Sunday, October 22, 2017: Answering the Call of Love

THOUGHT FOR CONTEMPLATION:

“At that point where you have decided to upgrade from aspiration to expectation and have begun to visual an outcome, something incredibly important has happened; you have committed to change.”

(by Lorii Myers)

PRELUDE

WELCOMING WORDS: Doug D.

CALL TO WORSHIP

Come in,

from wherever you have come, and know welcome.

Come in,

with what joys and sorrows you carry, and feel the comfort of community.

Come in,

To be alone with your thoughts,

Yet together with others

Come with us,

From isolation to connection,

From distraction, to intention

From fragmentation, to wholeness.

Come, let us honor what is sacred in our lives.

(by Rev. Dr. Anita Farber- Robertson)

INTROIT

LIGHTING OF THE CHALICE: Ellie & Daniel F.

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.

It turns what we have into enough, and more.

It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity.

It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.

(by Melody Beattie)

Let us be grateful for our time together today.

OPENING HYMN: “Morning Has Broken” (#38)

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: Rev. Anita

We have a Farmer’ Market here in Melrose. Have any of you been to the Farmer’s Market?

You could go there and buy an apple like this one. I bought this one there.

And if I gave the person at the stand fifty cents, he or she would probably let me buy it. Don’t you think?

But if I was in Croatia, as I was this summer, and went to the farmer’s stand and gave him or her fifty cents, they wouldn’t let me buy it.

Do you know why?

Because Croatia has different currency – money. If I wanted to buy an apple in Croatia, I’d have to give them kune, because that is the Croatian currency, the Croatian money.

Their money isn’t better or worse than ours. Just different.

If I went to Italy and wanted to by a pizza, and gave them some dollars could I buy it? No.

And if I gave them some kune? No.

I’d have to give them Euros, because that is the currency, the money, of Italy.

And if I went to Switzerland and wanted to by some wonderful Swiss chocolate, and gave them some Euros, could I buy it? No.

Kune? No. Euros? No. Dollars? No. I’d have to give them Swiss francs because that is the currency in Switzerland.

It is all good money, but it doesn’t work everywhere. In order to be able to use it to exchange money for something you want, to have that kind of an understanding, you would have to use the currency, the money, of the person who is selling what you want to buy.

It’s like that whenever you want to communicate with someone. You need to do it in the way they know how. It might be speaking a language, like Spanish or Arabic, or American Sign Language. Or it might be getting down low if you are a tall person to talk with someone who is short, or sitting in a chair. It might be tapping someone’s shoulder to let them know you want to communicate with them if they are blind and cannot see you, or deaf and did not hear you coming.

There is no right or wrong money, and there is no right or wrong way to communicate, unless it doesn’t work. That’s the deal.

If you want to communicate, you have to do it in a way that the other person can get it. Otherwise, it doesn’t work.

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

EXPLORING ABILITY: “Why It Is Important to Me” by Michelle A.

OFFERTORY

READING: “Just Because Something is a Metaphor” by Theresa Soto

…The delegates assembled in New Orleans at the (2017) UUA General Assembly voted to imagine something greater for the name of Standing on the Side of Love. Can we imagine something not ableist? I hope so. The thing is, there are many objections specifically along this particular response:

“It’s just a metaphor.”

The thing about that judgment is that it doesn’t go deep enough. It doesn’t acknowledge the structural ableism that Unitarian Universalists encounter as they participate with our faith movement.

When I mention ableism in the Standing on the Side of Love campaign name, there are a whole host of things that are often brought up as insufficient reasons to change the name. For example, some people with disabilities are not offended.

While ableism can sometimes be outright offensive, such as using slurs and mockery for particular conditions that people may have, some ableism is polite, especially when people excuse it as well-meaning. So, for example, when I go out to dinner with my partner, and the wait staff assumes that I cannot speak for myself, and instead directs their questions about what I will eat to my partner, sure, that’s not the same as a straight-up insult. It is, however, an unexamined bias and an unwillingness to encounter me at whatever level of ability they perceive me to be, to allow me to order my own dinner, as an adult.

Offensiveness is not the standard.

Metaphorical flexibility is not the standard.

How accustomed people are to it is not the standard.

Ableism is a real way in which the lives of people with disabilities are devalued, up to and including dehumanization.

Soto recalls Rev. Cynthia Landrum saying:

“For myself, I understand that “standing” is a metaphor. AND YET, it is exclusionary. Our Standing on the Side of Love events are often our least accessible events as a movement, and when the events center around standing literally, it’s hard for me not to feel that the metaphor is also literally meant….”

“When we can get into all of our churches and we can go to all of our justice events and attention to inclusion is centered more fully in our faith, maybe I’ll be ready for this “metaphor” to be used for our label for our justice arm. Until it starts to feel metaphorical and less literal, however, I think it needs to go.”

ANTHEM

READING: Jason Shelton on “Answering the Call of Love”

Rev. Jason Shelton, author and composer of the song, “Standing on the Side of Love”, adjuster of the lyrics to, “Answering the Call of Love”.

No one is saying we have to excise ability-related metaphors from our worship. This is about a particular metaphor and the particular pain with which it has become intrinsically connected. I was inspired to write this song when I heard Bill Sinkford say “we stand on the side of love” as part of our work around marriage equality in 2004. Since then a justice-making campaign adopted the phrase and it has become central to our identity a justice-seeking people of faith, and well beyond the original issue of marriage. And yet over and over again that justice work? – especially at GA – ?has been about physical acts of protest and resistance that have been inaccessible to people who are unable to stand or walk. If we are naming that kind of work as central to who we are and labeling it with this metaphor, then I think it’s fair for folks with accessibility concerns to wonder whether there is a place for them among us.

HYMN: “Return Again” (#1011)

SERMON:

Answering the Call of Love

The Rev. Dr. Anita Farber-Robertson (copyright)

It was candidating week. First Parish Unitarian Universalist in Canton, Massachusetts. 1980 – a long time ago. I was the candidate for the position of minister for their church. I was just out of seminary and had never been through this candidating process before. Some of you have been through it many times. For others though, this spring will be your first experience of a candidating week.

It goes like this:

The ministerial candidate that the search committee has chosen to present arrives usually on a Friday night. Saturday is lightly scheduled, learning about the town, maybe meeting some church leadership, getting settled. Sunday the congregation meets the candidate in the context of worship. The minister conducts the worship service and is then, for the next seven days engaged in a whirlwind of meetings and gatherings interacting with the folks and the leaders of the congregation in addition to learning about the community, checking out schools, and possibly looking for housing. The second Sunday the minister conducts worship once again which is followed by a Question and Answer period, and then a congregational meeting with a vote to call the candidate as the new minister. Or not. Pretty hectic and pretty intense.

So, the week had gone by in a whirlwind; I had finished conducting my second worship service, and we had segued into the Question and Answer part of the day. I was excited, energized and exhausted (remember that for your candidating week and have compassion on your candidate). Several people had questions that I answered. There was a lull and then one older gentleman raised his hand. He was sitting up front. I went over to him, ready for his question.

“Don’t you think it will be harder for you, being a woman in the ministry?”

“I don’t know. But it is the only gender I come in, so if you want me, you will have to take female.”

I don’t know from where that answer came. But it was the truth. I wondered as I listened to him ask the question, If he thought I was just being perverse, choosing to be a woman, just to make things difficult.

In 1980, being female was a disability. It was perceived as a disability historically, remember? That was why women were denied the vote until 1920, just sixty years before I was asked that question. It had only been two years before that candidating week, that the UUA had published a hymnal supplement called 25 Familiar Hymns in New Form, degenderizing some of the more popular hymns in the then current hymnal. So the Canton congregation, having not yet purchased the supplemental hymnal that had just come out, was still used to singing about man and mankind, about a God who was a male, and about men’s deeds and visions. No wonder he thought it was going to be harder for me to be a woman in the ministry. For all of the protestations that the word “man” was generic and meant everyone, it didn’t. It didn’t mean me.

The Women and Religion Committee of the UUA had shined a light on all the ways in which we used language that continued to keep women as second class participants in our Unitarian Universalist life together. And once we got it, “we” meaning women as well as men, got it that considering male language as generic was never going to create equity for women, the UUA went about the work of expunging those problematic words and metaphors. To do that we needed new religious education materials, hymnals, manuals for everything from personnel evaluations, to applications for grants and programs, new ministerial assessment tools, and consciousness raising for prospective Unitarian Universalist ministers. It was huge. And we did it.

Oh, I’m not saying that we don’t still have issues with sexism in our denomination. I am well aware that the only way we were able to elect a woman as our president, was by having only female candidates from which to choose. Something to think about.

So, cleaning up the language is not the sum total of the work that needs to be done to insure inclusion, but it is a dimension to which we must attend. You may think that attending to inclusivity in our language will be easy compared to changing our historic buildings to insure accessibility, but in my experience it is painful. We love our familiar language. We are sorry if it leaves others out; often we just want to say, it is only a metaphor. It is not really excluding you. I know that language. I remember it from the folks who still wanted to sing about man and mankind. We do it sometimes when we sing Christmas Carols, wanting the comfort of familiar sounds rolling off our tongues. I know I do.

Jason Shelton heard the pained cry of the excluded, and responded. He found language that would work for many more people – a simple fix for what has become a beloved song. We are now singing Answering the Call of Love, rather than Standing on the Side of Love, and every time we do it, we will remember why. Maybe it will even help us notice the other exclusionary metaphors we say and sing without thinking. That is a good thing.

It isn’t going to be easy…having church move out of our comfort zone. Or being expected to extend ourselves out beyond what we know, and love, and even like. But the price of not doing it is high, and the rewards, the rewards are beyond measure.

We can become the people we mean to be.

Lorii Myers said, “At that point where you have decided to upgrade from aspiration to expectation and have begun to visual an outcome, something incredibly important has happened; you have committed to change.”

The gentleman in the Canton church – his name was Ed – approached me during coffee hour one day after I had been there about a year.

“Rev. Anita, you remember when you candidated, we held a secret ballot on whether or not to call you? “

I nodded.

“And do you remember that there were two no votes?”

I nodded.

“Well, I want you to know that I was one of the two no votes. (he paused). And I want you to know that I have changed my mind. Women can be ministers. Good ministers.”

I gave him a hug, even though it clearly was not what he was used to from his ministers.

Ed became one of my strongest supporters, eventually chairing my Committee on Ministry.

At the point where he had decided to upgrade from aspiration to expectation and had begun to visualize an outcome – me, a woman, as minister – something incredibly important happened: he committed to change.

We can too. We can commit, and answer the call of love and truly include everyone who wants to be a part of us.

May we be so brave.

Amen.

CLOSING HYMN: “Answering the Call of Love” (#1014)

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