Last Sunday afternoon, I attended an open house hosted by the Islamic Society of Greater Lowell. They wished to thank members of the surrounding communities who had offered calls and emails of support, following the election and President Trump’s executive order, banning Muslims from seven countries from entering the United States. I listened to one member share with the audience a story about attending the protest in Boston the Sunday after the ban was enacted (and before the courts overturned it). He recounted that the last protest he had attended was at the United Nations, against the atrocities happening during the war in Bosnia. There were a couple hundred protestors, all Muslim. He was not surprised, for after all, it was a Muslim issue. He expected the same when he headed into Boston, and was amazed and deeply moved to see thousands of people, the majority non-Muslim, to protest the ban. He saw a sign that read, “I am a Jew. I am gay. I oppose the Muslim ban” and said that sign summarized the whole experience for him, shifting his fear that America was lost to him to hope that it is his country still. I knew that among those thousands he saw there, several were members from First Parish, so the story carried a particular resonance for me.
Our Universalists ancestors, in their faith of God’s unconditional love for each and every person, believed that we could create the reign of God’s peace and love (shalom) on earth by responding to God’s love by loving our neighbors as ourselves. Today, we call this the work of Beloved Community. As I shared in my sermon on Sunday, the work of Beloved Community calls us to step away from the practices of individualism and exceptionalism toward practices of generosity, pluralism, and imagination (see Fred Muir’s essays in Turning Point: Essays for a New Unitarian Universalism for a deeper discussion). As such, it is difficult, messy, risky, and at times, awkward. It requires us to risk being vulnerable, uncomfortable and sometimes wrong about what we believe we know. I also think this is a revolutionary response to what is happening in our country right now—a revolution that happens in community conversations and gatherings at a grassroots level. I also believe our Unitarian Universalist tradition equips us for this ministry of beloved revolution.
On a different topic, I would like to express my gratitude again to the Capital Campaign Team: Jim Curley, John Schneider, Maura Snow, Edith Murphy, Rosemary McMullin and Caroline McMullin, with support from Deb Grad. They have done a fantastic job working with Brian Raiche from Cornerstone Fundraising on our capital campaign for the building accessibility project. I am also deeply grateful to this congregation for your incredible generosity. Before the service on Sunday, we were at about $390,000 in pledges toward our $500,000 goal. After the service, we were at $430,000. It feels more real every moment. I hope that everyone gets to see the display of the plans and the timeline on the wall across from the restrooms. My thanks to Heather Bigler, Kim Gist, and Cindy Gist for putting it together. It is amazing what we can do together.