"Making Change"

Worship Script 1


 

Worship Script (1 of 5)

In the Midst of Making Change

 

OPENING WORDS

By Beverly and David Bambaugh

 

Our church exists to proclaim the gospel

That each human being is infinitely precious,

That the meaning of our lives lies hidden

 in our interactions with each other.

 

We wish to be a church

Where we encounter each other

With wonder, appreciation and expectation,

Where we call out of each other

Strengths, wisdom, and compassion

That we never knew we had.

 

HYMN #358 Rank by Rank Again We Stand**

** You are encouraged to sing a different first verse printed below, as a way to be more inclusive of persons with various abilities.

Original Lyrics by Skrine/Seaburg Amended lyrics by Kendyl Gibbons and Cynthia Landrum.

Rank by rank come we once more,
from the four winds gathered hither.
Loud the hallowed walls implore
whence we come and how, and whither.

 

FIRST READING
Quote from A. Powell Davies, cited in the UU World Article, “A. Powell Davies, a preacher to the nation” by Warren R. Ross

We are the consummation of thousands of years of religious history. We are thousands of years that have stripped off superstition and have battled tyranny . . . that have marched, sometimes joyfully, sometimes in agony, toward spiritual emancipation. . . . Yet in this world of blood and sorrow it is hardly worth mentioning unless in addition we are the beginning of something, unless our religion is new.


SECOND READING
Reading #35 in Lifting Our Voices by Sobonfu Some

Community is the spirit, the guiding light of the tribe,

Whereby people come together in order to fulfill a specific purpose,

To help others fulfill their purpose,

And to take care of one another.

 

HYMN #113 Where is Our Holy Church?

 

STORY FOR ALL AGES
“The Promise and the Practice: Repairing Our Mistakes with Love” by Jaelynn Pema-la Scott, Erika A. Hewitt

This message for all ages involves two people, one of whom will need to bring forward a broken mug, plate, or bowl. These two leaders might hold a private rehearsal so that, in worship, this feels natural and playful — and yet meaningful. Please research pronunciation of the word "kintsugi," whose Japanese roots are KIN (gold) + TSUGI (joinery).

Person A invites the children forward, and explains that they and Person B will be showing them a beautiful bowl.

Person B comes forward sorrowfully with their bowl: “I was so excited to show you this bowl — but it broke on the way here this morning, and now I’m feeling upset. Can we try to fix it?”

Person A (defensively): “I didn’t break it.”

Person B: “I know you didn’t break it — but can you help me fix it anyway?”

Person A: “You mean help you fix it even though I didn’t break it? I just need you to understand that I’m a good person. I don’t go around breaking bowls.”

Person B (patiently): “It’s important to me that we figure out how to fix this bowl, because it means a lot to me.”

Person A invites the children to agree that yes, we should help Person B fix their broken bowl. Then: “Okay, then: do you have any ideas about how we could fix the bowl?”

Person A solicits suggestions, offering some themselves, if necessary. Possibilities to present to the children include:

tape
glue
give everyone a piece of chewing gum, and then use it on the bowl
after several suggestions, Person B brightens: “I have an idea, too! It’s called kintsugi."

(keen-tsoo-gee: note that the “ts” is audible, and the g is a hard g, as in "gorilla." (in Japanese all syllables are given equal emphasis)

Person A: “What’s kintsugi?”

Person B explains that kintsugi is the ancient Japanese art of repairing broken pottery and ceramics: gold is used to highlight the beauty of the imperfections that remain when a broken item has been repaired. As Person B explains, you might show photos — on video screens or on a tablet — of different examples of kintsugi.

Person A: “So what I’m learning is that the point of kintsugi isn’t to hide the broken parts, right?”

Person B: “That’s right! The gold is used to remind the user, over and over, that something that was once broken is whole again and it has a different beauty.”

Person A: “In a way, that’s what happens when other things break, right?”

Person B: “What kinds of things?”

Person A: “Like, relationships. Friendships. Sometimes we hurt each other’s feelings, and it’s like the thread between two (or more) people breaks. But as Unitarian Universalists, we don’t ignore that: we try to rebuild the relationship so that it’s stronger than it was before.”

Person B: “I agree! The work of healing is all of our jobs, no matter how big or small we are. And when we repair our mistakes with love and with our covenant, we remember that our relationships are more beautiful once we have acknowledged hurt, asked for forgiveness, corrected our mistakes, and made a sacred promise to do better in the future.”
 

MEDITATION
#26 in Lifting Our Voices by Wendy Bartell and Lynn Gardener

From our separate joys and struggles,

We come here to find the peace of balance.

To find the blessing of restlessness

All are welcome

To follow, to lead

To teach, to learn

All are welcome

To join in the dance

To catch our breath …

All are welcome

To give generously

To receive gratefully

All are welcome

If we are steady and composed,

If we feel completely lost,

If we don’t know what we are feeling

This community has a place for us . . .

Here, we matter,

And we are loved.

If you are steady and poised,

If you feel completely lost,

If you don’t know what you feel,

This community has a place for us . . .

We mater,

We are loved.

 

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

In the Midst of It All, by Lisa Bovee-Kemper

 
Some years ago, I had the opportunity to work with a youth group to plan their annual worship service. They had a great theme in mind, all about voices. As youth they felt like they had no voice, but were learning how to speak up. They talked about people who were silenced, and people who spoke out anyway. They saw celebrities who used their platform to speak out against injustice and to make change, and others who had a platform but used it for more superficial things. It was going to be great!

During one of our long planning sessions, someone piped up, “Wait! I have an idea! Let’s hand everyone a blank order of service. It will be symbolic, calling attention to the ways people are silenced and the ways people can speak. The absence of words will be really dramatic.”

Inside my head, I thought, “There is no universe in which that is going to be allowed to happen.” But the conversation that followed gave me one of the most important lessons of my ministerial formation, and a strategy I use to this day. Instead of saying, “Yeeeaah, that’s not going to work,” and shutting them down, I said, “Hmm, that’s a really interesting idea.”

The first thing I asked was, “What are you trying to accomplish? What is the goal of the blank order of service?” They then articulated a great set of goals, grounded in their theme and their lived experience. So I said, “Wonderful! Now, will this action accomplish the goals you have articulated?” A longer conversation ensued, in which the youth decided that, among other things, the blank order of service would be so confusing and anxiety-provoking to the recipients that it would be a distraction and would not reinforce their symbolic intent.

I learned from this process that imposing my own assumptions on their idea would have been bossy and unhelpful. I could easily have claimed my authority as their leader and shut it down. Instead, by engaging them in the conversation, I gave them an opportunity to articulate more clearly their own vision and goals.

I ask these questions constantly in my ministry: What are we trying to accomplish? And will our proposed action meet our stated goals?

Last year I joined a group of protestors at a prominent Civil War monument here in Asheville, North Carolina. I was asked to be part of a peaceful clergy presence at a vigil held in solidarity with those who believe that monuments to Confederate figures ought to come down. Four people had been arrested for an earlier direct action there, attempting to remove the plaque from a Robert E. Lee memorial.

The statement from the organizers of the vigil opened with: “Four arrested at Robert E. Lee Monument during symbolic action against White Supremacy.” Their message went on to say, “We understand that the removal of this monument would be symbolic of removing white supremacy from the very center of our city. We know that this must be connected to the deep work of ending systemic racism and white supremacy culture here…”

When I received the call to participate, I wasn’t immediately sure if I would go. It had been a busy week, and Friday morning is my writing time. I also take the kids to daycare in the morning and needed to grocery shop. Further, there is so much going on these days, so many conflicting asks and needs, so many different tactics and movements. I am prepared to take my body to the streets, but I want to know why I’m doing it—I care that the things I participate in are effective and meaningful.

I agree that confederate monuments are not useful in our communities. I do not agree that removing them is the most important focus. And yet, I participated in this action. Why is that? Because I know my goal. And in this case, my personal goal was more important than the goal of the action itself.

My highest value in the context of my work to dismantle white supremacy culture is to support and amplify the marginalized voices in my communities. And that made my decision about the Friday action quite simple. I was asked by the women of color who organized the event to attend as a peaceful clergy presence. So I did.

When I was helping the youth group plan their service, it was my role to shepherd them through their process. I was specifically charged to engage in the conversation with them. In the case of the solidarity vigil, my role was different.

I had a lot of questions. A lot of theory and experience in my own mind. I’ve planned actions myself. As a white woman, a professional clergy person, I have authority in the system. I could easily have marched into the slightly chaotic 7am scene and gotten bossy. Instead, I found the people who had called us all together and asked them how I might be most supportive. They answered, and so I set to work singing, holding space, and being a peaceful presence.

In another situation, I might have different goals. My highest value might be different. And that’s an important distinction to make as well. If I know my highest value in a given situation, I will make decisions differently. Sometimes my highest value is efficiency. Sometimes it is collaboration, or relationship-building, or something else entirely.

It is important, then, to answer the question: Why does this organization exist? Why are we here? What, specifically, are we here to accomplish?

The congregation I serve holds Compassion, Inspiration, Community, and Justice as values to guide who we are and what we do. It is an ongoing process to clarify how those values inform our activity both within our walls and out in the community.

Goals and values exist on multiple levels, from the most abstract “meta” level to the smallest of mundane details. And that is why it is important for each group to do their own visioning work. But each group interprets those values differently, and chooses different places to focus. And so does each individual.

We are the ones. We must figure it out for ourselves, together. All of our voices and experiences are an essential part of this community, and an essential part of the resistance. It’s worth knowing what your own goals are, and how they fit into the work of community.

My colleague Kristin Schmidt says, “…(O)ne of the most powerful things religious community can do is help one another in letting our love and commitment grow bigger and stronger than our fear.” In a way, this is also what mid-20th century Unitarian minister A. Powell Davies pointed at when he said: “In this world of blood and sorrow it is scarcely important, hardly worth mentioning, unless in addition we are the beginning of something, unless our religion is new.”

It is my greatest hope that the violence and despair we see these days is the last gasp of a harmful system. It is my most fervent prayer that the animosity and vitriol we encounter around and within our communities is simply the wound uncovered and lanced, ready to begin to heal. But I cannot be certain.

And so I turn once more to my own faith. I turn to my experience of community coming together again and again to show one another that love and commitment can overpower fear. I turn to the faith of the people who came before me, and the strength of those who walk beside me and show me the way.

What is our goal? And are our actions accomplishing that goal?

Love and compassion are the ground underneath us. Even when fault lines cause that ground to shift, we return again and again to the fierce and tenacious spirit of the Love that will not let us go—the indelible shape of justice which calls us deeper into the work of building, the risk of reaching out and the promise of a faith grounded in history calling us forth to a new vanguard.

 

HYMN #1058  Be Ours A Religion

 

BENEDICTION
#203 in Lifting Our Voices by Barbara Hamilton-Holway

Go now in peace,

Deeply regard each other;

Truly listen to each other;

Speak what each must speak;

Be ready in every moment to disarm your own heart;

Rejoice in this love you have begun.

Amen.