Women, if the soul of the nation is to be saved, I believe that you must become its soul.
Coretta Scott King
As we celebrate Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day in the month of March the words of Mrs. King speak to me about how we can take inspiration from the wise women who came before us. Coretta King’s vision of the role of women in making our country and world a better place remains a challenge to which we all should respond. I think we need to face the fact that, though the UU feminist foremothers provide a positive legacy, we all have fallen short of completing the mission they and Coretta King imagined for us.
Unitarian Universalist women have often lead and shaped the struggle for equality. In 1863 Olympia Brown became the first women to complete formal theological training and earn ordination as a Universalist minister. Suffrage leader Elizabeth Cady Stanton gained inspiration from her association with the Unitarian Church of her time. We can take pride that the UU heritage includes so many of the feminist foremothers while knowing that much that still needs to be done to realize true equality.
Sadly, women remain the victims of discrimination and abuse. I am the proud son of a strong mother, the brother of a powerful sister, the husband of an activist for justice, the father of young women on the move and the grandfather of a girl that has the right to be who she wants to be free from male dominance or aggression. Yet I know the struggle continues.
I look to my faith, my spiritual home, and our congregation full of dynamic women, to lead and guide me in my quest to be a better ally and advocate for equality. I want to hear and understand your voices, your witness, and your power so as to strengthen me and other men to be equal partners in the march towards a world free from oppression.
Coretta Scott King was right. Creating change requires all of us to strive for the ideal of one world, with one destiny, joined together from material and spiritual necessity. Let’s work together as sisters and brothers, parents, teachers, students, partners and friends, all committed to a positive human enterprise, with lives committed to love.
For info about UU women in history see Notable Universalist and Unitarian Women: www.uuwhs.org/notable/index.html
For info on women’s history - The National Women’s History Museum:
Usually in February, during Black History Month or whenever I get this feeling I start sharing African American, black history, and American history with people far and wide. I used to do it mostly during February as an educational imperative. Yet more recently I’ve found more necessity in dealing with the ongoing narrative of Black Life in America as a day-to-day phenomenon. Dealing with the humanity, culture, artistic aspects and diversity of a people far and wide is not easy. Trying to share a lot during a month when the theme I’d like to engage our community with is listening is doubly hard. Nevertheless, let me say that I feel that it is important to see, hear, know, study, engage and most importantly listen to people that live in a county (USA), sate (California), county (Los Angeles) together. I feel even more strongly about us as Unitarian Universalist being able to hear and listen to the narratives of others in our movement that are different than our own. I appreciate the fact that we as a church have chosen me as our minister. That speaks volumes about your ability to be with someone very different. I am now asking you to spend some intentional time learning about other black folk as this month of February passes by. Who were the first Africans to come to this region? When was the first black child born here? What have been the contributions of Negroes, Blacks and African Americans to LA County or even more close to us our Unitarian Universalist denomination. Let’s continue to learn from one another. Let’s grow our historical knowledge about a people different than ourselves. Let’s all listen to each other in new ways discerning more, understanding more, loving more as we go.
Our spiritual theme for this month is Incarnation. Incarnation means moving from theory, speculation, possibility, plans, hopes, and good intentions into actual existence. Envisioning may be an essential ingredient of incarnation, but bringing a vision into actual existence requires effort, determination, desire, confidence, resources and patience – and sometimes, according to many religious traditions, it also requires openness to creative forces beyond ourselves.
Each year, December brings a month filled with holidays. Celebrations complete with a variety of gift giving traditions, and to the glee of students and educators alike, school vacations. Before we fully engage this season, I’d like to suggest that we look closely at the traditions we hold near and dear. We need to discuss with family and friends the rituals across cultural holiday traditions and, most importantly, the ways we as a church and you as a family group celebrate them.
In what ways does holiday gift giving and merry making figure in the popular imagination through great literature that is re-read and performed year after year? Trace your own traditions especially the practice of gift giving and big celebratory dinners. Consider if common themes and elements can be found within the different spiritual traditions that form your own theology and make your connections to Unitarian Universalism meaningful.
As the holiday season fast approaches, we often find our world speeding faster past us. There just doesn't seem to be enough time in the month, weeks and days, for all that we have to do. We are trying to keep up with decorating, shopping, parties, end of the year meetings, purchasing that special new gadget that is on sale and keeping up with the gift giving of our family, friends and neighbors. We are so swamped with everything that we often do not take the time to focus on the spiritual meaning of the holiday season.
Therefore, here is a little exercise you might consider. Write down your affirmations or guidelines for what you want this season to be about. You can write it on a post-it note or an index card. Place it where you can see it. Place it on your bathroom mirror or in your wallet, for me I am putting it on my refrigerator.
Look at what motivates you this season. Is it about keeping up with your gift giving? Is it about trying to outdo others? Or, is it about bringing service and light to a world in desperate need of love? Is it about trying to make every persons party? Or is it about visiting someone that you haven't seen in some time? Is it about eating and drinking more, until you feel wasted? Or, is it about your quest for a deeper meaning in your values? Only you can examine this.
Work to control things that you can. In life, we can control only so many things. Obviously, this past electoral season proved that for many of us. So focus on what you can manage. You can control binge eating and drinking. You can control arguments and bad language. You can control charity towards those in need. You can control over spending. You can control visiting a lonely family member, friend or neighbor. You can control how much you volunteer with us at UUCVH!
For some, this is the loneliest time of the year. Look around you. Has a friend or someone in your circle recently lost a loved one? Seek them out and spend some time with them. Invite them over or take them shopping. Plan something that is constructive with them. If a person lives far away, pick up your phone and give them a call.
Look for the good around your life. Many people brace for the holidays, when they might be better off embracing the holiday season. Sometimes the smallest good can shine through to liven up your spiritual meaning of the season. You just have to look for it.
Finally, take some time for yourself. Get away from everything for a few hours by yourself. Pick a place and time just for you. Schedule a block of time for your mind. Find a place to just relax and enjoy yourself. For some, it might be a few quiet moments in meditation. For others, it might be a stroll along the beach or a walk in the mountains. This time for yourself, will give you the opportunity to focus on the spiritual meaning of the holiday season. Given our theme this month try to make something good happen. Let the power to create permeate your spirit. Come watch “It’s a Wonderful Life “with me/us on December 17, 7 pm, at the church and allow the possibilities to take hold.
So, here’s to a season filled with light and love! May it be so for each of us!
Rev. Gordon Clay Bailey