What I Would Say....

I now longer serve a congregation, but I still find myself thinking as though I did. It's a habit and it
dies hard. I wrote this newsletter column in my head the other day, before I remembered that there was no newsletter to publish it in. Well, there is this blog.

My dear congregants -- 
My head, my heart and my gut tell me that  I need to do everything I can to advance the growing movement against "blue-on-black" crime. I want you to join me. Now is the time that Unitarian Universalists should step up and step more deeply into the movements against racism.  

One of our most basic beliefs is that every human being counts. We believe in people and we believe in persons. It's in everything we do. We have formalized that belief with the phrase 'the inherent worth and dignity of every person' and embedded it in our first principle.  

But, African Americans and other people of color are telling us that, from what they have experienced, black lives do not matter in this country. After all, in actual practice, a black life counts less than almost anything else. Despite the fact that police deaths are low, and police deaths by gunfire are at the lowest since 1887, the lives of unarmed black persons can be taken simply because police are frightened, or frustrated. Without accountability. With impunity 

We who believe in people must join the movement that demands that black lives matter. It is the cutting edge of the assertion that all human beings have inherent worth and dignity. 

As a minister of this faith, I have no higher duty than to be true to our core principles when they are being contested in the public square.  

I recognize that in this congregation, there are a wide range of opinions on the anti-racist movement sweeping the country. 

There are many who are ready to join in. There are some who want to discuss and process the events in Ferguson and Staten Island and Cleveland more. There are some who want to dig into the transcripts of grand juries or police reports in the hopes of uncovering hidden truths. There are some who are sympathetic to the police and oppose the protests.  

It is not the duty of a UU minister to represent all views in the congregation. It is not the duty of a UU minister to facilitate the discussions between opposing views in the congregation on the vital issues of the day. It is not the duty of a UU minister to argue every point with every congregant. It is not the duty of a UU minister to be above the fray. 

It is the duty of a UU minister to advocate for Unitarian Universalist beliefs, values and principles in the public sphere, especially when they at stake.  

It is the duty of a UU minister to be the clearest public advocate for the inherent worth and dignity of all persons, especially those whose dignity has been denied or diminished. 

In today's context, it is the duty of UU ministers to lead congregations into the social movements against racism, even if it makes some members of those congregations angry or uncomfortable. The call of conscience and the demands of religious conviction are often disruptive of our comfortable opinions. That's the point of having them. 

So, if what I do seems unwise, or incomprehensible, or even appalling, may this be a time of creative tension and confusion for you. Light your chalice, and by its light, reflect on your priorities, your values, and your deepest loyalties. May this be a time of deepening faith and commitment.



  1. Steve Cook5:26 PM

    Thanks, Tom. Well said and very consistent with the ministry I've seen you pursue.

  2. I feel truly blessed to be a member of a congregation in which this would simply not be controversial.

  3. Anonymous7:09 PM

    You are the public theologian we need and sometimes deserve.

  4. You know the story where Joshua is holding up Moses' arms when they get tired, because as long as his arms are raised, his people are winning the fight? You've just done that for those of us still serving the same congregation every Sunday.

  5. thank you all for such kind words.

  6. Oh, Tom….This is just what I needed. Brilliant. Pastoral. Prophetic.

  7. Keep on, my friend! We need your clarity.

  8. Tom, you have said exactly what I would say if I were minister of a congregation. Instead, I am an intern to a congregation that is all over the map, as you describe.

    I am wondering if I could post your article, as written and with attribution, in the church newsletter. (I will of course run it by my teaching pastor first.)

    Thank you for your clarion call to ministers. I find it inspiring.

  9. Lynda, once I put something up here on the blog, it's available for quoting, posting etc. Credit is nice.


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