"Freedom"

Worship Script 4


 

Freedom Through Relationship

Worship Script (4 of 4)

 

OPENING WORDS

By Marta I. Valentin

 

We come together today

To honor the universal community of

Seekers to which we all belong.

 

We gather together today to share from

our deepest place of safety

that we might nurture ourselves by

celebrating one another.

 

We call into our presence this hour our ancestors

whose love, labor, and commitment

made it possible for us to be here now.

 

Let us call one another to the table of abundance

That we may feed on those fruits

That sustain us and ever ask us to grow

 

Let us open to this moment

With hearts that have no borders

 

HYMN #347 Gather the Spirit

 

FIRST READING

The Eight Principle on Unitarian Universalism, by the Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism
 

We, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association, covenant to affirm and promote: journeying toward spiritual wholeness by working to build a diverse multicultural Beloved Community by our actions that accountably dismantle racism and other oppressions in ourselves and our institutions.”


SECOND READING
Excerpt from “Growing Our Souls” by Paula Cole Jones from A People So Bold: Theology and Ministry for Unitarian Universalists

I cannot imagine engaging with Unitarian Universalist without its justice and multiculturalism components. As a person of color, I would have little purpose for voluntarily spending my time in an institution not engaged in an examination of these issues. The history of inequality and oppression is too long and too troubling to tolerate indifference to the ways that these forces affect people, regardless of whether the inequity is an advantage or disadvantage. Racism and oppression are constantly in play, and they gain  Power through our silence. The absence of a conversation about race does not mean that racism is not operating, but the silence makes it harder to hold people accountable for making change to the structures that have historically supported inequities.

I am a lifelong UU, who grew up in a prophetic congregation. At All Souls Church, the principles and values of Unitarian Universalism were imprinted on my soul in a congregation that crossed the barriers of race. Had the church not diligently work on racial inclusion, I doubt it would have met my needs. For me, there is no separation between Unitarian Universalism and antiracism, antioppression, and multiculturalism.

 

HYMN #325 Love Makes a Bridge

 

STORY FOR ALL AGES
Super Tiny, by Sunshine Jeremiah Wolfe


Once, there was a little girl named Amanda who loved to help other people. She helped her Papa David and Papi Caesar to clean the house, she raked up the leaves in her neighbor Jim’s yard when he was in pain and couldn’t do it himself, and she tutored her friend Sara in Math. So, when it came time for her class to do a project to help people in her hometown, she was excited. Teacher Mike assigned each student a community of people that they should help. Some would help people living with illness, some would clean yards for those who could not clean their own—each project was a little bit different.

Teacher Mike told Amanda that he would like her to help people in Walden—the poor part of town- who are hungry. He said, “you can do any type of service project you like, but I want you to help those who are hungry.”

Amanda couldn’t wait! She thought all day about what she could do. When she got home she told Papa David and Papi Caesar about the project. “I want to make sandwiches and take them to the people are hungry!” Papa David and Papi Caesar and their neighbor Jim and her friend Sara made 100 sandwiches for the poor people in Walden.

The next day, Papi Caesar drove with Amanda to Walden. She had placed each sandwich in a bag with a piece of fruit. She tried handing out the sandwiches, but no one really seemed interested in them. Papi Caesar couldn’t explain to her why no one wanted the sandwiches. She offered them to people who were young and old, brown and white, friendly and rude- but the answer was always the same—“oh, I ate earlier, but thank you.”

Then she saw another little girl about her age. The little girl seemed to be watching Amanda—observing her with a look of laughter and curiosity.

Amanda approached the little girl, “would you like a sandwich?”

The little girl looked at her for a moment and then said, “aren’t you going to ask me my name?”

Amanda was a little embarrassed, “Oh, I am sorry. My name is Amanda. What is your name?”

“My name is Tiny.” This name was clearly appropriate- the little girl was tiny. “Why are you handing out sandwiches?”

“Well, it is a class project. I was asked to help those who are hungry here in Walden. So, my Papa David and Papi Cesar and Jim and Sara and I made sandwiches to give everyone.”

Tiny laughed, “Well, we do get hungry here some times, but we never take food from strangers. Some of my neighbors go to the soup kitchen each evening.” She paused to laugh some more, then, “Your teacher really asked you to help the hungry?”

Amanda was a little upset that Tiny thought this was so funny. Without really thinking she blurted out angrily, “Well, what would you do, then!?!” She didn’t mean to get so mad, but she did not like that someone thought her being helpful was funny?

Tiny stopped laughing and looked seriously at Amanda. “You really want to help us?”

Amanda nodded, but didn’t speak because she was too mad.

“Well, we have a garden that the city gave us. They gave us seeds, but most of the seeds were bad or not food that any of us will be able to eat much of- like turnips.” Tiny made a grimace, “Yuck! Who needs one thousand turnip seeds? Amanda laughed.

Tiny explained that what they really needed were healthy seeds for foods her community would eat and tools to help dig up the land and water the garden. Tiny said that if Amanda really wanted to help, she could get her class and her Dads and her friends to write letters to the City Council asking that a grocery store be put in the neighborhood because the closest one was forty-five minutes away by bus. Tiny and Amanda talked for a long time and not just about the needs of Walden. They both liked to jump rope and sing songs and make bird calls. Papi Cesar spent time chatting with Tiny’s mom, and soon, the two families were friends.

Amanda decided that her project would be to ask her church, her class at school, her family and her friends to come down to Walden and ask the people what they needed. They helped the community get the tools and seeds for the garden and shared in a big harvest meal in the fall. It would take a long time, but eventually they would help get a grocery store in Walden. They had a big festival to celebrate their success together.

Amanda learned a big lesson that day. She learned that you cannot decide what people need help with. You have to ask them what they need you to do and then do that. She also learned that sometimes, if you ask a stranger what they need, you might just make a friend.

 

MEDITATION
By Bernadette R. Burns

 

Let Us take a moment to relax and catch our breath. Let us bring our focus here, to this room, to this group of people and to this moment. We bring a myriad of talents, ideas, needs, and styles. Yet, within this diversity, there is a common bond between us. We love this fellowship, and we are willing to work together to improve and strengthen this community of ours and our lives. Amen.
 

 

CANDLES OF JOY AND CONCERN

Those who are so moved are now invited to come forward to light a candle, expressing a joy or concern in their lives.  As you do, you may briefly share what it is.  We ask that people coming forward speak for no more than a sentence or two, and speak from the heart about issues in their lives, rather than political issues, which we can take up at coffee hour or in the parking lot.

 

SERMON

Freedom Through Relationship, by Meg Riley, senior minister, Church of the Larger Fellowship


I love poking around and discovering old words which are new to me. One word that my reflections on freedom surfaced is the Old English frith, which is related to the words for both friend and free. (My ruminations on this connection were launched by a blogpost called “Friendship is a Root of Freedom” at a website called Joyful Militancy: Thriving Resistance in Toxic Times.)

Variations of the word frith were prevalent in many European cultures, including Iceland, to describe the kind of peace and security that come only from being in right relationship. Freedom is connected to friendship, to kinship. Unitarian Universalists say something about this kinship in our seventh principle, naming “respect for the interdependent web of all existence.”

However, in the way our principles are delineated, “a free and responsible search for truth and meaning” (our fourth principle) might seem to be separate from that interdependent web. Too often, we hear UUs state, “You can believe anything you want to.” However, that kind of individualism will not lead to frith.

Frith means that freedom includes accountability to and responsibility for one another. A free and responsible search for truth and meaning doesn’t mean that I can conduct thought experiments in a tiny bubble without taking into account how my meaning-making impacts the others around me. That’s why I like this word frith, which acknowledges that complexity, that interrelatedness, as foundational.

What would it mean if we lived in a world where frith was the norm? I like to think that our spiritual communities are large petri dishes in which we try to find out; in which right relationship is the center point grounding our free and responsible search for truth and meaning.

When I hear white Unitarian Universalists say that they are tired of talking about racism, or male Unitarian Universalists say they are tired of talking about misogyny, or other people using all of the ways we are privileged to keep from hearing how our meaning-making is limited and hurtful, I long for a time to talk through who “we” are, and who is included in that center where our faith lives.

Paula Cole Jones, director of racial and social justice for several UUA regions, developed the idea that there are two different paradigms in UU circles, our seven principles being one, and beloved community (deep multiculturalism) the other. After working with congregations for over 15 years, she realized that a person can believe they are being a “good UU” and following the seven principles without thinking about or dealing with racism and other oppressions at the systemic level. She cites as evidence the fact that most UU congregations are primarily European-American in membership, culture (especially music), and leadership, even when located near diverse communities.

She realized that an eighth principle, which brought these two paradigms together, was needed to correct this problem.

Recently, Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism (BLUU) has supported the addition of an eighth principle, which would join the other seven:

We, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association, covenant to affirm and promote:  journeying toward spiritual wholeness by working to build a diverse multicultural Beloved Community by our actions that accountably dismantle racism and other oppressions in ourselves and our institutions.

This request, which is being discussed and will eventually become an agenda item at our General Assembly, is a movement to create frith in our principles—to unite the two strands that Jones identified, to declare that only in connecting right relationship to freedom are we truly living our faith. I’m sure there will be disagreements (what I’ve seen so far is, predictably, mostly wordsmithing), but there will be a great deal of discussion. I look forward to the conversation, because it is so needed. And I am hopeful that we will vote to add this key element to what it means to live our faith.

As a white person, I’ve spent many hours trying, often unsuccessfully, to convey the systemic nature of oppression to other white people. It’s been, and will be, my life-long work to fully understand the tenacity of systemic racism and white supremacy. Because I am a visual thinker, I think often of an image I heard from Dr. Bill Jones, one of my first teachers about the systemic nature of racism. Dr. Jones said that privileged people see a metal bar in front of an oppressed person and we think, What’s the problem? Go around it!

We don’t understand that there are bars after bars, connected to one another, and that they encircle the oppressed people, with just enough space between the bars that privileged people only see the space around them and don’t get it that the bars are placed strategically to block any movement. I have witnessed, in my own lifetime, some amazing bar-bending by people of color, and yet every statistic about racial divides in wealth, health, education, safety, housing, transportation, incarceration—and every other measure—describe how the bars are still solidly in place.

Frith means that I understand how, in the words of Martin Luther King Jr., “No one is free while others are oppressed”—and that my being kind to everyone, while it’s a good thing, does not stop oppression. Frith is our path to freedom.

 

HYMN #1028 Fire of Commitment

 

BENEDICTION
By Pamela Rumancik

Why community? To remember . . .

That one is not a whole number

That we need both roots and wings

That strength comes from relationship and mutuality

The we know life ion and through one another