My Friends of All Souls,
In recent days, there are so many things going on. There is the virus. There are riots. There are deaths of too many people at the hands of our government. There is food scarcity, and budgets all around are being cut for the impending recession. People are still in cages; families are still separated.
The economy is reopening, and I find myself longing for face-to-face meetings, for coffee hour, and to hear our ‘Joys and Concerns’ from your lips and not the comment box on Facebook–to see the joy in your face, to hug during passing the peace and to connect.
Wynton Marsalis said in his book, Moving to Higher Ground: How Jazz Can Change Your Life
I noticed that religion gave some people a way to escape dealing with the world: ‘Things will be better when you die,’ the people of my grandma’s generation said as they worked themselves to death. ‘God wants you to forgive and love those who do you wrong,’ some people said to shake off the shame of being unable to respond to the abuse they endured. The holier-than thou faction found comfort in believing, ‘The rest of y’all are lost because you don’t have a personal relationship with God—our God’… But art teaches and engages you in the world, not just the world around you but the big world, and not just the big world of Tokyo and Sydney and Johannesburg, but the bigger world of ideas and concepts and feelings of history and humanity… In learning about a person, you learn something about the world and about yourself, and if you can handle what you learn, you can get closer, much closer to them. Jazz shows us how to find a groove with other people, how to hold on to it, and how to develop it.
We can’t escape from dealing with the world, but we can be safe and help each other. There are problems in this world. If we are who we say we are, then it behooves us to show up, ‘to find a groove’ with others and solve real problems together. Showing up is difficult when it means being virtual.
The UUA has recommended not having face-to-face services until May 2021. Our board is still deciding how we are to proceed. We have to weigh the health and well being of each of us while sticking to our values of inclusivity and respecting diversity.
The question before us is the question that is always before us. As we decide who we are becoming, both as individuals but also as one church body: Who are we as a congregation called to be right now? Who are we?
Acknowledging that every person is unique, with unique circumstances and has contact with more-less-and-different people, who is part of the “we” we are considering in our decision-making? What would be the social/emotional/spiritual costs of gathering, of protesting, of advocacy work, of having online services? Who would we exclude? How would this fit with our mission and identity?
I believe that we are the same people who stand up for the inherent worth of all people. We rally around those in need, listening to each other and acting with both passion and rationality. We are the respite of old friends at coffee hour. We are the excitement of new friends who see the world differently than us. We are the candle lit at joys and concerns and the flame of the burning chalice.
But, it does look differently now. It does feel different. And, we are who we are choosing to become. Walking together is a choice each of us makes. Each of us can connect. We can interact over the phone, over Facebook, Facetime, in Zoom meetings and in hand written letters and in happy little post cards. We can go to protests and write letters to the editor. We can advocate locally by talking with local officials and speaking truth to power—on any of our advocacy points—Racial Justice, Climate Change, LGBTQ+ Rights, Immigrant Justice, and Women’s Rights.
I am convinced, more now than ever, that we can make a difference—and it begins in the choices we make—loving the hell out of the world.