“Vulnerability”

Worship Script 1


Worship Script (1 of 5)

 

Collective Vulnerability

 

OPENING WORDS

By Libbie D. Stoddard

We have come into this room of hope
where our hearts and minds are opened to the future.

We have come into this room of justice
where we set aside our fear to name freely every oppression.

We have come into this room of love
where we know that no lives are insignificant.

We have come into this room of song
where we unite our voices
in the somber and the beautiful melodies of life.

 

HYMN #325   Love Makes A Bridge

 

FIRST READING

 IT’s Hard Word byRosemary Bray McNatt

For just as the body without the spirit is dead, faith without works is also dead.

—James 2:26

Why are we still talking about inclusivity and diversity when we have done so little to make them real?  Why are we still looking pained about the lack of diversity in the denomination? Because diversity, inclusivity, is terribly hard, terribly uncomfortable, definitely unsettling, and often quite frustrating.

What I know about being inclusive—crossing from culture to culture, learning the language of diversity—is that it’s the work of a lifetime. It’s hard to accept people who are not like you, who don’t talk the way you do, or believe the things you believe, or dress or vote as you do. It’s even harder to appreciate them for the things about them that are not like you, to find them interesting and fun, to enjoy the learning that’s part of the experience, and to acknowledge, finally, that you may have to agree to disagree.

The truth is this: If there is no justice, there will be no peace. We can read Thoreau and Emerson to one another, quote Rilke and Alice Walker and Howard Thurman, and think good and noble thoughts about ourselves. But if we cannot bring justice into the small circle of our own individual lives, we cannot hope to bring justice to the world. And if we do not bring justice to the world, none of us is safe and none of us will survive. Nothing that Unitarian Universalists need to do is more important than making justice real—here, where we are. Hard as diversity is, it is our most important task.

 

SECOND READING
By Aisha Ansano

No matter what tactics and methods racial justice activists use, the general response of society will be a collective head-shaking and tsk-tsk-ing — because what people are actually complaining about are not the specific tactics that are being used in the struggle for racial justice, but that the struggle for racial justice exists at all.

I imagine that for most people, the immediate reaction to that statement is defensiveness. “I really don’t think that the struggle for racial justice shouldn’t exist,” some might respond. “I just think there are better ways to go about it than blocking traffic and making me late for work. I get annoyed and frustrated and it really doesn’t convince me to join your fight.”

What, exactly, is going to convince that person to join the fight? Picket signs on the side of the road? Then they’ll just think, “Look at those troublemakers disturbing the peace over there,” as they drive on their way to work. Then they'll promptly forget about it.

It’s not the specific methods that are making people uncomfortable. It’s the fact that the struggle for racial justice is seeping into their awareness in ways that they can’t ignore.

Think about it in terms of this metaphor: You're visiting a foreign country where the customs are very different from what you are used to, and the language is different, and some of the things they do are not only different but make you feel deeply uncomfortable. As a guest in that country, it is not for you to say that the things that people who live there are doing are wrong. Instead, your role is to learn, to pay attention and try to understand how things work, and to adapt. But if you do something that goes against their norms, it's also your role as a guest to not insist that they let you do things however you want to do them. It is your role as a guest to pause and consider what you’re doing.

White people tend to be visitors to the struggle for racial justice, ones that aren’t forced to be there but can choose to come in and leave whenever they like. People of color reside in the struggle for racial justice by virtue of their race. As people who are constantly in the struggle, people of color have the right to make claims on what they find okay and not okay, what they see as helpful and not helpful.


 

HYMN #323 Break Not The Circle

 

STORY FOR ALL AGES
Standing on the Side of Love: A Story for All Ages Story By Mandy Neff

Once there was a second grader named Paul. In September, he moved to a new town, had a new teacher and a new class and a brand-new desk. There was a boy sitting across from him with bright red hair, and his name was Ryan. He told Paul a knock-knock joke, and he was really funny—so that first day was a good day.

The second day, three other boys came up to Ryan and he thought, “Oh, great. They want to make friends with me too!” But that wasn’t what happened. They came up and started poking Paul, and even calling him names.

He looked at his friend Ryan. Ryan really didn’t want to hear what was going on, so what do you think he did? What would you do if you didn’t want to hear something that was going on?

Wait for kids to answer.

Well, what he did was this. Stick your fingers in your ears.

That second day wasn’t such a good day. But the next day was even worse, because the three boys came up to Paul at lunchtime, and they stole his lunch. He didn’t have anything to eat!

The next day, Paul didn’t come to school at all. The three boys were cheering that day because Paul wasn’t there. Then, even though he didn’t want to, Ryan heard them planning mean things they were going to do when Paul came back to school. But this time he didn’t stick his fingers in his ears. What do you think he did?

Wait for answers again.

That’s right, he told the teacher. And when Paul came back to school and there was recess, the three boys came around. But then, the teacher came around too.

And Ryan said,”C’mon, come play with me!” And that day was the best day of all, because that day, Paul and Ryan became best friends.

And so my hope for all of you this year is that, when you hear something you’d rather not hear, that you don’t stick your fingers in your ears. I hope that when you see or hear someone that needs your help, that this year, you find a way to stand up for someone who needs you.

The basis of this story is Becky Ray McCain’s Nobody Knew What To Do: A Story About Bullying, illustrated by Todd Leonardo, Albert Whitman & Company, 2001.

 

MEDITATION

By Megan Foley and Teresa Soto

Unitarian Universalist minister Rev. Theresa Soto writes, "All of us need all of us to make it." I want you to get used to those words; make them your prayer. All of us need all of us to make it.

This is why Unitarian Universalists support the Black Lives Matter movement. Please take a moment to center the struggle for Black lives in your thoughts. {pause}

Say it with me, loud or soft: “All of us need all of us to make it.”

In a world where some of us are targeted for struggle and brutality, where others of us benefit and flourish, we pray:

"All of us need all of us to make it.”

In a world where powerful people of ill will and indifference make us fearful for our safety and our futures, we pray:

"All of us need all of us to make it.”

In the excruciating space that lives between seeing and naming, and hearing and changing, we pray:

"All of us need all of us to make it.”

Make a picture in your mind of someone you aren’t very happy with right now. {pause} Look at their face in your mind, and pray:

"All of us need all of us to make it.”

Unitarian Universalists believe that all of us need all of us to make it; this is why we are in solidarity with the movement for Black lives today and every day.

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

Collective Vulnerability By Meg Riley, senior minister, Church of the Larger Fellowship\


Who are the most vulnerable people you know—both individually and because they hold identities which are marginalized and dismissed by powers and principalities? In the current state of world affairs, the number of communities which are vulnerable to mistreatment and disrespect—if not violence and oppression—seems to grow daily. I’m not even going to start the list because I fear it will never end.


Instead, I’ll say what may be obvious: living in a constant state of physical and emotional vulnerability is exhausting, and at some point becomes traumatic.


The kind of vulnerability that is popular to lift up in sermons and spiritual writing is individualistic: we want to embrace this vulnerability, welcoming it as a teacher and friend so that our lives can be more authentic. But it’s one thing to embrace episodic vulnerability as a choice, to be authentic with our feelings and take risks in situations that will eventually change when circumstances change.


But some people are born into and constantly live with vulnerability, steeped in the cruelty that often comes with power imbalances, wherein powerful ones deny the very humanity of vulnerable ones. For marginalized groups, another wise and self-protective choice is to do what is possible to contain the awareness of vulnerability, and go on with life despite its relentless presence.


In the areas of my life where I am most vulnerable, when people who live outside of my sphere of risk speak to me about my vulnerability, it’s been clear that we might feel things very differently. For instance, after Matthew Shepard was violently murdered in a homophobic hate crime, a heterosexual friend came to me with tears in her eyes and said, “This is horrible! We can never let this happen again! Are you afraid? How do you do the public work you do for GLBT rights? I’m scared for you!”


All I could do was smile and awkwardly pat her arm. I was glad my friend was upset, and that she wanted to try to stop such things from happening again, but I could not allow myself to feel the pain she felt about it. If I opened to that pain, it would have been difficult to deal with it day after day as I went about my business. From my vantage point, Shepard’s gender/race/class privilege was central to the story, because for me the only new part of this story was that this murder got media attention when so many others I knew about did not. For my friend, none of that was even visible, because my daily context of violence was invisible to her.


One of the ways in which power imbalances become clear in groups is when privileged individuals expect our vulnerabilities, real as they might be, be central to what must be discussed when we are in rooms full of people living with systemic, daily, life-threatening vulnerabilities. We’ve all been in that room. A man begins to cry because women have shared that we look at every man on the street as a potential rapist. He wants us to stop and pay attention because he is feeling hurt. His individuality is not being seen; he is not a rapist. But women have just shared the life-threatening terror of walking on the street every day, and instead the room is talking about his hurt feelings.


As a white person, I often feel sensitive in rooms where we are talking about race and racism and its impact. I’ve learned, though, that in multicultural groups it’s a betrayal of the profound vulnerability of others in the room to share my pain. People of color, who have inherited the traumas of historic oppression, continue to suffer because of systemic racism daily. It’s a betrayal of our collective humanity to centralize my own pain and ask people of color to help me take care of it.


This doesn’t mean that I don’t feel my own pain. It means that I look around the room and see who else is there and what they are dealing with. It means that we focus on those who are most vulnerable, whose truths are least witnessed in the world. I may not have owned slaves, or stolen land, but I have inherited the worldview of those who did, in a country where all laws, customs, and economics were created to benefit people like me.


I swim in a sea of white supremacy that is so vast and pervasive and cunning that I will never fully comprehend its grip on me and on the world. It’s important for me to have white people with whom to wrestle with my own thoughts and feelings as I try to be a little more conscious, even as I acknowledge that people of color are the experts on the subject and the ones I can learn most from.


It’s just plain hard to be a human being and live a human life. Can we just agree on that? All of us are vulnerable to illness, and loss, and being hurt by people we thought we could trust. All of us do things we wish we wouldn’t, and have things happen to us that aren’t our fault, but which impact our lives. All of us will disappoint the people we love, and betray our own deepest values.
Life is hard. Part of trying not to make anyone else’s life any harder is being conscious of the ways in which our collective identities intersect with our individual ones; and sometimes, for those of us with privilege, saving our feelings for later.
 

 

HYMN #1020 Woyaya

 

BENEDICTION

By Emily DeTar Birt

In this interdependent web, and network of mutuality,

We are all impacted by the realities facing the

Most vulnerable in our communities.

May we each use our own vulnerability with

Wisdom, grace and love.

May we stand insolidarity with those

Forced into vulnerable spaces,

So that everyone can feel the peace

Of being open and free to be themselves.