Prelude Jim Pearce
Chiming of the Singing Bowl Rev. Misha Sanders
Words of Welcome and Announcements Rev. Misha Sanders
Good morning! I am Reverend Misha Sanders, your senior Minister here at Northwest Unitarian Universalist Congregation, of Sandy Springs, Georgia, where I am coming to you live from our front porch! You will notice growth in the background of every shot today, and I hope you find it an exciting as I do.
Welcome to online worship! We here at NWUUC seek to create loving community, inspire joy and spiritual growth, and support courageous action. All are welcome, as together we journey towards justice and equity by learning, caring, and acting together.
We especially welcome any newcomers and visitors we have today.
Usually, immediately following our online worship, we share a virtual coffee hour, but this week is a little different. Ours is a faith community that practices congregational governance, and we value, as one of our principles, the democratic process within our congregations. And so today we have our Part Two of our annual congregational spring meeting, immediately following our worship service. At this meeting we will be voting on approving a budget for the upcoming church year, one that our board of trustees has worked hard on, keeping our core values, principles, and mission in mind on every line item. We will also be voting on the start-up of a pre-school we hope will help our community of all ages thrive long into the future. All members are encouraged to stay and cast your votes. Friends and visitors may stay too, of course, if you are interested in observing a small piece of how congregational governance works in this beloved community, in the age of virtual meetings.
If you haven’t already, now is a great time to grab whatever materials you’ll need to light your own chalice if you’d like that to be part of your worship experience today.
As always, kindly set your phones to worship mode; we won’t know, but we think you might enjoy the hour free from distractions. And feel free to check in on your social media of choice to let your friends and family know about this place of caring you’ve found today. Our congregation is an exciting place to be, and we love it when you share the good news!
And although we cannot be physically together to greet each other today with hugs, high-fives, smiles, and words of love, we are all together in spirit and each and every one of us is welcome.
Our Director of Music, Dr. Phillip Rogers, will now lead us in singing together.
Music ‘ “Enter, Rejoice and Come In” Dr. Philip Rogers
Call to Worship Rev. Misha Sanders
By Christian Schmidt
Let us wake up.
Not just from the Sunday morning exhaustion, from the wish for a few more drowsy minutes in bed.
Let us wake up to this world we live in: to its beauty and wonder, and also to its tragedy and pain.
We must wake up to this reality: that not all in our world have what we do, however much or little that is.
We must wake up to the idea that our wholeness, our lives, are only as complete as the lives of those around us, of those we are inextricably tied to in a great web of mutuality, of which all of us are part.
We must #staywoke, in the words of our friends and colleagues involved in Black Lives Matter, working every day for racial justice in our country.
Let us wake up, let us stay awake, let us #staywoke.
And now, in this time and place, let us worship together.
Chrissy Haddad will now lead us in singing together once more.
Music – “I’ve Got Peace Like A River” Chrissy Haddad
Lighting of the Chalice Sydney Kahn
Deep Calls Unto Deep, Joy Calls Unto Joy
By Gordon B McKeeman
Deep calls unto deep, joy calls unto joy, light calls unto light.
Let the kindling of this flame rekindle in us the inner light of love, of peace, of hope.
And “as one flame lights another, nor grows the less,”
we pledge ourselves to be bearers of the light, wherever we are.
Story Wisdom Adia Udofia-Fields – The Perfect Square
Reading Rev. Misha Sanders
By Adrienne Maree Brown, from Pleasure Activism
“a spell to cast upon meeting a stranger, comrade or friend working for social and/or environmental justice and liberation:
you are a miracle walking
i greet you with wonder
in a world which seeks to own
your joy and your imagination
you have chosen to be free,
every day, as a practice.
i can never know
the struggles you went through to get here,
but i know you have swum upstream
and at times it has been lonely
i want you to know
i honor the choices you made in solitude
and i honor the work you have done to belong
i honor your commitment to that which is larger than yourself
and your journey
to love the particular container of life
that is you
you are enough
your work is enough
you are needed
your work is sacred
you are here
and i am grateful”
Let us focus on sending love and gratitude and strength to all of those fighting for justice in our city streets this week, as our own Jim Pearce shares with us his gift of music.
Music – Morning Has Come” Jim Pearce
Joys and Sorrows Rev. Joan Armstrong-Davis
Prayer and Meditation Rev. Joan Armstrong-Davis
Music – “I Am Open” – Dail Edwards
Sermon Rev. Misha Sanders
It says “Sermon” right here in my Order of Service script, but this isn’t really a sermon. I just want to talk to you about several things today, really.
Today is our Outgathering. The Sunday that, back when Unitarian Universalists traditionally closed up church completely for the summer, would have been our final Sunday together of the church year. We’ve continued the tradition of Outgathering, although church is year-round these days, because we like this tradition, because people come and go a lot during the summer months in a normal year, thus making summer worship attendance pretty low some weeks. We come in and out of each other’s lives more transiently over the summer, and then join together again at the end of the summer, in our traditional Ingathering worship.
This year, of course, is so different in so many ways.
We are not physically together for goodbye hugs and a shared meal.
And that’s hard. It’s hard knowing that we won’t be coming back together for a proper Ingathering in a free months, either. Especially given that this amazing new building expansion will be completed and just sitting here awaiting our return.
Alas, global pandemics don’t really care about our traditions or our excitement over what we are building together here. And that’s brutal and unfair.
I had a sermon all ready for today called “Joy is and act of Resistance”, from a poem by Toi Derricote, in which Toi lifts up the work of getting free from racial oppression, and gives the people in the struggle the explicit permission to take break from their rage and their fighting to experience joy.
I even planned to wear this new Georgia Peach stole I had commissioned for this day.
That’s where I was going to go with this. Informed also by the work of Adrienne Maree Brown, in this book [show book], Pleasure Activism. I bought Pleasure Activism after seeing it highly reviewed, and not knowing that it is not a book written for me. It is by, for, and about black women, and I acknowledge and honor that, while telling you that I have also learned much from it, although that is beside the author’s point completely. [remove stole]
But, I’m not preaching that sermon today, because although I had intended to make our virtual Outgathering a time of great joy and celebration… just like COVID-19 didn’t care about our plans, another deadly virus in our nation didn’t care, either. That deadly virus is Racism.
Racism is why people are in the streets screaming that Black Lives Matter in our beloved city, and in cities, towns, and suburbs all over our country this week. Racism is why the joy sermon has to wait. Racism is why the beautiful building that is being prepared for us doesn’t matter at all in this moment and simultaneously why the real church…the one that lives inside us all…matters more than ever before. It is why this predominantly white congregation in the wealthiest zip code in Georgia called a minister who will not conduct business as usual, even on Outgathering Sunday, even on my favorite Sunday of the liturgical year, Pentecost Sunday, even though it is the one year anniversary of the day you called me to serve you, and even though we’re getting ready to begin a meeting to vote on money issues. I want us to remember why Pentecost Sunday last year was so significant to the future of this congregation, and why YOU, the people who called me to serve you…made the decision you made.
I need to remind us that you called a minister who told you plainly and clearly who I am and who I envisioned us to be. And I need to remind us that if I did not clearly speak up about the moral injury of racism, then I would not be living up to what you called me here for, and your vote to call me would have been wasted.
Thinking about the sacredness of your yes vote on calling me to serve with you is a big part of why I was in the streets of Atlanta bearing your name this weekend. I was not there to declare myself an ally to the black lives that matter, because ally is not an honor I can bestow upon myself, it is earned and and accepted from the people in the margins, not me. But I was there because YOU, Northwest Unitarian Universalist Congregation, called me to be there. Not here. Not in this empty building we all love. You didn’t call me to a building or a location. You called me to a mission, a set of principles, and a covenant with you.
That’s why our Outgathering is an affirmation that we, Northwest Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Sandy Springs, Geogia, rise together to proudly proclaim that Black Lives Matter.
It is why our name is added to this joint statement my Atlanta-area Unitarian Universalist colleagues and I are releasing this week in our names. My colleague, Rev. Taryn Strauss wrote these words for her congregation, and has allowed our clergy cluster to adapt them for the whole of our area congregations. Here is our joint statement:
As multi-racial Unitarian Universalist Congregations of Metro Atlanta, Georgia, we condemn the acts of racism and white supremacy around the country this week, and before. We join the families and communities of Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, GA, Breonna Taylor in Louisville, KY, and George Floyd in Minneapolis, MN, in anguish, outrage, exhaustion and grief.
We cry out as one in the Wilderness, longing for relief from the other epidemic: racism that has been built into the foundations of our nation. We see how the institution of white supremacy is connected and upheld by individual acts of murderous violence by white people, by white women weaponizing their race against innocent black men, by police department cover-ups, by governments that allow armed white militias to storm state capitols while tear-gassing peaceful protesters on the streets.
We see clearly the connections of how COVID-19 has ravaged black communities more than any other, communities of people whose work may be called essential but who are paid meagerly, while white communities are statistically more protected from poverty, death, and sickness. We must stay focused on the goals of equity and justice during this pandemic.
For every life that falls another thousand will rise.
For every breath that is snatched away, we will use our breath to grieve and to speak out for the lives and livelihood of black people.
The forces of evil think this is how movements die.
But if they think killing one of us unjustly is going to make us bow down, they are mistaken, because rarely in the course of history has that ever been the outcome of such grave, clear injustice.
Instead, an innocent life lost so publicly and tragically has caused people to discover new reservoirs in the soul.
We, the Unitarian Universalist Congregations of Metro Atlanta commit to do the work of interrogating and condemning white supremacy within our institutions, our communities, and our hearts. We believe none of us are truly free until all of us are free. We work, pray and fight for the liberation of all, and the vitality of each.
We proclaim yesterday, today and tomorrow:
Black Lives Matter.
Let me remind us about why this calling last year and this declaration this year both coming on Pentecost Sunday matters to me.
I will quote straight from the candidating sermon I preached to you this time last year, in this fiery stole I wore that day, because I remain as committed to this version of beloved community as I was this time last year. Just more in love with you all now, is all. There is God language, because the context of the sermon was Christian scripture, which remains absolutely okay to talk about in Unitarian Universalist sometimes. Here’s what I said that day:
“You know what is my favorite thing about the particular Day of Pentecost described in the second chapter of The Acts of the Apostles? The most diverse group of people imaginable assembled in Jerusalem that day, and God showed them that they could celebrate common ground THROUGH diversity, not in spite of it! God didn’t suddenly give everyone a common language or perspective. God spoke THROUGH people in the ways that others could understand!
It was never about the woowoo of ‘Speaking in Tongues’. It was and is about speaking clearly and deliberately in ways that draw people in and include us all.
We are speaking in The Spirit when we shout it loudly in the streets that Black Lives Matter.”
Beloveds, it is Outgathering. It is a time of joy, of looking back, and of looking forward. It has been one helluva year. And next year is shaping up to be a helluva opportunity to love each other and stay connected in new and exciting and different ways that none of us ever could have imagined, and maybe wouldn’t have even wanted to. Yet here we are.
Speaking in the language of Pentecost that says until we can ALL be included in in-person gatherings then we will stay home. Because y’all mean’s all, y’all. Georgia has taught me some things.
So, to sum up what I needed to say today in this non-sermon chat:
Joy is an act of resistance.
Black Lives Matter.
We will gather when we can ALL gather because y’all means all.
I will miss you while I take some time off this summer.
And most importantly…and more now than the first time I said it.
I love you, I love you, I love you…and there’s nothing you can do about it!
Chrissy Haddad will lead us in some singing now, and I invite you to be still and breathe deeply with me ,or song along.
Music “Find A Stillness” LIVE Chrissy Haddad
Offering Rev. Misha Sanders
The offering that we take each Sunday isn’t just a stale habit:
it’s an opportunity to recommit to this place, and to this people.
Our offering is an affirmation—a “yes.”
When we give, we say yes to something we value.
With our gifts, freely given, may we say yes to the values of our faith.
May our text-to-give offering help us practice Unitarian Universalism within and beyond our congregation, as tools to empower our mission.
Our offering will now be given and gratefully received.
To the work of this congregation, which is weaving a tapestry of love and action, we dedicate our offerings and the best of who we are.
Benediction Rev. Misha Sandes
Fitted for This Day
By Kimberly Quinn Johnson
We are the ones we have been waiting for.*
We are not perfect, but we are perfectly fitted for this day.
We are not without fault,
but we can be honest to face our past as we chart a new future.
We are the ones we have been waiting for.
May we be bold and courageous to chart that new future
May we have faith in a future that is not known
We are the ones we have been waiting for.*
Postlude Jim Pearce