Sunday, April 15, 2018: Fresh Courage

THOUGHT FOR CONTEMPLATION:

“Justice is what love looks like in public.”

(Cornell West) ( * )

PRELUDE

WELCOMING WORDS: Nyla M.

CALL TO WORSHIP:

(adapted from Israel Zangwill)

Come into the circle of love and justice.

Come into the community of kindness,

Of holiness and health;

Come, and you shall know peace and joy

Let us welcome one another, worshipping together.

INTROIT

LIGHTING OF THE CHALICE: Ted, Zach, & Gabe A.

Let this chalice be for us

the light of hope

the warmth of love;

And the courage of action.

(by Anita Farber-Robertson)

OPENING HYMN: “Come, Come Whoever You Are” (#8)

OUR COVENANT:

Love is the doctrine of this church,

The quest for truth is its sacrament,

And service is its prayer.

To dwell together in peace,

To seek knowledge in freedom,

To serve humankind in fellowship,

To the end that all souls

Shall grow into harmony with the Divine.

This is our great covenant,

One with another, and with our God.

SONG OF ASPIRATION:

From all that dwell below the skies,

Let songs of hope and faith arise,

Let peace, good-will on earth be sung,

Through every land, by every tongue.

Amen.

CHILDREN’S TIME: Welcome of Our New Members

Welcome and Introduction of our New Members, by Rev. Anita

Elizabeth (Liz) B., Joan C., Laura M., Christine S., Stacey B-W., Henry W.

Welcome,by Fellowship Committee Co-Chairs

Distribution of Welcome gifts, packets and certificates

Congregational Reading: “We Bid You Welcome” (#442)

Response by new members:

“We are warmed by your welcome. We will share our time, talents and treasurers here, trusting you to make places for the gifts that we bring.”

All:

“We are glad to be a part of the Melrose Unitarian Universalist Church. Appreciating the gifts we each bring, grateful that each of us has found a religious home, we embrace and celebrate each other, and this, our chosen faith.”

SINGING CHILDREN TO THEIR CLASSES:

Go now in peace, go now in peace;

may the love of God surround you,

everywhere,

everywhere

you may go.

CANDLES OF JOY AND SORROW

MEDITATION AND PRAYER

MUSICAL MEDITATION

DIVERSITY TOPIC: GENDER: “Why Gender Matters to Me” (Rev. Dr. Dorothy Emerson)

I was born a feminist, or so I thought, until I more fully encountered feminism in the early 1970’s. Growing up in Southern California, I had the only mother with a full-time job outside the home. And she carefully instructed us girls to plan for a career, “because you can’t rely on a man,” she said.

Following the culture of the 1950’s and 60’s, I learned to be as boy-crazy as my peers, although in retrospect I recall several unfulfilled crushes on girls. I dated boys, thought seriously about how to apply Jesus’ law of love to relationships, and enjoyed an actively heterosexual lifestyle, eventually in an open marriage. Yes, I had some #metoo experiences, but it would be many years before I would understand them.

At first, I did not think I needed books like Betty Friedan’s, The Feminine Mystique. After all, I wasn’t a suburban house-wife, and I was free to life my life as I chose. Until I fell deeply in love with a man from Vienna, who it turned out, was otherwise engaged. In my grief, my role as a social studies teacher saved me, when I was asked to coordinate a conference on the emerging field of women’s studies. The books that filled my house that year in preparation for the conference put my disastrous relationship in perspective and raised my consciousness about the secondary status of women and the need to work for women’s equality and freedom.

Around that time, I began to recognize my attraction to women, but my failed attempt to approach my best friend discouraged me. One more husband and a child later, I finally came out as a lesbian on New Years Day 1981. I was by then in Austin, Texas, which turned out to be an ideal place and time to come out. There was a strong women’s community, with several women’s bars, a women’s bookstore, various support groups, and frequent concerts of what was called “women’s music.”

You see, in addition to my personal act of coming out, I was entering a new sub-culture. Fortunately, a month later, I was invited to go to Dallas for a weekend conference sponsored by NOW (National Organization of Women) and held at the Dallas UU church. “Lesbian Celebration Weekend” introduced me to lesbian culture, and I embraced it all.

As I began my life as a lesbian, I had to go through the stages: falling in love, learning what it meant to be a so-called “sexual minority,” finding my own unique life-style, breaking up, dealing with coming out at work and with friends and family – not an easy thing, it turned out.

Since my family was far away and I saw them only occasionally, it was easy to postpone telling them, even though I travelled with various female partners and we slept together. My mother didn’t seem to understand—or did she? I didn’t know for sure until she died. I told my dad when he came to Canada to see me get final fellowship. By then I was with Donna and he toasted her and welcomed her to the family.

Becoming a UU and then deciding to become a minister brought another set of challenges. I knew UU’s in general were welcoming, but when I entered the search process, I discovered some congregations had concerns and it was hard for me to find a settlement. But the 1980’s and 90’s were exciting days, as UU’s opened the doors ever more confidently to all sorts of folks. I have been grateful for being at the right place at the right time.

And I have been grateful to have uncovered my lesbian identity and to have fallen in love and married Donna. I can’t imagine my life any other way.

OFFERTORY

HYMN: “We are a Gentle Angry People” (#170 vs. 1, 2 & 6)

READING: “He Wrote It Down” (by Laura Parrott Perry) (read by Rebecca M.)

My beautiful cousin, who I’d not seen in 35 years, and I set out to dance on our grandfather’s grave.

We drove to the town where he lived, and where he is buried. We drove to the town where we were abused. Driving down the picturesque New England roads, I felt a little faint. Mary felt a little barfy. We pulled into a store parking lot and Mary spent some quality time behind a dumpster, hurling. It happens.

We weren’t entirely sure where the cemetery was so we pulled into the police station to ask for directions. I said, jokingly, We should go in and file a police report. Mary said, What would happen if we went inside and filed a police report?

I said, Let’s do it.

We walked in, after Mary barfed again, and there was a darling older policer officer behind the window. Mary told him we were looking for the cemetery- and I had a moment of, We’re probably not REALLY going to do this. Then my beautiful cousin who is the bravest person I know, said: “We would like to report a crime.”

That got his attention.

She said, Our grandfather sexually molested us 35 years ago, and we want to report him.

We were ushered into a conference room, where a young office came in to talk to us. He handles all of their sexual assault and rape cases. He introduced himself, sat down and proceeded to ask us questions about what happened. Names, addresses, dates. I called my sister and put her on speaker phone. We were all crying.

Sweetie, I said, He’s writing it down.

He wrote it down.

I cannot begin to tell you how powerful that was.

He said several times. I don’t want to open any wounds, so if you don’t want to answer this, that’s okay.

Finally I said, The wounds are still open. Obviously.

What do you want to know?

I found myself saying, to a police officer, I was raped. I never thought it would happen.

Then Mary asked a question I would not have thought to ask, but the answer to which I really needed.

She said, What would have happened to him if someone had reported it? The officer told us the procedural things; he said he would have interviewed us, he would have interviewed our grandfather, he would have corroborated what he could-And then, he said-

I would have driven down the street and arrested him.

That is what should have happened.

We know there is nothing to be done. We know there will be no consequences, and no justice. Life is staggeringly unfair sometimes.

But there is a record. We walked into that police station holding the jagged shards of our story, od our childhood, and said, LOOK. THIS HAPPENED. And Officer Paul Smith bore witness. He wrote it down.

ANTHEM: “Quiet” (Connie Lim, professionally known as “MILCK”) ( * )

Fresh Courage

The Rev. Dr. Anita Farber-Robertson

One day a woman came to me, a mother of two daughters, and told me that when she was a child her father’s best friend had sexually molested her repeatedly. When she was twelve or thirteen she had finally gotten the strength to push him away and stop it. She had never told anyone. Not her husband, not her siblings, and certainly not her father. It had happened many, many years ago. She had thought she was over it.

Why was she telling me, and why was she telling me now? She was telling me I guess because she could trust me not to tell any of the players in her family’s story. And why was she telling me now? He had finally died. Because her father’s friend was dead, she would never have to face him again. And with that breathing space it finally felt safe enough to say what had happened to her out loud. I am not a police officer, as in the story Rebecca read; I did not write it down. But I am a person with the authority to hear such things and acknowledge their truth. Sad as the truth is. Enraging as the truth is.

She says she will never tell her father – it would hurt him too badly. Time will tell. For now, she has told it and has been heard. And for her that was enough.

I once went to a special showing of a movie made by the brother of a man who had been repeatedly sexually abused by his parish priest. The maker of the film came out afterward to respond to questions. When it seemed like the questions had been asked and the audience was beginning to gather its things, a man in the middle section of the theater stood up and called out.

We all stopped and sat back down.

“I need to thank you for making this movie and telling how such a thing could happen and how it could ruin lives and ruin a family. I needed to hear that. I needed to see it. I needed to know for sure that I was not the only one this happened to…not the only one whose life was shattered. I have never told anyone what happened to me. I still live with the nightmares. Thank you for telling his story, and through that, telling mine, my story which had no words and no one to hear them. I think I will be able to sleep now.”

Weeping, he sat down. We all sat, the whole theater, until this man had regained composure and was ready to leave. We didn’t write it down, but we had listened. And we believed.

I served a congregation in which there were members who previously had been sexually abused by their Lutheran pastor, and when they reported it, were vilified by members of that congregation outraged that the women had lodged a complaint against their beloved pastor. The lay members of the congregation drove them out. These dedicated church women were devastated not only by the betrayal of trust by their pastor, but the betrayal of trust by their beloved congregation that refused to hear what had to be told. Eventually the Lutheran denominational process removed the pastor. The angry congregation held these women responsible.

Unitarian Universalists are not blameless in this regard. We have uncovered a number of ministers who have betrayed the trust of their congregations over the years, taken sexual advantage of members of their congregations, or of interns or staff members under their supervision. Just as the devastation a betrayal can have on a family, so too can such a betrayal have a devasting impact on a congregation. When a minister violates a trust you placed in him or her, it is a more profound injury than when it is the act of a neighbor or a friend. Your minister holds a sacred trust-to be held, precious at all costs. To betray that sacred trust hurts in our most vulnerable places.

It is not just a challenge to faith communities. It is a major challenge to our culture, our culture of dominance, which cedes permissions to the powerful. Lecia Michelle, poet and writer says [1]:

We must educate people….

What if, as a little girl, I had learned I could raise my voice and someone would hear me?

We know boys harass girls. Education starts there…Educate kids on appropriate behavior. Teach them their bodies belong to them. No one has a right to touch them without their permission. Tell them what happened to them … isn’t their fault.

Empower them to speak up now.

I’m a sexual assault survivor, (she says) and I never told anyone. It happened almost 30 years ago. I didn’t think anyone would believe me…So I stayed quiet. What if, as a little girl, I had learned I could raise my voice and someone would hear me? Maybe I would have made a different decision?

What if my attacker had been educated about sexual assault as a young boy? It could have saved me….

We need to focus on prevention (she says)…. start educating.

And that, my friends, is what I think we have been doing all year. Educating ourselves and our children about power, and privilege and the systems of domination within which we are living and moving. We have been learning how to recognize domination when it is in play, hopefully, even when we are participating and benefitting. We are learning how to find our voices when we have been silent. And importantly we have been learning to listen to those who have been silenced and are finally speaking…women, children, elderly, disabled, people of color, the poor.

Each week we gather affirming that love is the doctrine of this church. What does that require of us? Cornell West reminds us that “Justice is what love looks like in public.” (from C. West)

What does it take, to be a people who take our love out of the closet and bring it into the public square? Living it publicly?

It takes courage. I think Winston Churchill got it right when he said, “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” (from W. Churchill)

Can we love so bravely that we stand up and speak when we need to and sit down and listen when it is necessary? Real love is hard. It takes fresh courage. Every day. May we be so brave. May we love so truly, and find fresh courage.

Amen.

CLOSING HYMN: “I Know this Rose Will Open” (#396)

EXTINGUISHING THE CHALICE (read by the congregation):

We extinguish the flame but not the light of truth,

the warmth of community,

or the fire of commitment.

These we carry in our hearts until we are together again.

BENEDICTION

CONGREGATIONAL RESPONSE:

May the long time sun shine upon you,

all love surround you,

and the pure light within you

guide you all the way home.

POSTLUDE

( * ) Indicates a person of color

[1] Lecia Michelle, #Me Too’s Answer to Time’s Up, January 6, 2018 (https://www.patreon.com/LeciaMichelle