter Jaiya Valentin Chase.
Lighting Our Aspirational Flame
Alison Chase: Our aspirational words this morning come from the Reverend Rebekah Savage:
We light our flaming chalice as a beloved people united in love and thirsting for restorative justice.
May it burn away the tethers that uphold white supremacy in our midst.
May it spark in us a spirit of humility.
May it ignite in us radical love that transforms our energy into purposeful action.
Jaiya Valentín Chase: This is a chalice of audacious hope. This chalice shines a light on our shared past, signaling our intention to listen deeply, reflect wisely, and move boldly toward our highest ideals.
¿Mi corazón se ha dormido?
Colmenares de mis sueños
¿ya no labráis? ¿Está seca
la noria del pensamiento,los
girando, de sombra llenos?
No, mi corazón no duerme.
Está despierto, despierto.
Ni duerme ni sueña, mira,
los claros ojos abiertos,
señas lejanas y escucha
a orillas del gran silencio.
Has my heart gone to sleep?
Have the beehives of my dreams
stopped working, the waterwheel
of the mind run dry,
scoops turning empty,
only shadow inside?
No, my heart is not asleep.
it is awake, wide awake.
Not asleep, not dreaming –
its eyes are opened wide
watching distant signals, listening
on the rim of the vast silence.
—Translation by Alan S. Trueblood
después de todo,y no
sino rico en amor
en este corazón
que es nuestra América.
—Translation by J. Hermann de la Fuente
shall have a name
and it will not be vengeful
but wealthy with love
And it will rise
in this heart
which is our America.
Acknowledging Our Journey Partners
Lindasusan: We have blessed the land, honored our ancestors and centered ourselves within our bodies.
We have kindled the flame whose light and warmth guide our way.
We have joined our voices into the unique sound of this assembled WE —
a sound that will never exist again after today, for we shall be changed by this day.
Let us now honor those who form this sacred circle with us,
those with whom we will share a shining hour of worship.
Please turn silently to the people around you and find a way to acknowledge the blessing of their presence. You might smile, or place your hands over your heart, or give a small wave. If you can, connect with at least one person you don’t know.
[time to greet each other]
I invite you now to return to the larger circle.
Take a relaxed breath, and feel all the filaments criss-crossing among us.
They link us to people we’ve never met, in places we’ve never been, across generations we’ll never know — yet all of whom share a commitment to justice, compassion, and love.
These threads may be delicate, but woven together, they have the strength of spider’s silk. May they sustain us on the journey ahead.
Singing Together: "Come and Go with Me," African-American spiritual (arr. Kenny Smith)
Francisco Ruiz, LeLaina Romero, Jyvonne Haskin lead
Weaving Story: "Tending Fires"
Lindasusan: Kieran was a curious child, interested in everything that the grown-ups in the village could teach them. Kieran never missed an opportunity to follow along when Alejandro went fishing, or pop in when Ms. X was tinkering with her generator, or watch as Salome kneaded the day’s bread.
The one thing Kieran wasn’t interested in, though? Waiting.
Kieran often watched Naima, one of the village’s Fire Tenders, take her time placing each piece of kindling just so, stacking smaller branches on top, and then carefully propping the full logs into a cone. The slowness of it made Kieran practically twitch. “Ms. Naima, why can’t you just throw all of it into the fire pit together? It’s all going to burn anyway.”
Naima smiled. “Kieran, fires need to breathe. You have to be patient as you build them or the air won’t flow properly. I’m building the fire so it will last.”
Kieran also liked to visit Talia, a seamstress renowned up and down the valley for her stunning needlework. Talia had been working on the same jacket for weeks now, embroidering a delicate tree all across the back and sleeves. “Ms. Talia,” said Kieran, “aren’t you done with that thing yet? I mean — it’s beautiful and all, but it’s taking FOREVER.”
Talia tied a knot in her thread as she eyed her young companion. “Kieran, dear, I sew love into every stitch of everything I make. That’s what makes each piece special. The process takes time, but it’s worth it because that level of care and attention means the garment will last.”
Walking home, Kieran noticed that Farad still hadn’t finished the well he’d been digging over the weekend. He was taking a break just then, so Kieran decided to ask. “Mr. Farad, I know wells are hard work, but I thought you would have reached groundwater by now. Why is it taking so long?”
Farad wiped dirt off his forehead with a cloth. “Friend, there’s much more to digging a well than getting out a shovel and removing some soil. For example, I have to line the sides with stone so the water will be safe for drinking. I can’t rush something like that. Plus, I’m not so young anymore — this well needs to last.”
A few days later, Kieran came running home after school, tears streaming down their face. They called our for their Aunt Vivian, who was in the garden. “Auntie Viv, it was horrible! I wanted to help, but I kept thinking about what everyone tells me, and I think I got it all wrong —”
“Honey, honey, slow down,” said Vivian as she stood up and took off her gardening gloves. “Tell me what happened.”
Kieran shared the story in a rush of words. “I was walking home through the park because it’s such a nice day, and as I went past some oak trees, I saw this boy hassling someone. And then I saw that it was my friend Bailey! And he was saying all kinds of awful things about her family, and her hair, and her house, and she was crying. So without even thinking, I swooped in and told him he’d better leave my friend alone, and by the way her hair is fantastic. Then I grabbed her hand and we ran away.”
Vivian looked at Kieran with concern. “Is Bailey okay? Did she get hurt? Are you okay?”
“Well, we’re not okay,” said Kieran, “but neither of us got injured, if that’s what you mean. Bailey’s heading home to meet her dad.”
“I’m glad to hear that,” said Vivian, “but I’m confused. What do you think you got wrong?”
“Well, you’re always telling me I should be more patient and wait things out, but I jumped right in instead. I’m sorry, Auntie Viv.” Kieran looked miserable.
“I’m proud of you,” said Vivian.
“Kieran, injustice always deserves a response. You interrupted harm from continuing. Will I still worry when you leap before you look? Of course. But it took courage to defend your friend.” Vivian put an arm around Kieran’s shoulder. “Building justice takes time and care, sweetheart. If we do it right, though, it will be a justice that lasts. Now help me plant the rest of these seeds. I hear Ms. Naima is coming over after dinner to teach you about tending fires.”
Canción: "La Maza" by Silvio Rodriguez
LeLaina Romero and Francisco Ruiz
Francisco Ruiz: Speaking from and to his heart, Cuban singer, songwriter and poet Silvio Rodriguez, asks “Who would we be without our beliefs?” Using the image of a hammer and a quarry, he implies there is a purpose for each of us, for what would the quarry be without the hammer?
Whether or not you understand Spanish, we invite you to stay present with the song and trust that you’ll receive what you need.
Sharing Our Abundance
Recipient: The Carl Maxey Center
Julica: Our service offerings are a tradition for us at General Assembly, giving us an opportunity to share our abundance while living out our faith in the community.... This year’s beneficiary is The Carl Maxey Center, and here to share with you about their life-changing work is its Executive Director, Sandra Williams.
Sandra Williams: Let me start by welcoming you to Spokane, Washington. The Lilac City. We are grateful for your presence, your compassionate spirit, and for the power of collective community that you have brought to us over the past several days.
The Carl Maxey Center is named after Spokane’s very first African American attorney. He was a giant in this community, both literally and figuratively, and a champion for racial and social justice at a time when that was not the most popular or prudent thing to be here. Carl was also a member of Spokane’s Unitarian Universalist Church, who each Christmas became Santa Claus for the children, exposing them to the radical possibility that their beloved Santa Claus could be a Black man.
Carl dedicated his life to fighting against the discrimination and racism that was embedded into the fabric of this city, sometimes doing it single-handedly, and as a result, Spokane is a much better place. But in the years since Carl’s death in 1997, it is evident that Spokane still has a lot of work left to do to be the inclusive and welcoming place that we envision.
While Black people make up less than two percent of Spokane’s population, racial disparities exist in almost every category where records are kept. Blacks in Spokane are stopped more, searched more, arrested more and jailed more. Black students are suspended more and expelled more, and students of color make up half of the arrests inside of our Spokane Public schools. Black people are three times more likely to experience homelessness, more than a quarter of Blacks in Spokane are estimated to live below the poverty line, the unemployment rate for Blacks is estimated to be nearly twice that of whites, and along with Native Americans, Blacks have the lowest life expectancy in this city.
Spokane is a beautiful city, but as beautiful as it is, it is not an easy place to be if you are Black.
There have been many efforts over the years by organizations and individuals who have attempted to address these persistent, systemic issues, however, most of those well-intentioned efforts and strategies have been conceived of and directed at Spokane’s African American community from the outside.
But, as Unitarian Universalists, I know that you recognize, as we do, that the place where change truly begins--- is on the inside.
The Carl Maxey Center embodies the Power of We, because in May of 2018, WE, six African Americans, had the audacity to believe that we could change things in Spokane ourselves, by creating a space, our own space, that would begin the process of healing our community from the inside out.
With the Power of We, in this community, in eight weeks we raised the money to buy an old, 1920s brick building, in a low-income, east-side neighborhood. And with the Power of We, right now, we are in the process of transforming that run down, abandoned, eyesore, into a technologically advanced African American Cultural Center. One that will touch hearts and minds and souls in this community, and one that will not only uplift Spokane’s Black community but will uplift all of Spokane.
When the Carl Maxey Center is completed, it will be an inspiring and interactive gathering place, focusing on Racial & Social Justice, Economic & Workforce Development, Education & Advocacy, and Cultural Enrichment. The Maxey Center will highlight Spokane’s rich African American history that dates back to the 1800s, and it will house shared offices, meeting rooms, a business incubator, a cultural library, an exhibit area for local artists, a technology/multimedia lab, a community space available for events, lectures, workshops, performances and celebrations, and of course, a coffee shop.
Imagine that—in Spokane, Washington, 20 miles from the Idaho border and the birthplace of Aryan nations, there will stand a space that will uplift, empower, and embolden Black folk. I think Carl Maxey would be very proud!
The Power of We is about discovering and harnessing our collective power, and our connection to a deeper love and humanity that is bigger than our individuality. It is about recognizing that when one of us is hurting, we are all impacted by that pain.
The Carl Maxey Center will not only be a lasting legacy to the life and work of Carl Maxey, but the Maxey Center is uniquely positioned to begin the process of organically healing the hurt and pain and division that have been the result of systemic racism and inequity in Spokane.
Through your generous donations today, we invite you to join with us on this miraculous journey, as together WE create an amazing, unprecedented, and game-changing space—The Carl Maxey Center.
Thank you in advance for your support.
Julica: Thank you Sandra, and thank you all for making your contribution part of our collective response to systemic racism and inequity.
You have a variety of options to contribute:
- Please use envelopes provided for cash gifts
- Or you can text MAXEY to 51555 to donate on phone with credit card
- Or you can make checks payable to the Smith-Barbieri Progressive Fund, with the Carl Maxey Center on the memo line.
Thank you for your generous contributions!
Offertory: "These Hands" by Dave Gunning
Jyvonne Haskin and Lelaina Romero
Susan: Friends, we gather here. With our hands, our feet, our bodies,
Our hearts, our minds, our spirits.
Let us take a breath together
This collective breath that reminds us that we are gathered here together,
diverse, unique, individual, yet connected, interdependent, gathered as we.
We are here with gifts and needs, with joys & with heartbreaks
With good work that has been done and more that is before us.
In this time of quieting, of listening, of just being—may we join our hearts together in a moment of prayer and meditation, a moment of being attentive to what is present within us and among us.
(Pause for resting in the silence)
Spirit of life we give thanks for this time to be together
We give thanks for the ways that this community and this faith nourishes our spirits,
inspires in us courage, holds us in our time of despair or fear,
strengthens of us in our time of need, in our times of action.
This we ask:
That our awareness might be opened to the ways that we are connected not only to one another but to all living beings.
This we ask:
That our spirits might grow in courage and in our capacity to risk in order to protect one another
This we ask:
That we might find deeper practices of compassion, stronger practices of witness and action that help us realize more justice and peace for everyone, for all peoples of this planet and for this planet.
May we have space, in the midst of heartbreak and loss, to be comforted, to attend to and nourish and care for one another.
Fill our lives and open our spirits to joy, to music, to the gifts of beauty that reminds of the wholeness that is present already around us—the wholeness we seek to embody and nurture: wholeness of being, wholeness of life, wholeness of justice and peace.
We give thanks for all the many blessings, all the gifts that we receive from sources beyond ourselves. We give thanks for the ways we are a gift to one another
For the presence and power of community—of we—in our lives.
May we be strengthened by it
Amen and blessed be.
Song: "O Love" by Elaine Hagenberg
The Meditations of My Heart: "It Is Time Now"
Reverend Marta I. Valentín:
I like to see with whom I am sharing the meditations of my heart especially when I want to begin by saying, I love you. I do. Love is a choice, love is a way of being, and I love you. And here’s the truth of that statement: I must love you to still choose to be among you…may I be a vessel for that which needs to flow through me, because here is another truth: I need you to survive.
In this great turning that is happening in our faith it feels most important to say that when I can tell you that I love you, and know that I mean it, I can be fully myself. I am empowering myself. And I hope it means that you too can be fully your empowered self. And that you will roll, step, sidle up into this circle made of my arms, and meet me half-way, even if I say hard things.
I was pulled to review past General Assemblies in preparation for this service because I felt that from year to year important messages are forgotten. Thus, I wish to include some of those voices today.
When our theme, “The Power of We” was revealed, many from the historically marginalized communities immediately asked: Who is the “we”? It felt like the assumption was it is all of us Unitarian Universalists. But, is it, when many of us from the Black, Indigenous and People of Color communities experience a kind of Unitarian Universalism that is neither what we are told it is, nor how we know it could be? Is it, when our Trans family is repeatedly muted? Is it, when our people living with seen and unseen disabilities, are made invisible anyway? Is it, when Christian UUs and Military Chaplains feel like they have to be in the closet?
Is it when our youth have to fight to be taken seriously, and our young adults to have space of their own?
As a Latina with skin in the game for thirty years, I observe the changes our faith tradition is undergoing, and note that those not paying attention continue to perpetuate old narratives like: “Nothing has really changed it just looks different.” Or, “People are withholding their money because they don’t like the direction we’ve taken.” Now remember these “people” are Unitarian Universalists who are trying to live out our seven principles, and maybe even an eighth one day. These are not random people who receive an email from the UUA requesting support. They are included in whatever version of “we” is being upheld. They are people who love and are loved. They may have taught our youth, taken care of our babies or our sages. Whose inability to deal with open conflict has led to more conflict. Who refuse to understand how their lack of engaging the work causes microaggressions to spill out of them, like unexpected spit in the faces of people who look or talk, or act like me. Who hang on to the supreme whiteness of being, at all costs, and who have not been able to grasp that we are all swimming in poisoned proverbial waters.
This is a complicated picture, yet despite all of this, you, the faithful gathered when much of what would happen this year was uncertain. As religious folks, our presence together gives life and potential to new actions. It takes this same faithfulness to jump into the concept of “we”, and your presence is an affirmation that you too are in pursuit of this Power of We, because the power of a community is deeper and stronger than the power any individual can have. It’s a matter of what defines that power, and I like the kind that has “we” embedded in it.
The power of a reliable community gives us plenty of hands to take down the pieces of white supremacy we are dismantling and helps to hold the structure in place while the new is being imagined and then built. In this process I hold out for what we may want to keep. In the same way that not everything is all good, not everything is all bad either. To uncover what has worth and value and is crucial to maintain we must go on an expedition. We are called to be archeologists of our collective hearts and respectfully sift through the blood-soaked rubble.
It is time now, for this great, delicate turning that we are engaged in. For decades, we Black, Indigenous and People of Color have spoken up many times about how exclusionary our faith can be, even as Unitarian Universalism swears, we are the most inclusive. We have all said hard and harsh things to one another in pursuit of that better, truly equal, truly just, life-saving world we know can exist for ourselves and for seven generations to come. And we.are.all.so.tired. All of us know we must do better. But are all of us willing to be better?
My colleague Sofia Betancourt spoke this truth last year: “…we can never be the bearers of love and justice that the world so desperately needs if the foundation that sustains us is still perpetuating the very problems we long to solve.”
When I think about the archeology of my heart, I am reminded of sacred sites that have had edifices built on top of them. I think of the stories told and re-told to justify those acts, and I wonder, “What are the sacred stories I hold that remain buried within? What collective stories do we hold?” Those sacred stories must be built into the new foundation, because the old stories just won’t do. We’ve lost sight of the sacred stories that preserve the soul of what Unitarian Universalism set out to be before the world got its hands on it. Even though our faith came into existence through the dominant culture, whose goal was to look out for and preserve itself – I have to believe that there was also, a slim and barely visible filament of light, a place holder for the clarity that is emerging now out of the murky depths; a murkiness that we could not easily, nor faithfully acknowledge existed/exists in our faith.
Sacred sites come to mind, because I do not want us to simply build over as a manifestation of power over. I want us to build with, which I believe is the work before us. I do not want us to be like Mexico City’s Cathedral built over an archeological treasure trove that was once Tenochtitlan (te-nawch-tee-tlahn), the City of the Aztecs, known as Templo Mayor. Underneath this centuries-old structure of power discovered only forty years ago lie seven levels of pyramids. And as each dig brings a new discovery, clearly there is still so much more to bring to light. When voices rose to be rid of the Cathedral and build something new, others countered it was too sacred, and it is hard to dismantle what is sacred.
We cannot deny that our beloved faith, our “cathedral of sorts”, as originally conceived by non-POC, was built on land not of its own, incorporated rituals and songs not of their making, and came together on two as yet unmet aspirations: that we are all one, and that all of us would be saved. We can also not deny that the time has come, again, to acknowledge that the Unitarian Universalist Black, Indigenous and People of Color, as well as those from other marginalized communities who have remained among us, are rising through each one of those pyramid levels to reclaim the opportunities taken or hidden from us, demanding our place within those two foundational aspirations.
As an archeologist of my heart, I am digging with small brushes and toothpicks in search of my own Black and Indigenous roots as a Puerto Rican. All of us Boricuas have African, Taino Indian and Spanish blood in our veins, but not all of us were raised with that recognition. Now I am not saying that is the fault of this faith, but I am saying that all that has been happening in the last few years is leading me to acknowledge the ways in which I have been complicit in my own whitewashing.
In this turning we have embarked on, there is delicate dismantling work for all of us, because of the sacredness underneath. We think we know what we will uncover, but we don’t, because what we are doing has never been completed to fruition. “Will we,” as Bill Sinkford once asked, “continue to trust this faith to build a way out of no way?” This delicate work necessitates the building of relationships, that many have yet to build.
As I sift through the personal and collective layers, I find scraps and messages that over time have been forgotten, intentionally ignored or worse, buried. Buried in the confusion of what is the politically correct thing to do or say; which cultural faction should be heeded due to its status; which training, book, program, school of thought to follow. We’ve had Jubilees Twos and Transformation Teams, Journey Toward Wholeness, Beloved Conversations and Mosaic Maker programs; Intercultural Development Inventory and Public Conversations, not to mention all the private conversations that teach or tear down; G.R.A.C.E. and A.D.O.R.E.; resolutions and responsive resolutions; AIWs; we’ve heard from Martin Luther King. Jr asking us “not to sleep through the revolution", María Hinojosa’s demand to “make the invisible visible", Bryan Stephenson’s quiet fierceness to “get proximate”, Cornel West’s forthright question “What is the quality of your struggle? Justice is what love looks like in public”; Winona LaDuke’s deep thought: “How much and how brave are we in our ability to deconstruct some of the paradigms which we have embraced?” Krista Tippett’s “What we practice, we become,” with her offering of a way to start a whole new kind of conversation: Pose a question to another, like, what is love? Then answer the question, searchingly, honestly, through the story of your life.
And there has been so much more, so I’m curious: After all that we have heard as a faith community, all that we have done, all the programs, interventions, exceptions, strategic plans, departments created, why are we still here? Really, what is holding us back? I know you want me to offer my opinion on that, but I need you to think a little harder, dig a little deeper, open your hearts a little wider and tenderly poke around so your mind can follow suit.
As archeologists of our hearts we can unearth the sacred stories that must be preserved in this delicate work. It is time-consuming work, but we must keep at it to excavate the treasures, covered in dirt and mud, sometimes intentionally so. And the work is delicate because the stakes are so high, that it is about what deserves to be maintained, and who gets to make that decision? What is appropriate to go into the future with us, into the new sacred site we are building.
Rev. Susan last year said that this is “no time for a casual faith”. Indeed, a casual faith will not carry us very far, not even into our own depths.
The Power of We that is a living community engaged in this delicate work of digging out, dismantling and rebuilding has us bumping elbows, yes, but hopefully no more than that. Unveiling sacred sites is collective work, and the Power of We moves us from the solitary “I” to the community “We” – where there is a strong sense of belonging and we work together to the benefit of all. In the “We” culture the people are centered, it is impeccably inclusive, and the “I” exists only in relation to others, each of us must be strong for the collective to thrive. At the core the words we carry are not just ours, they include the voices of our ancestors speaking through and with us. And as this “We” engages in the delicate work it is not about the “power of tip-toeing”; the work requires speaking respectfully as we uphold our covenants; it asks us to listen reflectively; to teach the truth authentically and extend compassion to others we might not care for.
In the end, it is my Black, Indigenous and People of Color families that I wish to thank, for being pillars of strength, tenacity, and fortitude and for having largesse of heart. For the generosity of soul which has allowed your spirits to pull whatever needs to be pulled out of an already empty hat. Because we love this faith. Its theologies have saved us, and we want to save our children and our children’s children from an increasingly frightening world. We know our white siblings are being called to pick up this work and until they all do, we also know we need each other to survive. That is, we cannot allow our othering to cause us to claw at one another.
I want to thank us, right now for all to hear, for our ability to keep showing up even after we’ve been insulted, talked down to, overlooked for promotions, unjustly been terminated, had our truths that were courageously spoken trampled on and challenged, had our hearts torn to pieces, shards so tiny we’ve needed those archeological brushes and toothpicks to pick each fragment up. And we’ve survived on the glue that is our love for each other to set our beautiful, sensitive, strong, power-full hearts back together to face another day.
We came and fell in love with the Unitarian and Universalist theologies but clashed with the culture. This is not a pity party, but it is to say that we do it all because this faith is ours too – and our “our” is all reaching, calling everyone in. Some of us may not know what it means to live with a disability, but we make sure that those who do not only have a place at the table, but that they can get into the room. Some of us may not know what it means or how to use the appropriate gender identity or pronoun, but as we develop relationships there is clarity. And likewise, we open ourselves to the beautiful variations of our human family as people with biracial,
multiracial and transracial families and are reaffirmed of the magnificence that I call God. Ubuntu, I am because we are, this is our Power of We.
It is time now, because it is an extraordinary time to be alive, and we should all get to be the ones to shepherd this delicate turning with all the love we can muster. This turning that should have happened fifty years ago, is our great collective call now. We cannot continue to waste our precious breath on fake fights as my colleague Nancy MacDonald Ladd has said.
This is not about serving the same old stuff in new cups as Silvio exclaimed in his song. This is about ministering with new ideas in new cups to thirsty, thirsty people. And I don’t mean just newcomers who find us, I mean those of us who have been here all along. We have become so thirsty for the faith we know this could be and should be. The presence of all the historically marginalized UUs that has made us open and affirming has added a depth that only we could have, seven pyramids deep.
It is time to throw out our exceptional identity and humble ourselves. We are not ‘all that’ even as Eboo Patel lauded all the good we’ve done in the world. We have always “done good” in the world – it is in our DNA. The question is, are we ready to be better for our own people? Because ‘the world’ includes every person in our faith many of whom have been micro-aggressed right out the door. It is the silent revolving door that many do not want to acknowledge aloud. It is time now to ask ourselves, who are we, really? Which Unitarian Universalism are we taking into our future? If we have no intention of taking it to the equal opportunity promised land, then let’s just acknowledge that. Or, let’s Marie Kondo our unfaithful practices and release what no longer serves us, and make room for what will. How can we save the world if we cannot save ourselves? Remember, I say this because I love you and I need you to survive.
But I also need to say, and I speak only for myself: I am running out of truths to tell and ways of saying them. It is time now to keep this beloved faith from fracturing, moreover, in this delicate turning let us remember that before anything, ante todos, somos sere humanos, we are human beings who have chosen to travel together, to make a new, more just world together. We must continue to choose each other as companions if we are to accompany one another.
Am I saying we all must be the same? No. Am I saying that power needs to be shared? Yes. Am I saying that power needs to be given away? Yes. This is part of the delicate turning, the willingness to be led. To accept that there is much you do not know and “the others” do, others whose voices have been kept marginalized and thus silent by even us, exceptional people. In this delicate turning, holding our humanity before us, loving ourselves over this hump, loving others enough to let them in, not just into our pews but into our hearts. Not just intellectually into our minds, but into our very souls. If we could do that then we can truly call ourselves exceptional.
History is being made in this turning. Will we turn back onto ourselves and make of the circle a rut, or will we move slightly, delicately and like a spiral go deeper? Tell me, what are you ready to do with your now? How will you become ready if you aren’t yet? Frankly, no one is ever completely ready, and no one’s comfort is at the center, you just do what must be done. As Brittney Packnett so eloquently stated last year: “Your power is waiting on you to pick it up with love and expectancy and get to work.” Let’s be co-liberators and let’s get free together. Our world is waiting for us, and so is our faith.
Que asi sea. So may it be. Amén. Ashé. Blessed Be.
Lindasusan: Covenant lies at the heart of our spiritual tradition. We freely choose to gather and regather, to make promises and renew promises, to lift each other up and hold each other accountable, that the streams of love might freely flow. Living into our covenants is no small task, but it is a worthy one.
As our time together in this sacred circle begins to close, I invite you to join me in a set of promises to take back out into the world with you.
Because consent is central to covenant, I will read it aloud first, and then I’ll ask all who so choose to speak it with me in unison.
We gather not for ourselves alone,
but to use our common power
to build the Beloved Community beyond these walls.
This is our covenant with each other:
to help justice flourish,
to practice compassion amidst difference,
and to embody transformative love.
Singing Together: "Open My Heart" by Henry S. Flurry
Emily, Marty, and Lindasusan lead
Parting Words from Choose to Bless the World by Rebecca Parker
Translation by Julica Hermann de la Fuente
Marta: You must answer this question:
What will you do with your gifts?
Choose to bless the world.
Julica: Debes contestar esta pregunta:
Que harás con tus dones?
Escoge bendecir al mundo.
Marta: The choice to bless the world is more than an act of will,
a moving forward into the world
with the intention to do good.
It is an act of recognition, a confession of surprise, a grateful acknowledgment
that in the midst of a broken world
unspeakable beauty, grace and mystery abide.
There is an embrace of kindness that encompasses all life, even yours.
Julica: La elección de bendecir al mundo requiere más que la fuerza de voluntad
propulsándonos en el mundo
con la intención de hacer bien.
Es un acto de reconocimiento, una confesión de sorpresa, un agradecimiento
que en éste mundo quebrado
aún acata la belleza, el misterio, la gracia divina.
Hay un abrazo tierno y amable que abarca la vida entera, incluyendo la tuya.
Julica: And while there is injustice, anesthetization, or evil
a holy disturbance,
a benevolent rage,
a revolutionary love,
protesting, urging, insisting
that which is sacred will not be defiled.
Those who bless the world live their life as a gesture of thanks
for this beauty
and this rage.
Marta: Y a pesar de que hay injusticia, anestesia o maldad
también se mueve
una santa perturbación,
una rabia benevolente,un amor
protestando, instando, insistiendo
que lo sagrado no será profanado.
Aquellxs que bendicen al mundo viven su vida como un gesto de agradecimiento
por ésta belleza
y ésta rabia.
Marta: The choice to bless the world can take you into solitude
to search for the sources of power and grace;
native wisdom, healing, and liberation.
Julica: La elección de bendecir al mundo puede llevarte a la soledad
para buscar el orígen del poder y la gracia divina;
sabiduría autóctona, sanación, y liberación.
Marta: More, the choice will draw you into community,
Julica: Aún más, esta elección te entablará en comunidad,
Marta: the endeavor shared,
Julica: el esfuerzo compartido,
Marta: the heritage passed on,
Julica: el patrimonio transmitido,
Marta: the companionship of struggle,
Julica: el acompañamiento en la lucha,
Marta: the importance of keeping faith,
Julica: la importancia de manter la fé,
Marta: he life of ritual and praise,
Julica: la vida del ritual y la alabanza,
Marta: the comfort of human friendship,
Julica: el consuelo de la amistad humana,
Marta: the company of earth
Julica: la compañia de la tierra
Marta: the chorus of life welcoming you.
Julica: el coro de la vida que te da la bienvenida.
Julica: Ningunx de nosotrxs solxs puede salvar al mundo.
Juntxs—esa es otra posibilidad que nos espera.
Marta: None of us alone can save the world.
Together—that is another possibility waiting.
Music for the Journey: "We Shall Be Known" by Karisha Longaker
Marta: Our closing song has threaded throughout this General Assembly. At the opening ceremony, it invited us into this present company. It honored our continuity with the past at the Service of the Living Tradition. And now, we take it with us into a future where we’re called to lead with love.
- Rev. Sofia Betancourt, 2018 Service of Living Tradition, Sermon “Sounding the Call”, Kansas City
- From Mexico City: Under the Cathedral, An Aztec Empire
- Rev. Bill Sinkford, Service of the Living Tradition, 2016, Columbus
- Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 1966 Ware Lecture, Hollywood, FL
- Maria Hinojosa, 2012 Ware Lecture, Phoenix
- Bryan Stephenson, 2017 Ware Lecture, New Orleans
- Cornel West, 2015 Ware Lecture, Portland
- Winona LaDuke, 2010 Ware Lecture, Minneapolis
- Krista Tippett, 2016 Ware Lecture, Columbus
- Juana Bordas, Salsa, Soul and Spirit, pg.45, paraphrased
- Rev. Nancy McDonald Ladd, 2016 GA Sunday Service, Columbus
- Eboo Patel, 2013 Ware Lecture, Louisville
- Brittney Packnett, 2018 Ware Lecture, Kansas City
Special thanks to Martha Swisher, Dr. Emily Jaworski, Worship Arts Team Chair the Rev. Patrice Curtis, the GA Band and Band Leader Laura Weiss, the GA Choir, accompanist Peter Storms, Brent Lewis, and Dr. Glen Thomas Rideout.