Prelude Jim Pearce
Chiming of the Singing Bowl David Morgen
Words of Welcome and Announcements David Morgen
Good morning! I am David Morgen, a Worship Associate here at Northwest Unitarian Universalist COngregation of Sandy Springs, Georgia. And this morning I am also your worship associate.
Northwest Unitarian Universalist Congregation seeks 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. I hope you’ll join us after worship for coffee hour… from the comfort of your own homes. The link to our Coffee Hour Zoom room will appear in the chat box toward the end of worship, and we will remind you about it again there. When you click the link to join coffee hour, please remember that the password is “coffee”. Again, you will be reminded in the chat, toward the end of our worship service.
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 I 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.
And now let us prepare for worship with the song “There Is More Love Somewhere”
Music “There Is More Love Somewhere” by Dail Edwards
Call to Worship Christina Branum-Martin
Lighting of the Chalice Elissa Branum-Martin
Story Wisdom Adia will introduce “Juneteenth for Maizie” video
Reading “Letter to My Nephew on the One Hundredth Anniversary of the Emancipation” from The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin — David Morgen
Music “A Dedication” by Lea Morris
Joys and Sorrows Karen Edmonds
Prayer and Meditation Karen Edmonds
Music: “Morning Has Come” by Jim Pearch
Sermon “What We Are Called To In This Moment”
Today, we gather together worship, as Unitarian Universalists. As we reflect on these past two weeks, we find evidence of a holy moment of recognition, change, and an uprising of the collective. We are deciding what we stand for and live for at this time and acting upon it.
I am a Unitarian Universalist and a Humanist, so I don’t use religious language of “holy” lightly. I choose this poetic use of the word holy with care; for in this moment, we are religious people who are standing up for the lives of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. We are declaring our dedication to a clear purpose larger than ourselves. Our calling is to love, to justice and to action. What could be more sacred?
Our President of the UUA, Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray, wrote of this calling – – “I invite you in this moment to lean into your spirit, to pray in whatever way you do, to ask what your faith calls from you in this moment. This is a time in our country when so many insidious forces seek to divide us and give us false and empty dichotomies that only lead to more destruction. We need to remember our Unitarian Universalist values in this time. To remember that we are one in creation, one in God, as our Universalist forebears said. We are in this together, and we need each other to survive.
These are frightening, devastating times. How we show up in this time, and where we put our hearts, resources, and commitments will define who we are and what the future holds.
We must all find ways to support the uprisings. We must find the sources within ourselves to give us courage in this moment to resist, to risk, to sacrifice for this movement that needs all of us to succeed.”
In this moment, we deeply acknowledge the painful truth of the price of white supremacy on the lives of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color As these past few weeks have shown, for many, this ultimately is the cost of life itself. Thus, we must talk about the interconnectedness of our individual life stories with the continuing legacy of slavery and racism in this country.
Yes. The history of slavery is directly tied to our present. This painful reality is what the National Memorial for Peace and Justice as well as the Legacy Museum in Montgomery, Alabama, show us. These were both created by the Equal Justice Initiative, founded by Bryan Stevenson. He argues that in order to move beyond slavery, its legacy, and the trauma it brought, we, as Americans, collectively, have to acknowledge the ways in which slavery generated massive amounts of wealth for white Americans and how the
narratives used to justify slavery are still connected with narratives that are used to oppress people of color today. Stevenson argues that unless we acknowledge all of this, we are going to continue to face the consequences of this legacy.
I hope that the momentum of the past two weeks can finally bring about a discussion about a national Juneteenth holiday, an anniversary of utmost importance. Juneteenth, June 19th – just 5 days from now- is the day that commemorates when the last slaves in America were freed by the Emancipation Proclamation in the deepest parts of the former Confederacy as the Civil War came to a close. These slaves were free months after the Civil War ended. On this day in Galveston, Texas, a Union General climbed to a 3rd floor balcony of a hotel and read the Emancipation Proclamation to a large group of gathered slaves below. Juneteenth marked the beginning of a new era of promised freedom in this country. For that, Galveston, Texas is hallowed ground for freedom in this country.
I have a personal connection to Juneteenth. I was raised in Houston, Texas and visited Galveston throughout my life. As a young child, I remember vividly a day of standing on the ground where the proclamation was read so long ago. It was a place for celebrating freedom and it was a place to teach me then, as a child, about the history of this country that included slavery. I felt both pride and sorrow. It was the first time I remember experiencing the juxtaposition of these emotions in my identity as an American and as a
person not of color. It was the beginning of a personal path that led me to traverse the history of racism and injustice in this country and to seek the means for justice. As a cradle Unitarian Universalist, I was taught to believe that we could make a difference if only we tried hard enough, marched enough, and wrote letters enough. But has it been enough?
Today, we are called to act on this teaching. We must move towards concrete action at this time to move things forward towards actualized freedom and equality in America. I believe it is time to push for a national Juneteenth holiday. This push could help bring America closer to embracing the ideals of freedom and equality. Karlos Hill writes of
this. Hill is a professor of African and African-American studies at the University of Oklahoma and the author of Beyond the Rope: The Impact of Lynching on Black Culture and Memory. He says about Juneteenth, in many ways, this holiday “represents how freedom and justice in the US has always been delayed for black people.” In his book, he chronicles how in the decades after the end of the Civil War, this country would see a
wave of lynching, imprisonment, and Jim Crow laws take root. What followed was the disproportionate impact of mass incarceration, discriminatory housing policies, and a lack of economic investment.
Hill stated in an interview this week, that now, “as national attention remains focused on acts of police violence and various racial profiling incidents, it is clear that while progress has been made in black America’s 150-plus years out of bondage, considerable barriers continue to impede that progress. Those barriers may remain until America truly begins to grapple with its history.”
Juneteenth acknowledges and accounts for 250-plus years of slavery, the depth of it, and the trauma it caused and the wealth it created. Hill reminds us that there are those in this society that still hold on to the idea that the Civil War wasn’t about slavery, it was about states’ rights or Northern aggression against slavery. There are those in society that like to tell the story of the Civil War exclusively through the eyes of the Confederacy
and not through the eyes of enslaved people. Juneteenth is a moment where we step back and try to understand the Civil War through the eyes of enslaved people.
Juneteenth is a commemoration of the liberation from bondage.
Mind you, a political speech originally scheduled to happen on Juneteenth in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the place where the largest massacre of black Americans by white mobs took place in 1921 is very deliberate. It is a push to keep black, indigenous and brown bodies in bondage.
To make Juneteenth a national holiday calls for a revolution of values held up by the American people. In 1967, Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote, “A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies…we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside, but that will be only an initial act.
One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring”.
King isn’t talking about just tiny changes here–tinkering, letter writing. He is talking about figuring out what the structure is and “restructuring” it. The first question is then what is the structure? And second is how do you replace it? He is talking about destroying the structures that enslave people not just here but everywhere.
Through our Unitarian Universalists principles, we all have made a commitment to honor the inherent worth and dignity of all people. We have made a commitment to the model of democracy. And we have made a commitment to be aware of our connection to each other and all of existence. These shared principles are foundation for the sacred paths we are living out today in our revolution for justice.
Our liberal religion is a foundation for working towards a revolution of values. Rev. Rebecca Parker, the past president of the Starr King UU seminary writes, “our liberal religion is not a head-trip. Its values and principles are not something dreamed up by armchair philosophers who think these might be good things to believe. The principles of tolerance and reason and freedom are principles articulated by those who have touched and been touched by life. To be committed to these principles is to follow
a path that leads us into deep intimacy with those things of abiding beauty and power that are holy, a path that leads us simply to love.”
We are called to live our faith in the world, and right now, this means doing our part to dismantle white supremacy and work for a world where the lives of Black, Indigenous and People of Color matter.
In this past week, Rev. Cathy Rion Starr wrote of this calling:
May we find the actions that advance justice, following Black leadership. May we learn and grow our spirits in the service of beloved community. May we give generously of our time and money in the service of transformation.
• To Black folk: we see and honor you.
• To other People of Color: we see you, honor you, and invite you to show up with Black folks
• To White folks: we see you, and invite you to learn and give and grow and
She and others in leadership from the UUA have put together this helpful framework for us at this time: “Act, Learn, Worship, and Give”. These are things that we can all do right now.
Show up! Be present on the streets or from your computer safely at home. Be an ally of action and join in the work of this time. Decenter whiteness and follow the lead of our Black leaders and take action in support of justice.
Together, let’s study, read, discuss, and learn. It is time to fully open our hearts and minds to examining how white supremacy shows up in our own lives, our communities and in our congregations.
Together, let’s worship, celebrate, support and hold each other through these times. Remember, this work requires spiritual deepening. We must engage in transformative spiritual practices for challenging moments. There are many challenging moments in our justice work—there is no way around that. What we can do is bring our spiritual and religious wisdom—we shall include the words, songs, prayers, embodied practices and more that strengthen us to the day to day work of justice.
Give of your of time and use your influence to recruit others! Donate to the causes locally and across this country that seek justice! Not sure where to give, start with the UUA’s fund to support the work of front line organizers providing leadership, such as these organizations: Black Visions Collective, Reclaim the Block, and ask Rev. Misha who NWUUC is partnering with at this time. Links to a list of many organizations is in the article in the chat.
Act, Learn, Worship & Give: As people of faith and conscience, we are called to do this work with others — following leadership, in partnership — recruit people from your congregation, community, friends, & family to walk this path with you. You are not alone. We are in this together.
I close today in prayer from Rev. Jack Mendelsohn,
“When we are confronted with the face of cynicism, darkness, brutality all around us and within us, may we seek to align ourselves with a living community that would affirm rather than despair, that would think and act rather than simply adjust and succumb. In doing so we invite the spirit of our own humanity and the healing powers under, around, through and beyond it, to give us the nerve and the grace, the toughness and
the sensitivity, to search out the truth that frees, and the life that maketh all things new.”
Amen. May it be so.
Music: “Listening” by Lea Morris
Offering Christina Branum-Martin
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 today help us to practice the Unitarian Universalist belief that Black Lives Matter 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.
Music: “Woyaya” by Lea Morris and the Silver Spring Unitarian Universalist Choir
Benediction Rev. Misha Sanders
Postlude Jim Pearce