Rev. David Pyle, Regional Lead
In their book, This Is an Uprising: How Nonviolent Revolt Is Shaping the Twenty-First Century, Mark Engler and Paul Engler recount a story about community organizer Saul Alinsky. It was when the Freedom Riders came to Chicago in the Spring of 1961 to speak at St. Cyril’s Church. The local community organizer called Alinsky, known for patient community building to create change, to name that this moment, with St. Cyril's packed and hundreds of people standing outside trying to get into the event, this was not a moment for patient community organizing, but a moment for action. “This is the moment of the whirlwind,” he said, and Alinsky agreed.
The idea of “moments of the whirlwind” has stayed with me since I first encountered it. Throughout human history there are times when the pace of change speeds up, when people are mobilized and energized, when the assumptions upon which oppressive power has long rested are questioned, challenged, and disregarded. When awareness of injustice pierces the bubble of privilege for many, and they are motivated to change. With the pandemic, with the blatant assaults upon our democracy, and with the murder of countless black folx by police, I believe we are in the midst of a “moment of the whirlwind” right now. Many things that were not possible a few months ago, may be possible in the coming weeks and months.
And, “moments of the whirlwind” are dangerous. They can be all consuming. They rightly call upon us to lay aside business as usual, and to focus all of our attention and energies upon the change that has unexpectedly become possible. The word “moment” can be deceptive, for a “moment of the whirlwind” can last for months, or even years, depending on the scale of the change that humanity is on the precipice of. And the change to dismantle white supremacy, in our own lives, in our religious communities, in our country, and indeed in much of the world is as large a change as humanity has ever come to the edge of.
When I thought of the pastoral message I wanted to share with all of my Unitarian Universalist friends and colleagues in faith it is simply this… be thinking now about how we care for our spiritual, emotional, and physical energies, so we can remain in this whirlwind far longer than just a moment. These kinds of times call upon us to be very intentional about remaining connected to our centers. If your center is found in loved ones, then commit to building and maintaining those relationships. If it is found in study, then recommit to learning that can help you in this moment. If your center is found in embodied movement like dance, then make the time to dance a priority. For myself, I have committed to my prayer-life again, after it had fallen off due to busyness and business.
To stay in this “moment of the whirlwind”, we need to pay careful attention to that which grounds us. This is not a distraction from the moment, but an essential aspect of our ability to stay in it.