Recording of our October 18, 2020 online worship service
Good morning, and welcome to Birmingham Unitarian Church! I am Abby Schreck, your worship associate this morning along with Teresa Honnold. We are joined by Forrest Howell, our pianist and Keith Ensroth, who will lead our hymns, with technical support from Mary Jo Ebert. Our worship services are hosted on Zoom every Sunday morning at 10:30 and then later posted on Facebook.
BUC is a spiritual home for all people of good will. 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.
We have two announcements this morning:
Our next Confronting Racism session is this coming Tuesday, October 20, at 7:00 pm. At this meeting, we’ll be watching and discussing the first half of the Oscar-nominated film 13th. This film looks at the drivers of a U.S. prison system that disproportionately locks up people of color, and the linkage from the 13th Amendment to this startling reality. In order to address the issues of mass incarceration and racial injustice, we begin by learning how we got here. Join us for an enlightening education and discussion of this important topic. Zoom access information is on the meeting calendar on our website.
We still need your help with our South Oakland Shelter fundraising campaign. We are collecting donations to finance lunches and dinners for one week for 103 shelter clients, and we are not quite halfway to our target goal of $7,000. Donations of any amount are accepted. Please donate online at the BUC website using the "Give to SOS" button. You can also write a check made out to BUC with “SOS Host” on the memo line and mail it to the church office. Thank you for your support.
"A Spark of Hope" by Melanie Davis
If ever there were a time for a candle in the darkness,
this would be it.
Using a spark of hope,
kindle the flame of love,
ignite the light of peace,
and feed the flame of justice
from “Spilling the Light” by Rev. Theresa Soto
There must be fuel. There must be a spark, and there must be oxygen. We have principles and ethics. The fuel of the fire we would light. The spark is what passes between us, along with our aliveness, our possibility. Spirit moving in us is our clear invitation--embossed, addressed, sealed with wax, tied with ribbon. The spark is a seed of fire that must be treasured and tended that it may bring the light. We have passion. The air without which nothing thrives, least of all the blaze of covenant, justice, and kindness we would illuminate, both with who we are and what we do. All of these an invitation to bring to life the blaze of liberation that is meant to light our way and to dispel the fog of cruelty and grief. It brings us instead to a hearth around which we gather to be nourished, energized, and warmed and where we get ready to disperse, enlivened.
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 six months and do what you can to support our good work. Please give generously.
Joys and Sorrows
Note of joy from Larry Larson:
I'm grateful because it seems that each year in October Michigan becomes more colorful and beautiful.
From Barb Schandevel:
This is a sorrow and a joy . . . I lost the best father a person could have David "Bud" Hopkins, Tuesday October 6th. I had the joy of being able to help care for him as he held onto life as long as he could. The whole family was by his side and he kept up his routine till his last breath . . . playing cards with us on Monday night and watching his daytime programs Tuesday morning. When informing one of the neighbors that he was gone his response was "Kind Bud, that is what we all call him" and as he said if that is what is said about me at my end I would be very honored!
by DeReau K. Farrar
That which is in us, all around us, and which constantly draws us to our holiest selves, thank you for community that can exist beyond the need to know names and faces. At times when it becomes difficult to see the truth, remind me that my struggles are not unique. Remind me that, for the sake of those like me, especially those to come, it is important to keep going and show new ways to love.
by Teresa Honnold
As Unitarian Universalists, we look to our 7 principles as guides for our values and morals. They are a cohesive body that lay out how we live our faith. But more than that, we affirm and promote those principles. Our principles are our faith in action.
The theme for today’s service is “our divided nation”. How does that fit into a worship service? We can look to the 5th Principle ‘The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large” for that.
The messy part is the democratic process. It can be rancorous and divisive. But it can also be a voice of the people that reflects the unity of human endeavor to create community and a way to be, and to behave with one another.
Has there been a time in the history of the United States when we were more divided than we are now?
You could look to the founding of this nation. The Articles of Confederation established the “rules”, as it were, about the relationship between the fledgling Government and the original 13 colonies. In a laborious and contentious process, it took 6 years from 1775 to 1778 to get the parties to agree on and ratify the Articles of Confederation. But United? Article III described the confederation as a “firm league of friendship”. It didn’t take long to conclude that the Articles were weak, and in 1789 the newly minted Constitution went into effect. The Preamble summed up the heart of this new constitution—“we the people, in order to form a more perfect union..”
But still, even that was not perfect. Several representatives decried the lack of a bill of rights, saying that the Constitution gives too much power to the Federal government, and not enough authority to the individual states and the individual citizen. Again, debate, rancorous and divisive, but always progressing to the goal--- the Bill of Rights, the first 10 amendments to the Constitution. And that was not perfect. We now have 27 amendments. Let’s face it. We are still working on that “a more perfect union” part.
According to American political history expert and professor of history Randall Miller, “The most divisive time in our history was in the years leading up to the Civil War,” …In the mid-19th Century, differences were so profound representatives carried weapons into Congress.” A civil war cleaved our nation. After 4 long years, we were one nation again in name. Often not in action. Freedom for those who had been enslaved was fragile and limited in the Restoration era, and is echoed in our present national Black Lives Matter movement.
Let us look again at the 5th principle--The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large. Unitarians, Universalists and Unitarian Universalists throughout history have shown how we live out that 5th principle, especially in times of great division. Our forbears have been deeply involved in social justice. They stepped up. From the Declaration of Independence, through framing how we would be a United States, up to today—UUs have been part of that messy, vital process. Here are just two examples of notables from the Civil War Era.
Rev. Theodore Parker was a Unitarian Minister who was deeply involved in the growing antislavery movement in Boston in the mid 1800’s. He, with his followers, formed the Boston Vigilance Committee, devoted to defying the Fugitive Slave Act by hiding escaped slaves from their pursuers. But more than that, he felt that social activism was a moral imperative of his faith. His 1853 sermon “Of Justice and the conscience” contained this line (later paraphrased by Martin Luther King)
“I do not pretend to understand the moral universe, the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways. I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. But from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice.
Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, who was born free in Baltimore, became a teacher, working in Ohio and then Pennsylvania. She joined in the work of the Philadelphia Underground Railroad when Maryland passed a law that made it illegal for free Blacks to enter. If you were found and identified as freeborn, you would be arrested and sold into Slavery. In addition to her work as an abolitionist, she was a noted poet, lecturer, and suffragist.
Circling back to today’s question, “is there a time in history where we as a country have been more divided than now”—I do not have an answer. I only know that it feels like we are more divided now because we are the ones going through the pain, the anxiety of these times.
Do we need an answer? Or do we do what our UU ancestors did and live out our faith? move forward and be part of the process that is embodied in our principles.
by Abby Schreck
We are divided - I don’t know that I can say we’re more divided than ever - but I can say that it feels pretty scary right now. It seems like there are so many things being thrown at us that are stoking the flames of division and distrust, probably because there are. So, are we deeply divided? Yes, but we have been here before, and one thing that division always brings is progress. It is not easy or fast progress, but if I learned anything in my Physics class last year, its that an object in motion stays in motion. As long as the force of our change is stronger than the force of others’ oppression, we will stay in motion.
It took a bloody Civil War to set in see amendments that abolished slavery and gave black men the right to vote. We are still in motion.
It took a Great Depression for us to realize that we are plagued with deep and systematic income inequality and to set up systems that protect our money, and give jobs to those who need them. We are still in motion.
It took an epidemic that has killed 700,000 people for straight Americans to start to see that LGBTQIA+ people are human beings and deserving of medical care. We are still in motion.
Here’s what I learn from these examples. For one, nothing is magically fixed, voter suppression of black people was written into laws post 15th amendment and slavery’s effects are still painfully visible today. Income inequality is a very real and devastating issue in today’s world. We know all too well right now that the rights of LGBTQIA+ folks are not safe nor fully secure. But for two, division allows us, or maybe in some cases, forces us to see the issues all around. They force those with privilege, those in power to stop turning a blind eye. They shine a light on what is wrong. They keep us in motion
I want to expand on the Great Depression for a moment. The Great Depression was an objectively dark time in our history. A worst case scenario that devastated Americans across the country. But we learned from it. We gained from it. Social Security and the FDIC were created, and public works were funded. All things that have undoubtedly made our lives better, despite not being perfect. In addition, every new deal agency had a black advisor and the number of African Americans working in the federal government tripled, and stable jobs opened up for women. This didn’t happen overnight, nor are they issues that are solved today or have fixed all of our problems, but this time in our history shined a much needed light on what needed to change.
Back to today, we are living through a pandemic. We are met with violence when we attempt to peacefully protest. We are in the midst of a hotly contested election to name a few. I want to make it clear that whatever feelings that you or anyone have about any of these things are valid. It is normal and right to be afraid when we see people who are threats to our rights and safety come into power and when uncertainty is so prevalent. But this too shines a light.
In my life already because of virtual school, every student in my school district has access to the internet and new technology for maybe the first time in their lives. Lessening the digital divide that puts so many at a disadvantage.
Colleges and Universities are making admissions SAT test optional, hopefully doing away with a racist and biased test that fuels educational inequality.
For the first time ever I have seen my white peers educating themselves and taking action against police brutality.
This is all to say that, things are scary right now. But, the second we let go of this fear that I know we’re all holding on to is the second that we forget how urgently we and those around us need justice. We can never forget that we are still in motion and will continue to stay in motion as long as the power of justice and what is right is greater than the power of oppression. We can never forget that for centuries we have been struggling against one another, progressing and regressing, becoming more unified only for us to divide again.
But here’s what I know, as a 17 year old who only knows a life in this moment in our history. Unity does not come without justice and justice is not a straight line. It is an unpredictable and scary curve that requires us to have faith that we are doing what is right. That arc of Rev. Parker, that arc of MLK, that arc of justice is long and we cannot see the end of it from where we stand today. We have to continue to shine lights on what we know to be wrong and continue to do what we know to be right. Life is scary right now, take a step back if you need it, take time to process if you need it, but remember that this too, this is a moment of division in our history that one day we will be able to look back on and see the justice that will flourish because of it.
by John Wickman
Our time together ends.
In the days before we come together again,
may our actions match our words,
may our thoughts be filled with love,
and may we truly make a difference in a troubled world