The Ones Who Show Up

BlackLivesMatter“Imagine if….We are a visionary church, leading our greater community and forming interfaith partnerships in our unquenchable thirst for social, economic, and environmental justice.”
 
Last Wednesday evening, I caught a glimpse of this courageous dream written by our provocative proposals team becoming reality.  It was late in the prayer meeting held by the Abysinnian Christian Church.  By then, we had all shed tears, sat in silence, shaken our heads and sung out loud, all to honor the Mother Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, the churches that have been burned in the south, as well as the rage and grief we feel at the continued presence of racism and white supremacy.
I had just offered my prayer, and in the program it said we should next be singing Amazing Grace.  But before that, Pastor David said, we needed to do something else.  It might make us uncomfortable, but, he said, the Abysinnian Church, and more generally the black church, is a hugging church. Unfortunately, in that prayer meeting in Charleston, they never got around to ending their time with a hug.  But on that night, we weren’t going to leave that out.  We were going to end in a hug.  We were going to look to one another, many of us strangers, and say before we embraced: You are my sister.  You are my brother.  And then, embrace.
About 20 of us were there from Foothills.  There were other white folks in the gathering, but mostly the rest were African American.  Pastor David was right – it was a little uncomfortable at first.  But the joy, and the willingness was palpable, and it didn’t take long to get over the discomfort and move instead into a great relief, and hopefulness for us all, and for our world.

The Rev. David Williams, had called me a couple days before the gathering to invite Foothills and me to join the meeting.  I had first talked to him right after the Charleston shooting; I reached out to him as a pastor of a primarily African American church in Fort Collins, expressing my grief, fear, and solidarity in response to such a terrible act.  We talked about our roles as pastors and preachers – him in a primarily black church, me in a primarily white church – in a time like this, and how to be a voice of both comfort and challenge as we address and seek to transform the continued presence of racism and white supremacy.

I was humbled, and honored, that a few weeks later Pastor David reached back out to me to invite us to share in the Prayer meeting.  And I was humbled and honored to offer a prayer.  But it was that moment of embrace that gave me a better understanding and a clearer vision for how we as a Unitarian Universalist congregation are called to live into this vision of courageous love in our own community.

Which is to say – the provocative proposals team wrote this statement about our leadership, but in that moment, I realized our leadership simply took the form of showing up, being present, and following the lead of others.  It meant stepping outside our comfort zone, praying in a way we don’t usually pray, singing songs we don’t usually sing – but doing so with love, and willingness, and good will.  It was powerful, and as I said before, it gave me a glimpse of our potential powerful future.

One of my colleagues, the Rev. Sean Dennison, recently challenged a gathering of UU ministers to consider what it would _MG_1989mean if Unitarian Universalists were known most of all as the “ones who show up.”  The ones who show up with open hearts, and open minds, with willing hands and generous spirits.  The ones who show up gratefully, humbly.  I took a note at Sean’s question – not because this was a new idea – but because I recognized that this is something we already do pretty well that we could build on, and become known for pretty easily.  Coincidentally, when I had first talked to Pastor David I had told him, if you ever need someone to show up for you, call me – call Foothills.  We’ll be there. We’ll follow your lead.  

If you were one of those who helped make my promise come true last Wednesday, thank you.  And if you couldn’t make it – don’t worry, there will be lots more chances for us to show up and lead through partnership, humility and generosity – for us to further the reach of love all throughout our community, and in our own lives.   Isn’t it a beautiful vision? 

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One thought on “The Ones Who Show Up

  1. Kay and I had to laugh when we realized we had marched right in to Abyssinian that Wednesday night and planted ourselves in the third row from the front – a location we would NEVER sit in at Foothills. I think there is something significant about that- although I’m still working on what it might be! Maybe it is like you said: we were Showing Up! (with a capital “S” and a capital “U”)

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