Standing On The Side Of Love In Statesboro, Georgia

Shared as the UUFS Building Dedication, January 24 2016, 4 pm

Thank you so much for inviting me today.  It is a great joy to be with you on the occasion of  your building dedication. I bring greetings from your Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations that I am privileged to serve as Moderator.  But let me also bring greetings from my home congregation, the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Beaufort, your sibling community in our cluster.

I have felt a very personal connection to this faith community over the years.  We, Statesboro and Beaufort, shared an itinerant preacher many years ago; the Rev. Nan White, as she travelled back and forth between here and Hilton Head Island and Beauport…long before any of us had settled ministers.

I have been here to speak in my role as District President.

I have been here to present a Chalice Lighter check that led, ultimately, to the development of this property.

I have celebrated your milestones as your vision turned boldly outward to the larger community.

As Moderator over the past year or so, I have

been speaking about the need and hope for our congregations to be Bold, Brave, and Bodacious as they lived out our Association’s Vision or Ends statements as they are known.

The Global Ends, as they are called in our policy-governance model, are our shared vision that you and I, along with several thousand Unitarian Universalists, crafted over several years of discernment and “linkage” with many people and organizations.  Linkage is the active listening process required of boards of trustees to determine the collective vision for our future as a liberal faith movement.  The point is that these Ends statements are not the will of the board or me; they are the will of all of us collectively.

A story for another day is how all of those UUs came to agree on the language of these Ends.

Let me share some of the words of our movement’s vision:

“A healthy Unitarian Universalist community that is alive with transforming power, moving our communities and the world toward more love, justice, and peace.

(And), “Congregations and communities engage in partnerships to counter systems of power, privilege and oppression.”

There are other Ends and I hope you will go to the UUA web site and search “global ends” to learn more.  These are not just lovely aspirational words, but goals that both the board and administration are working towards and that guide how we budget our resources.

I highlighted “Congregations and communities engage in partnerships to counter systems of power, privilege and oppression”, because I see evidence you are doing that here in Statesboro, and I want to commend you for your boldness.

Let me site an example I’m aware.

At Rev. Page’s invitation, I attended the Georgia NAACP State Convention & Civil Rights Conference here in Statesboro on October 8.

Rev. Page is an important partner with the NAACP in Georgia.  I was impressed how much the leadership respected Jane and the work she and you are doing to advance racial and GBLTQ justice.

More than respect for your work, they have been influenced by it.

I saw how much they knew and appreciated our values and our commitment to fighting injustice in the forum I participated in.

Quoting Dr. King: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

This is the calling of our time; pushing back against threats to justice everywhere and working to end injustice anywhere.

The work you are doing here in Statesboro is “moving our communities and the world toward more love, justice, and peace.”

Now you have a bigger platform, a more visible place from which to amplify your collective prophetic voices.

Now you can be Bolder, Braver, and a bit Bodacious here at the corner of Cypress Lake Road and Route 25.

Imagine who will come now that they can more easily see you and find you.

Imagine what gifts and revelations these new folks will bring to you.

Imagine what changes that will require changes in your own structures and ways of being together.

Imagine how you can move “the world toward more love, justice, and peace.”

Given this new opportunity for public witness, I have an “ask” of you on this occasion of building dedication.  I invite you to test something for our Association as you re-imagine what you might accomplish in your new home.  It has to do with our covenant that we value over creed and dogma.

In my report to the delegates at last year’s General Assembly, I noted, “that covenant is both a noun and a verbToo often, I see congregational leaders speak of covenant only in the context of controlling unhealthy behaviors rather than an expression of how we manifest our love for one another and the world.  Covenant is both the commitment and the means to practice engagement in community.

“It is both a noun – the promise itself – and a verb – the practice that manifests the promise.

“Covenant is the collective commitment TO and practice OF religious community that we embrace when we say we are a covenantal faith tradition.

“Covenanting, the gerund…verb, must be intentional if we are to counter the forces of individual and community isolation and institutional drift.

“We need to explore…how we might change the conversation from membership to mutual covenant.  What we have seen as we discussed emerging congregations and covenanting communities over the past year is that the practice of covenanting has energized some groups that appeared to be isolated and static.

“Let’s imagine, rather than signing the book, people entered and were welcomed into covenant that would be renewed periodically.

“Imagine if congregations and communities entered and were welcomed into mutual covenant with the larger association that would be renewed periodically.

“This approach to covenanting would energize our movement and attract individuals who are increasingly just not interested in membership in yet another organization, but they do desire to get connected and stay connected in networks of connection, to probe for and express affiliation.

“This process of covenanting is an activating impulse that connects our personal commitments in community, drawing individuals together to co-create a world of more love, more justice, and more peace.

I asked the board at our October meeting to consider how our Association might imagine moving forward from the notion of membership in an institution to one of mutual covenant.  The trustees approved my suggestion to name a task force to take up this issue.  It will be a significant part of our General Assembly in Columbus in June to begin a process of discernment, which I hope will result in bylaw changes at a future General Assembly. I am excited about their work to date, and I invite you to test what that might mean for you, here is Statesboro, in this new home.

“A healthy Unitarian Universalist community that is alive with transforming power, moving our communities and the world toward more love, justice, and peace.

“Imagine what that would be like.  Imagine what your congregation or community could do to be braver, bolder, even bodacious as you actively begin COVENANTING to create that community alive with transforming power,

Imagine our collective and individual UU communities and the world with more love, more justice, and more peace.”

Are you willing to test this notion of covenanting as a way to be radically welcoming and perhaps accelerating our living into the Beloved Community?

Let the people say Amen!

Let me close with words from Sandra Fees, abridged.

“We have brought our dreams for this religious community and our passions for the values we cherish most.

I invite you to bring to your consciousness,

your dreams for our house of worship,

for this community of love and care.

What dreams do you bring?

What blessings will you offer?

What word of hope and inspiration do you carry?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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