“We build on foundations we did not lay.
We warm ourselves at fires we did not light.
We sit in the shade of trees we did not plant.
We drink from wells we did not dig.
We profit from persons we did not know.
We are ever bound in community."

Rev. Peter Raible (paraphrased from Deuteronomy 6:10-12)

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Race: The Power of an Illusion

In the past 5 months, through sermons, conversations, and more, First Universalist Church has begun the journey of becoming a congregation committed to racial justice principles and practices. There is energy and excitement about this work, the fact that we're doing it in a faith community, and that we understand it as a spiritual imperative.

One of the daily practices I engage in that helps me keep my own racial identity front and center in my life, is something I learned from Heather Hackman. I take a minute to breathe and to sit with the question, "Where is my race in my body?" So far, some of my answers have been, "In my skin," "In my hair," "In my mind, i.e., in my expectations about how I expect to be treated/how I expect people to respond to me/how I expect my family will be treated," and "In my voice/the way people listen to me." Obviously, some of this is wrapped up in being a male, being a minister, and being in a position of power, but a lot of it is about race, too. If you have a minute, try this exercise. Where is your race in your body?

Part of my spiritual practice now, as a racialized white person (meaning I'm taught not to think about my race), is to pay particular attention to my race.

This journey began last October, when I preached this sermon, called "The Power of an Illusion." Even though I'm far from an expect on race and racial justice, I felt called to begin this work, imperfect and blind though I may be. Since that sermon, we've had 4 conversations with members of the congregation about race and racial justice work, and the spiritual imperatives behind it. We've watched the movie, "Race: the Power of an Illusion" and have had conversations following the film. And a few weeks ago, Ruth MacKenzie, our Director of Worship Arts, preached this sermon, "Re-examine Everything," challenging us all to re-examine everything we think we know about race, and our own histories.  We're beginning to engage with a consultant who will do a training with our staff, Board members, and other key leaders in the congregation.

There's so much more to say about my own journey and our journey as a faith community...but that will have to be another post.


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Growing into Love's People...

About a year and a half ago, First Universalist Church spent a year creating a new mission statement. We ended up with this: "In the Universalist spirit of love and hope, we give, receive, and grow."

In a sermon series, I spent about 5 weeks, exploring what the "Universalist Spirit" was, and how we were called to give, receive and grow as a faith community. You can listen to these sermons here, here, and here.
We kept playing with this language, and slowly, we began to believe that as a church we were called to "give" out of a sense of gratitude for all we've been given, to learn to "receive" the gifts and blessings of this life with an open heart, and to "grow" into Love's people.  

It's the "Love's People" language that really stuck. Since August, this is how we're been articulating it: 

In the Universalist spirit of Love and hope, we give, receive, and grow...As we truly live into this great exchange of giving, receiving, and growing, we come to understanding that:

We are all Love's people, held by a Love that will not let us go.
As Love’s people, we do holy work:
We welcome, affirm, and protect the light in each human heart.
We act beyond our walls for justice and equality.
           We listen with our whole being to where Love is calling us next.

The ministry of First Universalist Church is wrapped up in this statement. Our Small Groups are about building connections and "listening to where Love is calling us next." Our racial justice work (which we've just begun) is about dismantling systems of oppression so that we can truly "welcome, affirm, and protect the light in each human heart," as we work for justice. Our Universalist roots are held in this statement, as we take seriously the notion that we are called to be "Love's People" in the world...