“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, August 21, 2014

Blessing of the Backpacks

        The Rev. Jacqui Lewis, a prophetic voice of our time, says this about the impact of racism on all of us, but in particular, the impact of racism on children and young men of color: “These are our children…and they are in danger. We have to fix this; we have to address the ways that racism in the United States is like a virus that mutates and continues to infect us. Children are not born to hate, nor are they born to fear. But adults who have the virus can harm them, and children can catch the virus, too. It can feel overwhelming to address racism, but we have to do it.”
As the grief, turmoil, and protests continue in Ferguson, MO, and around the country, I remember that Michael Brown, the unarmed black teenager who was shot six times after some sort of encounter with the police, was supposed to have started college this past Monday, August 18th.

If you have a child (or children) in school, you are familiar (or are preparing for the first time!) for this fall time ritual, the beginning of the new school year.
Our son starts kindergarten next Wednesday; he’ll board the bus, wearing his backpack, carrying our hearts with him, as he begins his first day. This scene, in various communities, in various ways, repeats itself around the country; parents will drive a young adult to college; parents will prepare for life with a middle-schooler, or a high-schooler; and some parents will watch as their child boards the bus for the first time.
These are poignant, tender days; I am aware of those among us who have lost a child, a child who would now be in high school, college, or beginning a new job this fall. I am aware of the families, like Michael Brown’s family, who have lost young men because of the virus of racism. And I am aware of all the living children – all of our children, of all colors – who are very much in need our love, support, and blessing, so that they might thrive.  
Next Sunday, at our 10 a.m. service, we will be holding our “Blessing of the Backpacks” serviceChildren and youth are encouraged to wear their school backpacks to church, so that we can include them in the Backpack Blessing ritual. If you are able, please bring an extra backpack to donate for students at Augsburg Fairview Academy. We will bless these backpacks, too.
        As we move toward this ritual, ready to bless the backpacks and the lives of those most precious to us, let us remember those children and young adults no longer with us. Let us remember Michael Brown, and the many others like him, who have no backpack to bless.
        Let us remember the preciousness of all children, and let us continue to work for a world of equity, justice, and compassion.
        May it be so.  


Friday, August 15, 2014

Love Reaches Out

           Robin Williams and Mike Brown died two days apart.  Robin Williams was 63 and took his own life on August 11th. Michael Brown was 18 and was shot to death by police officers in Ferguson, Missouri, on August 9th. Both deaths break my heart. I imagine the pain and suffering that Williams must have lived with. I know that many of us live and struggle with such pain and suffering, and despite apparent successes, or the happy faces we wear, inside we ache or are numb.

And when I see pictures of a once living, smiling Michael Brown, I can’t help but think of a once living, smiling Trayvon Martin. While all of the details are not yet clear, what is clear is that once again, a young, unarmed black man has been shot. I grieve for everyone involved, including the police office who pulled the trigger. I can only begin to imagine the grief and anger that Brown’s family and the Ferguson community feel.  Despite strides made around racial equality in this country, the fact remains that much of this country was build upon the bodies of black men, women, and children, as well as the resources and land of Native Peoples. We are still living with the aftermath of centuries of slavery and violence against people of color.  We are still living with a racial narrative that says black men are dangerous and violent, their lives worth less than white lives.

Depression and despair are real. Racism, and the daily verbal, emotional, and physical violence against people of color, is real, as well. Our broken hearts, anger, and suffering are real. So when we are suffering, let us remember that we need not suffer or struggle alone. If you are carrying a great sadness about Williams, Brown, or anything else, please reach out to me, or Rev. Jen, Rev. Elaine, or Rev. Ruth.

 At First Universalist, we have promised (covenanted) to dwell together in peace, to seek the truth in love, and to help one another.  We can’t bring back Williams or Brown, but we can reach out to one another; we can strengthen our commitment to work for a racially just world; we can break the silence around depression and mental illness. Even with broken hearts, we can reach out to one another in love. 

 *The title of this post is inspired by this video: