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March 29, 2020 | Online Worship

Recording of our March 29, 2020 online worship service

Worship manuscript:

This is the original work of the Reverend Mandy Beal (mandy.beal@bucmi.org), unless otherwise attributed.

Welcome

Good morning, and welcome to virtual Birmingham Unitarian Church! I am the Reverend Mandy Beal, this congregation’s Senior Minister. I’m joined today by our Co-Directors of Music Ministry, Abha and Steven Dearing. Our services will be hosted on Zoom and then posted on Facebook every Sunday morning at 10:30 for the foreseeable future.

Birmingham Unitarian Church is a Welcoming Congregation. This is a designation that a Unitarian Universalist congregation can earn that demonstrates a commitment to learning about and doing the work of being fully inclusive of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer individuals and families. We’re also a Green Sanctuary Congregation, which is a similar designation for environmental justice. And although there is no such designation for racial justice, we are deeply committed to that work, as well.

As we continue learning how to use Zoom for worship services, we have some requests. First, as a service to your fellow participants, we ask that you don’t type comments during the service. Second, we recommend that all participants use the “speaker” view. This will automatically make the worship leader’s window the largest on your screen. Next, you were automatically on mute when you signed in, and we ask that you stay that way during the whole service, including the hymns. We also have a note from Steven and Abha this week. If you’re concerned about sound quality, they recommend joining the Zoom service using your smart phone.

Virtual coffee hour will take place after the service again this week. You will be randomly sorted into breakout groups and we hope that you’ll participate in this opportunity to connect with others. If you are worshiping us for the first time today, we extend a special welcome to you. Please stay after the service and get to know people in these breakout groups.

We have a few announcements this week.

First, there are several online community building opportunities this week. Tomorrow morning at 10, please join me for coffee with the minister. Stop by with the beverage of your choice and check in about how things are going in Coronavirus Lands. Also on Monday at 7pm, you’re invited to join a Zoom discussion about Energy Innovation Act and the role BUC can play in supporting that legislation. And on Thursday at 7pm, Matt Chope, who is a Partner at the Center for Financial Planning, will lead a discussion about the financial markets and state of the economy. Links for these discussions can be found in emails from us.

Our second announcement is an acknowledgement that today was supposed to be Daffodil Sunday. This is an important celebration of our congregation’s decade’s long commitment to being supportive of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer individuals and families. My hope is to celebrate Daffodil Sunday later this year.

Our next announcement is a reminder that our stewardship pledge drive is coming to a close. Please submit your pledge form or pledge on our website by this Wednesday, April 1st to support the 2020-2021 budget.

And finally, a quick mention of our folks that don’t use the internet. Give them a call and make sure they’re OK. Also, help us reach out by adding them to our phone call list, which you can do by visiting bucmi.org.

Thank you, again, for joining us this morning, or whenever you’re watching this. Although we are not together physically, we are together in spirit, and it is good to be together again.

And with that, our service will begin.

Chalice Lighting

We worship this morning from our separate homes, but we join with a multitude of Unitarian Universalists in lighting our chalice:

Spirit of Love and Life, move through and among us. Guide our hearts to each other in this sacred moment. Flow into our world and bring us peace that passes understanding and compassion that knows no end.

Opening Words by Maureen Killoran

We are called today, from the midst of pain and challenge, we are called to praise the world. From a world that appears broken, we are called to praise life’s moments of joy and grace. From time that seems to freeze in ongoing exchanges of platitudes and blame, we are called to reach out to those around us...to connect with those we care about...to try to make amends with those from whom we are estranged. The world is too fragile. There is too much pain. Let us bring our hearts together on this day. Let us praise the mutilated world, in all its blessing and its pain.

Offering

The time has come in our service when we ask for your financial support. Our beloved community relies on the support of our members to provide worship services, religious education, our music program, and so much more. We all know that the Coronavirus pandemic has impacted personal finances and the economy. Our church is also deeply impacted by the recent events, and we need your support now more than ever.

New this week, BUC has a Venmo account to collect your offering. If you have a Venmo account, our username is @BUCMI. You’ll see Joanne Copeland’s name there, but it is linked to BUC’s bank account. Also, there is a link in the chat bar that will take you to our website, where you can click the “donate now” button. If you need to set up accounts through either of these giving platforms, I urge you to do so when the service is over. You can also put a check in the mail to us. We can’t do what we do without your contributions. I invite you to give generously.

Joys and Sorrows

We set aside time each week for prayer and reflection. We begin with a sharing of joys and sorrows, which can be submitted online, using the link provided in the BUC Shout Out. Remember if you submit a joy or sorrow through that portal, it will be shared in this space and available to the public.

We start off with sorrow, from the Brainard/Jenks Family - Their dear snowshoe cat Lily, passed away at home in Laura's arms on 3/26 at the age of 18. They are very grateful for the joys she brought us. In the midst of the challenges that we are all facing, we have several joys this morning as well:

Someone has left a note of gratitude for the ease in donating to our weekly plate collection through BUC’s website

We also have a joy for the Nonviolent Communication group Zoom meeting last Saturday, where the submitter felt supported and a relief from loneliness

Colleen Cavanagh is thankful that her residents at Devonshire Retirement Village remain healthy, and that their families are so cooperative and supportive during this difficult time

From Larry Freedman - Thousands of opera fans worldwide are appreciating Metropolitan Opera’s wonderful gift of free nightly screenings of operas from its collection from the last fourteen years of Live in HD transmissions. We are enjoying emotional tragic, romantic and comical dramas with superb staging and among the best in vocal and orchestral music.

Lastly a joy from Natalie Price - her mom is on the mend from COVID. She says: “I was so worried because of her age and pre-existing conditions, and I’m now so grateful that she is getting better. I know that not everyone will be so lucky, but it gives me hope that even vulnerable people are able to survive this.”

Reading “History Will Remember” by Donna Ashworth

History will remember when the world stopped And the flights stayed on the ground. And the cars parked in the street. And the trains didn’t run.

History will remember when the schools closed And the children stayed indoors And the medical staff walked towards the fire And they didn’t run.

History will remember when the people sang On the balconies, in isolation But so very much together In courage and song.

History will remember when the people fought For their old and their weak Protected the vulnerable By doing nothing at all.

History will remember when the virus left And the houses opened And the people came out And hugged and kissed And started again

Kinder than before.

Homily

Well, friends, here we are; another week in Coronavirus Land. This week has brought us more difficult and scary news. The CDC reported 103,321 known cases of COVID-19 as of 4pm yesterday. This morning, the New York Times reported 2,000 deaths. As of 3pm yesterday, Michigan.gov reported 3,657 confirmed cases and 92 deaths.. We all feel the heaviness of these numbers and a sense of dread about how quickly the disease is spreading.

Additionally, it appears that Donald Trump has entered into a petty dispute with Governor Gretchen Whitmer. She feels the dispute has impacted the state’s ability to procure essential medical equipment. And then on Friday, many of us read the draft letter that was leaked from Henry Ford Medical System outlining how medical services might be triaged in the months to come. Our social situation has many of us in a precarious emotional state, and these events might feel like a serious blow to our morale, ratchet up anxiety, and add fuel to the fire of our anger. It would be easy to be lost to these or any number of other feelings.

But these are not the only stories of the week. In the midst of the pettiness of our current administration and against the backdrop of the commodification of health care in late-stage capitalism, there are stories of human compassion, generosity, and solidarity. Bethenny Frankel, known for her role on the Real Housewives of New York and her Skinny Girl brand, has leveraged the considerable resources of very wealthy celebrities to provide protective gear to medical providers. Her relief organization has also delivered personal care products and financial aid to families that rely on subsidized school lunches. This is an example of a high-profile person taking concrete actions to ease the suffering of others.

I learned this week that several fashion designers have stopped production of their clothing lines in order to make protective gear. This includes Christian Siriano and Brittany Allen of Project Runway Fame. Also, Los Angeles Apparel donated the use of one of their factories. It’s truly amazing to see people in the private sector turn their attention to generosity over profit.

And regular folks are engaging in radical acts of hospitality, as well. I’ve seen people reading children’s books, playing music, giving art lessons, offering free lectures, demonstrating how to cook a favorite recipe, and most recently, as some of us are really starting to struggle with this, how to cut your own hair. All of that work, done for the good of others with no compensation or expectation of reciprocity. If you’d told me a couple of months ago that all of that, along with access to some of the country’s greatest cultural institutions, would be freely available online, I would not have believed it.

Coronavirus Land is emotionally draining, economically unstable, and lonely. But it’s also full of generosity, creativity, and care in a way that I honestly thought was a thing of the past. As challenging as this moment is, there is so much good here, too. We cannot become mired in the Swamps of Sadness when all around us, American culture and community are blossoming.

We, Americans, have a history with this. We have a tendency to surmount unbeatable odds by finding our way back to each other. There are several examples I could point to, but on a national level, the example that stands out most clearly for me is the Second World War. Now, I wasn’t there, but perhaps some of you were. My knowledge of what was happening in the life of the average American during that time comes to me from my grandmother.

One of the things that she’s talked about the most is the way that the women of her small town bonded during that time. The US was still coming out of the Great Depression and supplies were short. There was a push for people on the home front to send supplies to their loved ones in the service. My grandmother and the other women in her neighborhood gathered regularly to can produce from their gardens, coffee, and tobacco for their husbands who were off at war.

Those women came together to learn about canning, to share equipment and supplies, and to let their young children play together. But more importantly, they needed each other. They were all young, and I mean young, like in their early 20s. They needed the sustenance of community as much as their husbands needed the sustenance they were canning. Although the canning was important, it was never really about the canning.

My grandmother is 97 years old. Some of the women from that canning group are still alive. Some are not. Some are still friends; some were always frenemies. But the bonds they forged in those bleak and desperate times were never broken. I think once you’ve been through the experience of holding each other together and reflecting each other’s humanity, there’s no going back to whatever your relationship was before.

It’s a funny thing that we have to be forced into this experience. Maybe it’s the overdevelopment of individualism that has plagued our country from its founding. Maybe it’s the competition inherent to capitalism. Maybe it’s like this everywhere and I just assume it’s an American problem. Whatever the reason, it seems to take a disaster to bring out the best in us. We always rise to the occasion. When an obstacle befalls us, we overcome. And we do that together. We have never responded to tragedy by saying “every person for themselves.” No, we band together and find our way.

Think for a minute about all of the good that you’ve seen this week. Where have you noticed someone going above and beyond? What act of kindness did you read about or observe? What attempt to break the monotony and loneliness do you remember? We are tapping into that deep well of care and concern for each other that has always carried us through. We are finding the true promise of our country, the grit and dignity and decency that has been with us from our founding and carried us through tough times. In times like these, we learn to love each other fiercely and hold on to that which is true, right, and good. We put our shoulders together and lean into the onslaught. We figure it out, with or without the resources and leadership that we need. We’ve done it before and we’ll do it again.

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