Sunday, February 18, 2018: One of the Greatest Freedoms, & Ritual

THOUGHT FOR CONTEMPLATION:

“One of the greatest freedoms of all is being liberated from the need to have persons see things your way.”

(Kirk Byron Jones) ( * )

PRELUDE: Prelude on “Deep River” (Adolphus Hailstork) ( * )

WELCOMING WORDS: Chuck F.

CALL TO WORSHIP: “We Are All Called” (by Natalie Fenimore) ( * )

We are all called.

Called by the wind, the rushing water, the fireflies, the summer sun.

Called by the sidewalk, the playground, the laughing children, the street lights.

Called by our appetites and gifts-our needs and challenges.

Called by the bottle, the needle, the powder, the pill, the game, the bet, the need,

The want, the pain, the cure, the love the hope, the dream.

Called by the Spirit of Love and Hope, and visions of god’s purpose fr our lives.

We are all called.

What do we choose?

How do we answer?

INTROIT: “There is More Love Somewhere” (Georgia Sea Islands) ( * ) / arr. Denis Donnelly

LIGHTING OF THE CHALICE: Theodore T.

We light this chalice

That all may know welcome

We light this chalice

That all might be blessed.

We light this chalice

That this might be a place

Of comfort and courage

This day and in the days to come.

(Rev. Dr. Anita Farber-Robertson)

OPENING HYMN: “We Are Building Up a New World” (Spiritual) ( * )

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.

CANDLES OF JOY AND SORROW

MEDITATION AND PRAYER

MUSICAL MEDITATION

RACE, POWER & PRIVILEGE: “Why it Matters to Me” Dan F.

Three Stories About Race

In the summer between my first and second grades, my parents moved from Elizabeth, New Jersey, to Passaic, New Jersey.

One day that summer I was walking to the corner store alone (which children could do in those days), and I met a boy named Jimmy. We started talking, and soon became friends. Our friendship continued through eighth grade; we even collaborated on a science fair project that won the group prize that year.

We gradually grew apart – he went with the popular crowd, and I was a nerd, as we were called then – but I always liked him.

One day in ninth grade social studies, we were discussing a book about the African-American experience (I can’t remember the title) and Jimmy said he was surprised the author used the word “black”. “When I was growing up,” my friend said, “if someone said you were ‘black’, you’d cut him up.”

I was stunned. I could not have been more surprised if he’d sprouted wings. I looked over at him, and realized – he was black.

It was like the scene in Alice Through the Looking Glass when Alice and a Fawn reach the edge of the Forest of Forgetfulness, and the Fawn says “Why – I’m a Fawn! And you’re a Human Child!” and runs off. I didn’t run off – but I was just as surprised.

Now I’d known about skin color long before this. In fourth grade, a new boy joined our gym class. I knew he was black, and I knew that meant something.

So sometime between first and fourth grade, I learned about skin color and its importance in American society. It could not have been from my parents, who never indicated in the slightest way that they saw anything unusual about my friendship with Jimmy. It must have been cultural.

There is some evidence that humans are hard-wired to divide people into the in-group and out-group. But there’s nothing hard-wired about using skin color. That’s something our culture added. I know this firsthand.

This one’s difficult to tell.

For several years Mary-Beth and I lived in Medford.

Medford contains one of the oldest, if not the oldest, middle-class African-American communities in the country, though it is predominantly white. So African-Americans are not an unusual sight there.

One day Mary-Beth and I were getting some money from a free-standing ATM building, and an African-American man came up to the door. I thought, “he could let himself in”. But the part of me that’s always watching my social exchanges piped up and said “if he were white you would have let him in”.

I realized this was true. So I went over to the door and opened it. He came in, said a few words to us about the weather, and left. Mary-Beth later commented that he was friendly, if a bit gloomy.

If I had not let him in, he might have assumed it was because he was black – and he would have been right.

It still disturbs me, this discovery of my own unconscious prejudice. I’ve had black co-workers and friends and neighbors, never had that feeling, yet faced with a stranger, a stereotype rose to the surface. I do my best to be on the lookout for this whenever it might surface, and to do everything I can to reduce it.

Last story.

When I was working in the Educational Technologies department at Bolt Beranek & Newman in North Cambridge, around 1997, I was the “assistant for technology” to the head of the department, an African-American woman – marketing executive from Apple who came from Oakland to take this position. We became friends, close enough that I felt comfortable asking her if in her experience the Boston area was still as racist as it used to be.

She replied that she usually felt pretty comfortable in Boston – except, she said, when picking up a cab from the airport. “Sometimes I get the feeling that [the cab driver] would really rather not pick me up”, she said.

Immediately after she said this, an expression passed briefly over her face. It was a weary, resigned expression – hopeless resignation. It conveyed a feeling that the world was sometimes unfair, and always would be unfair, and there was nothing to be done about it. It was the most disturbing facial expression I’ve ever seen – so disheartening. It wasn’t there long, because she was an optimistic woman, but it was long enough to be unmistakable.

No human being should ever look that way. No one deserves that expression – not even for a moment. I will never forget it. It’s a big reason that racial justice matters to me.

OFFERTORY: “We Are Building Up a New World” (Spiritual) ( * ) / arr. Clif Hardin

REFLECTION:

“One of the Greatest Freedoms”

The Rev. Dr. Anita Farber-Robertson

Robin D’Angelo tells this story:

I am a white woman. I am standing beside a black woman. We are facing a group of white people who are seated in front of us. We are in their workplace, and have been hired by their employer to lead them in a dialogue about race. The room is filled with tension and charged with hostility. I have just presented a definition of racism that includes the acknowledgment that whites hold social and institutional power over people of color. A white man is pounding his fist on the table. His face is red and he is furious. As he pounds he yells, “White people have been discriminated against for 25 years! A white person can’t get a job anymore!” I look around the room and see 40 employed people, all white. There are no people of color in this workplace. Something is happening here, and it isn’t based in the racial reality of the workplace. I am feeling unnerved by this man’s disconnection with that reality, and his lack of sensitivity to the impact this is having on my co- facilitator, the only person of color in the room. Why is this white man so angry? Why is he being so careless about the impact of his anger? Why are all the other white people either sitting in silent agreement with him or tuning out? We have, after all, only articulated a definition of racism. [1]

Kirk Jones says, “One of the greatest freedoms of all is being liberated from the need to have persons see things your way.” He said that in his new book Calling Forth New Life. He’s a Black pastor. He didn’t write this trying to coach White people. But he might as well have. Because his message, is the message we have been trying to absorb for the past seven weeks as we explore and engage with race, power and privilege. What he says sounds simple in theory, but in practice it is difficult.

“One of the greatest freedoms of all is being liberated from the need to have persons see things your way.” Sounds like something we want, doesn’t it? Freedom. We are part of the Free Church tradition. We are a church free of dogma. We believe in the free and responsible search for truth and meaning. We value freedom- highly.

And Kirk Jones offers us one of the greatest freedoms – “to be liberated from the need to have persons see things our way.” And don’t we resist, saying internally. “Whoa! Not that much freedom. Not that much truth and meaning.” We might experience a little vertigo if we had that much freedom. If there were so many ways to see things, we couldn’t claim ours as right or true. It could happen, if we really were to engage in a free and responsible search for truth and meaning.

“One of the greatest freedoms of all is being liberated from the need to have persons see things your way.” Once we are so liberated, we might be able to stay at the table when people report that the nature of life in our country is different from what we thought it was. When people report that what we see as equal opportunity, they experience as a deck stacked against them. When what we experience as deserved rewards for hard work invested, they perceive as rewards handed over. Can we who are White, stay at the table when People of Color report to us how they see things, how they experience life, how they make meaning of their lives, how they shake their heads in wonder at the ways in which we live lives bound by our Whiteness, self-referenced, self-absorbed? Can we stay and listen as though what they are saying is true?

Can we live into the challenge of our faith in freedom when it means opening the door of our hydraulically sealed White world, and walking with open wonder, into a world of living color?

I believe we can. And the time, my friends, I believe, is now.

May it be so. Amen.

CHORAL ANTHEM: “I Am Willing” (Holly Near)

SINGING CHILDREN INTO SANCTUARY: “Enter, Rejoice, and Come In” (#361)

CHILDREN’S TIME to SHARE

A RITUAL OF LAMENTATION AND INTENTION adapted from Carol Thomas Cissel ( * )

Lament Petition Confession Intention

Introduction

Dear Ones,

I invite you to enter a space of Lamentation and Intention. We have learned, listened, worshipped and reflected together for six weeks in preparation.

We grieve what has been done. We honor, and we lament. This is what is past.

The ways we present to others; how we confess our dreams and desires; and how we begin to forgive ourselves is the present.

What we choose to do tomorrow, with Intention, is our future.

There are four elements in this ritual, each with a purpose. They are: Lament, Petition, Confession and the Setting of Our Intentions.

The first three elements of our ritual will take place while seated in your pews. The fourth will entail coming forward to a station. If you are unable to move forward when we are at that fourth element you can raise your hand and someone will bring it to you.

The ritual is intended to be done without conversation. There are times when you will be invited to speak your thoughts out loud. This is for your own processing and healing, and not intended to generate conversation.

Our first element is Lamentation.

A tray will pass to you allowing you to create tears of healing by mixing a dash of salt into a glass of water, while softly speaking aloud your sorrow for all that has been squandered and lost. When you have done that, pass it to the next person. There will be four of these trays passing throughout the congregation.

Our second element is Petition.

Our intent is to claim a space to petition the universe, our God, the very Spirit of Life to ask for help as we move forward together, by blowing air gently into a pinwheel. There will be four pinwheels passing throughout the congregation.

Our third element is Confession.

We have created a place to write down your hopes and fears – for the power of the written word cannot be denied. There are two index cards in your Order of Service and there are pencils in the pews. Take a moment to reflect on all that has come up for you as we have engaged. On one card, write the title Fears and on the other, Hopes. Spend a few moments considering and writing down under each heading the fears and hopes that come to mind.

Our Fourth element is Intention.

You are invited to come forward to one of the tables, place your cards in the piles of fears and hopes respectively. Say aloud something you will do to move our faith forward, then choose a stone to mark your intention and take it back with you. Carry that stone as a reminder of your promise to take action.

CLOSING PRAYER

CLOSING HYMN: “I’m On My Way” (Spiritual) ( * )

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: Postlude on “We Shall Overcome” (Adolphus Hailstork) ( * )

 ( * ) = indicates the author/composer is a person of color

[1] Robin D’Angelo White Fragility