I wanted to share again what I wrote for the Worship Notes this past Saturday:
Even before the pandemic, this was a very fraught and divided time in our country. Now, the terrible events of this week, with the killing of George Floyd, a black man in Minneapolis by a white police officer and the ensuring protests and violence around the country, have pushed the pandemic from the headlines, even as the death toll hit 100,000 people. It is hard to know what to say anymore.
I have been walking a lot and listening as I walk to podcasts of the radio show, On Being, hosted by Krista Tippett. She engages in conversation with scientists, theologians, artists, writers, musicians, and community activists as a way to explore the depths and possibilities of human experience and community. The stories and ideas her guests share have helped me get beyond of the helplessness and despair of the present moment—not because they offer easy answers or false hope, but because they reveal the complexity of being human and our capacity and need to share our stories and make meaning out of the most beautiful and the most terrible things—from atoms and stardust to trauma and tragedy.
On Saturday, Tippett wrote this in On Being’s weekly update. I share her words because she said what I would like to say and she said it so well:
The Greek word “apocalypse,”...does not mean a catastrophic undoing. It means an uncovering — the lifting of a veil. The Covid-19 virus — a product of the natural world, spread by human contact — has indeed uncovered all of the reckonings we must walk towards if we are to become wise and whole as individuals, communities, and institutions. The question of “who we will be to each other” has been surfacing ever more insistently across my conversations for over a decade, and its civilizational implications have now been laid bare in our economies, our politics, and our cultures.
Will we create the world our children — all of our children — deserve to inhabit? Will we structure our life together to honor the professions and the people we have now named as essential? However difficult the lockdown has been, this is the real hard work, and it is ahead of us — life by life, community by community, day by day.
The good news is, none of us is alone in this. As you’ve also heard me say... I experience the far-flung landscape of On Being guests and listeners and friends as makers and keepers of the generative story of our time, which exists right alongside the better-publicized narrative of destruction and decay. The landscape of practical human care and moral imagination, of social creativity and courage — and of “resistant joy,” as Imani Perry puts it — has never sat more vividly alongside all the terrible news.
I see this as the work of our Unitarian Universalist faith and our covenantal community: to walk together toward becoming more wise and whole as individuals and as a community. To engage in practical human care, moral imagination, social creativity, courage and resistant joy in order to create the world that our children, all our children, deserve to inhabit. That means bearing truthful witness to what is happening, even the terrible things on top of other terrible things, holding up the values and ethics of our faith as guiding principles for practicing as best we can the beloved community we hope for. I do not know for sure if the moral arc of universe really bends toward justice, but that is not the point. We need to trust that it does and strive to live accordingly, to embody the sacred.
I am so grateful to all of you for being part of this compassionate, generous and thoughtful congregation. I continue to feel so blessed to serve as your minister. You give me hope and courage to see through these times.
Ramadan, the holiest month in Muslim calendar, began last Thursday evening at sundown. During Ramadan, Muslims fast each day from sunrise to sunset. This is one of the five pillars, or essential practices, of Islam. The word “Islam” means surrender, and to be a Muslim is to surrender one’s life to God. Certainly, the practice of Ramadan brings that connection and commitment to God alive through both personal and community ritual. Just as I have found the rituals and traditions of my Unitarian Universalist faith to be more important and meaningful right now, I imagine that the practice of fasting for Ramadan amidst this pandemic has a deeper and more poignant meaning for many Muslims, as they must reconsider how to practice a community ritual in isolation and social distancing. I send my thoughts and prayers to our Muslim sisters and brothers at this difficult and holy time.
We have now held seven Sunday worship services via live streaming. And it looks like this will be our way of gathering through at least the end of the regular church year. For the first couple of Sundays, I could only think about what needed to be taken care of for that particular day or week. Thanks to Jennifer and all her help with the online technology, I have become more comfortable with what is required to prepare a Sunday service. Now, I am starting to think a little bit beyond the next Sunday to how we will manage worship and congregational life with continued social distancing. Even when some of the restrictions are lifted, it is clear that some people will still be at risk in public places. And there is always the possibility that another wave of the virus may come through and we will have to return to where we are now. To start preparing for these realities, the Standing Committee started a COVID Task Force. This group is looking at the overall picture of how the COVID pandemic has impacted our congregational life and will communicate with different committees and ministries in the church to ensure that we can respond safely, compassionately and effectively to all the changes coming at us. Gail Burati, Tom Coffey, Michelle Hillman, Dolores, Steve and I are on this task force.
I recruited another task force to support our move to live streaming worship. Jennifer has been handling the technical preparation and support for our worship services but (very sadly!) she will be finishing her internship with us in June. Even if the social restrictions are lifted, live streaming worship will be a permanent reality for us and I will need a team to work with me on this. If you are interested in being part of this team, please let me know!
Finally, as I said on Sunday, First Parishers have been very generous with donations to the minister’s discretionary fund and with grocery gift cards. If in these uncertain times, you need help purchasing groceries or need one time help to cover the cost of housing or unexpected medical bills or the like, please let me know.
-- Rev. Ellen