Do you remember when the choir sang to us in the spring: “In this Great Turning, we shall learn to lead
Perhaps, like me, you had a sense then some months into our season of COVID of how important
these words were, and perhaps, like me, in the months since, these words have seeped into your
bones, drenching your days with a sense of both urgency and importance. Or maybe in the emotional
rollercoaster that many seem to be on right now, maybe in part because your kids just started “school,”
you’re worried and anxious and just plain tired. Either way, stick with me.
Today is the ninth day since we learned that Daniel Prude was killed by police officers in March while
having a mental health crisis, which has sparked an uprising against police brutality and racial injustice
that has taken the form of nightly protests and vigils. Thousands have come to the streets with face
masks, food and water, songs and prayers, fear and anger, broken hearts and dreams of a new world.
Our faith’s affirmation that Black Lives Matter and that the death of Daniel Prude was, plainly, not as it
ought to have been, leads us into and through the spiritual terrain of deep lament and paradise. When I
say paradise, I do not promise perfection, but simply the rehearsal of a better world. It is our spiritual
task to imagine a world where Daniel Prude could live and then act to make it so. And so, collectively
and individually, we are feeling out the moment and learning to find our place in the movement. Given
our many gifts and our finitude, we are not all called to the same work and witness–even as we are
called. After protesters, including youth, parents, elders, leaders, staff, and ministers of our
congregation found themselves bruised, bleeding, and gasping for breath last weekend, our sibling
congregation First Universalist has transformed their empty downtown building into a hub for medics
treating protestors’ injuries. Some of you are helping as building volunteers there, some of you are
making sure that people check in when they head out to protest and then check back in when they get
home, some of you are making donations, and some of you are wrestling with what this all means.
Meals and donations and supplies and phone calls and loud people to lead chants and quiet listeners to
help freedom fighters set it all down for a moment, all will be needed and not just this week. We will
need to be in this for months and years to come. If you’re sitting at home wondering how to get
involved, there will be more opportunities, but for the time being, throw your energy into UU the Vote
and other ways of protecting and extending our democratic institutions. And for the sake of all that is
holy, rest. We cannot proclaim the dignity and worth of bodies while degrading the ones we have.
Of course, today is also September 11th, and for those of us who are old enough (over 30% of
Americans have been born in the last 19 years), we remember another time of great uncertainty. A time
of grieving and fear, but also a time when many of us felt that having had the bottom drop out from
under us, we were finally looking around to see which connections were real and where kindness might
be an option, after all. That sense of wide-eyed mutual care in the ashes of something horrible is
something I’ve seen again on the streets this week, and as far as silver linings go, I’m convinced that
these glimpses of the Beloved Community are paradise here on earth.
The Great Turning referenced in the MaMuse song that the choir sang to us is the societal shift to a
life-sustaining civilization. Writer Joanna Macy coined the term to describe “the essential adventure of
our lives” as we move away from an Industrial Growth Society. This Turning is only possible if we lead
with love. As I think about the years that followed that act of foreign terror in 2001 and the years to
come after this act of domestic terror in March, may we bear witness to a world with less domination
and more equity. May justice and mercy be proclaimed over the protection of the powerful, and may we
lead with love, worthy of those glimpses of paradise that we get here right on Earth. May it be so, dear
Come to church on Sunday. Rev. Margalie will be there. Sheila and Thommy and Shannan and your
friends, old and future, will be there. See you on Zoom!
In love and faith,