Updated: Aug 27
Recording of our August 23, 2020 online service led by Worship Associates Abby Schreck and Camille Harris
Good morning, and welcome to Birmingham Unitarian Church! I am Abby Schreck, your worship associate this morning along with Camille Harris. We are joined by pianist Forrest Howel, and Keith Ensroth who will lead our hymns with technical support by Andrew Schreck and Dreika DeGraff.
BUC is a spiritual home for all people of goodwill. The lay leaders of this congregation have worked hard over many years to earn special designations from the Unitarian Universalist Association. In 1994, we became a Welcoming Congregation, a term that means we are committed to being intentionally inclusive of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer individuals and families. We’re also a Green Sanctuary Congregation, which is a similar program for environmental justice work in a congregation. Our commitment to both of these programs was renewed in this year. And although there is no such designation for racial justice, we are deeply committed to that work, as well. After the service, we invite you to stay for a virtual coffee hour. 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. We hope that you’ll stay after the service and get to know us. Our service this morning is on the first UU principle.
In solidarity with Unitarian Universalists throughout the world we now light our chalice, the symbol of our faith. We light this chalice today in honor of the Unitarian Universalist First Principle: To affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person.
We recognize that these are not just words to be spoken; instead, they call us out of our comfort into an ever-deepening commitment: a commitment we make to the rights of all whose inherent worth and dignity are denied, diminished, or destroyed by systems of oppression. And they call us into the practice of looking into our own hearts, with courage and honesty .
“In Faith” by Sunshine Jeremeih Wolfe
This is a congregation that gathers in faith. Not faith in one religion or one god or any one way. We gather in faith of the power of diversity, the power of love, and the hope of a world transformed by our care. We gather in faith in ourselves and those around us. Not a faith that requires perfection or rightness in one another. Rather, a faith that in our shared imperfection we may learn to stumble and fall together. Faith that we will help one another to rise and to try again and again. We are Unitarian Universalists.
We are stewards of this community and of our beautiful campus. Even when we’re not worshiping on site we are still responsible for expenses like utilities, lawn maintenance, and monthly leasing fees for the copier and postage meter. And we pay for Zoom, too. This is a house of memory and hope, of love and of justice. Let there be an offering to support this Beloved Community. Your contributions can be sent using Venmo, username @BUCMI, or through our website. Giving through either platform is easy and free. You can also put a check in the mail to us. I ask you to consider how much you’ve relied on BUC in the past three months and do what you can to support our good work. Please give generously.
Joys and Sorrows
from Mary Samal- Jean Simmons broke her left arms in a fall, and had to spend some time in the hospital and nursing home. She is now recuperating successfully at home.
from Kelly Taylor- My biopsy came back positive for metastatic breast cancer. I will be having chemo therapy once my team puts a plan in place. Any and all prayers are welcomed.
"Psalm 23 For This Moment" by Kevin Tarsa
May I remember
in this tender moment
that Love is my guide,
shepherding me toward ways of openness and compassion.
I have what I need, really,
with Love at my side,
above me, below me, in front of me, behind me,
inside every cell of me,
Love infused everywhere!
Just when the weight of the world I inhabit
threatens to drop me in place
and press my hope down into the ground beneath me
Love invites me to rest for a gentle while,
and leads the center of my soul to the quiet, still,
restoring waters nearby that,
I had not noticed.
And so, Love,
sets me once again on its tender and demanding path.
by Abby Schreck
The seven principles are tricky. For being a liberal faith that has no prescribed creed, our seven principles are quite demanding. Specifically our first principle, the inherent worth and dignity of every person, asks us to recognize that every person has inherent worth and dignity. Now, this is not a ‘be nice to everyone’ speech - in fact, the first principle does not even require of us to assume that people are good or are well-intentioned, it only asks that before we make judgments we remember that just like ourselves, those around us have worth and dignity.
In 1961, after the consolidation of the Unitarians and Universalists, 6 principles were adopted. In some form or fashion they appear in our current principles, but the 6 principles are different for a number of reasons. What is now the first principle, was then the third. It goes:
To affirm, defend and promote the supreme worth of every human personality, the dignity of man, and the use of the democratic method in human relationships
The new 7 principles were adopted in 1984 and we now know that the latter half of the old third principle is now the 5th principle. The ‘affirm, defend and promote the supreme worth of every human personality and the dignity of man’ turned into ‘the inherent worth and dignity of every person’. What stands out to me, as I suppose would relieve my AP Literature teacher, was that the new first principle has no verbs. ‘Affirm and promote’ are usually used in conjunction to it, but are not an official part of the principle. I thought it was odd that in this new principle - the words of action had been taken out. What am I supposed to do with the inherent worth and dignity? How can I make sure I’m actually carrying it out? How do I prove to myself and others that I believe in this? Why do the work? Why try to carry out these impossibly difficult tasks when there is not really room for self congratulation?
Because I believe in it. Because we believe in it. Unitarian Universalism is not a religion where you can ‘believe in whatever you want.’ Unitarian Universalism is a religion in which we live our lives by the seven principles, not in spite of how hard they are but because of how hard they are. We know that they ask us to be compassionate to an almost impossible extent and yet we’re all still here, we’re all still UUs. We are UUs because we have faith in ourselves and in those around us that we can do the
work. If people were perfect, we wouldn't need faith or our principles - we need them because we are constantly screwing up sometimes in small ways that we don’t even recognize in the moment. We can never fully live up to the huge ask of recognizing, affirming, promoting, defending the inherent worth of every person- faith comes in because we don’t always do what is required of us. We realize that we make mistakes and we wake up the next morning and we’re still UU’s, and no matter how difficult or demanding, we will continue to try. We live our faith by doing our best and by striving toward the impossible tasks that our religion asks of us.
It's what each of us do with the first principle that matters. I think the words of action were omitted because everyone needs to understand how the first principle fits into our lives individually. The work starts internally -- looking within and challenging ourselves to live by this principle, even when there's not a lot of recognition and putting our faith in ourselves and others, even when the task seems impossible. The other 6 principles require of us substantial action both in our interactions with others and with the world - but we must remember that the work starts within ourselves.
We can only really carry out the other 6 principles once we have done this internal work - trying our best to put aside biases and prejudice, but recognizing that we’re not perfect. Recognizing that its ok to slip up and say ‘I’m sorry’. Recognizing that reckoning with our principles is something that never stops. That our principles are something that we do our best to carry out every day. Though we may never fully understand how to do that, it is what reminds us that we are a people of faith.
In every person we meet, especially those who cause us discomfort, we find an opportunity for us to grow, to learn, to go further along the path of transformation that is our purpose in life. Every single one is our teacher. May the next week bring you many such moments of meeting that help you become the person you want to be, and may you welcome them with joy.