Here are a few things that happened at UUCPA in the week leading up to the June 7 service.
- Naturally, I changed the topic to address the surge of protests and demands for racial justice taking place around the country. (The originally-planned service, on creating community at a distance, will take place in July, if the world will stop generating crises for just a little while.)
- Bruce came upon Julia Bullock and Christian Rief’s performance of “Brown Baby,” shot me a link and asked if we could fit it into the service if we got permission, and got permission.
- Brooke Bishara, in our twice-monthly meeting of the ministers and president of the Board, raised the issue of what the Board, and she in particular, and the congregation more broadly, should do to participate in the push for racial justice.
- The Action Council added the recent events to their agenda, and chair Kristi Iverson set up a meeting with me so that she and I could put together a list of actions and resources related to Solidarity with Black Lives and get it onto the website by Sunday.
- When we had questions about how to make the new page most effective, Heather Chen got right onto it.
- Kristi informed me that the June 11 Peaceful Presence service and it was going to focus on racial justice, and connected me to the leader in case I wanted to help lead it (which I did).
- Over a dozen participants in the White Folks Dismantling White Supremacy group responded quickly to a mega-Doodle-poll to choose a time for their next meeting, so that we could announce it in the service on Sunday.
- Other staff brought up the unrest, and their own wish to help UUCPA folks respond, in our various meetings.
- Someone who isn’t on the Action Council or in a leadership position (and who is white) e-mailed me to say, “Didn’t we hang the African-American flag on the pulpit in the past? Do we still have it? This seems like a good week for it.”
What all of this meant for me, as a preacher and spiritual leader, was that during the week as I worked on my sermon, and then as I stood in the pulpit on Sunday, I had lots of voices in my ear saying, “Go, go, go!” They drowned out the mutterings of “you can’t say THIS” and “how will people respond to THAT?” that usually try to tangle up my mind, especially when I want to speak to something controversial, which most important things are. Those encouraging voices made a huge difference.
I would like to be bravely prophetic about all issues, but the fact is, I’m braver when I know I’m not alone. I would like to “preach my heart out,” as I wrote on the list of anti-racism tasks I scribbled down as Kristi and I talked, but the fact is, my passion is most wide-awake when you’ve told me you want to be challenged. I’d already planned to hang the African-American flag for the service, but thanks to that e-mail, I knew I was doing it on others’ behalf, not just mine and not just African Americans. Brooke, Dan and I decided the Board’s role on this issue at this time was to have the ministers’ back–and we knew from Brooke’s raising the subject that they did. It wasn’t just the videos and music and other elements that made the service powerful, though they were excellent. It was all the leadership of all the people I listed above, all pushing in the same direction, towards our work for a better world. Thank you.