A Banner Day
Greetings from the sweltering Pacific Northwest! With temperatures at or around 108 degrees the past few days, it’s been quite an adventure so far.
Now I know what some of you are thinking: “Good heavens, leave us alone. We’re on vacation from you!” And that’s a fair thought. But a few of you might be thinking: “Rev. T. J., you’re on leave. Please go relax.” And that’s also a fair thought. Yet here I am because I was moved by some of the events of the past few days to share a few thoughts this morning. I will officially be back at work on July 20.
Yesterday’s Civil Beat ran an opinion piece whose author mentioned seeing our Black Lives Matter banner with the word “BLACK” cut out of it. You can read it here: Civil Beat Article. As many of us know, and as many of my publicly available sermons will disclose, this event is nothing new to us in our community. It was alarming for some to see something about our church mentioned in the press, I know. And this mention might lead to some inquiries and follow-ups from folks new to our community.
Most notably, please recall that the thrust of the article was an argument to add a J for “Justice” ahead of any E (Equity), D (Diversity), or I (Inclusion) initiatives, forming the acronym JEDI. The Unitarian Universalist Association established a “JEDI” team more than two years ago, born out of the Widening the Circle of Concern report and the UUA’s implementation goals for that report. So it was nice to see that our tradition is once again ahead of some curves by a few years!
Email messages I’ve received about the article in the past twenty-four hours contain a range of opinions and concerns. I share all of these concerns and more. I think information is an antidote to confusion and fear, so please consider these things as you might answer questions or hold discussions among your friends and family.
- Nothing about the Black Lives Matter banner is meant to stifle discussion. If anything, my prayer is that it leads to deeper understanding that can only be born from loving engagement and deep, genuine listening. Jump in, talk about it with people who want to talk about it!
- “Signs” of many kinds are merely outward manifestations of inward realities. Our church backs up its commitment to the meaning of this banner in real, justice-seeking ways.
- Just a few of the ways we do this are the passage of the 8th Principle, the unmitigated success and impact of ADORE (A Dialog on Race and Ethnicity), the depth of discussion in the ADORE book group, the Social Justice Council’s recent move toward more interactive justice work with the wider community, the development of the Interrupting Racial Microaggressions workshop (which has been entirely full for every offering I believe), funding and offering annually the Jubilee Anti-Racism Training (also entirely full at every offering), budgeting for leadership development for our leaders who identify as Black, Indigenous, or People of Color (BIPOC), among other things.
- The Board is the group elected and entrusted to speak for our community publicly. When discussing church matters with those interested in our community (and as a piece of pastoral advice), I encourage you to speak boldly from your own powerful lived experience and claim it as your own while sharing your dedication to compassion, justice and joy. Please always make clear that any question about official church policy should be directed to the Board at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- This event has already led to another person paying to fund another banner when needed.
The coming weekend holds many reminders for us as a nation, as a people of faith, and as individuals seeking a loving world, because July 4 is, of course, a hugely important holiday: Bill Withers’s birthday. For many in the musical world, the searing genius of this humble human is unparalleled. A person of few words, Withers always let the work speak for itself as a sign to all that work touched, cheered, changed, and moved. May the life of Bill Withers be a light to us all as we consider what signs mean to us and to our wider community. And though there Ain’t No Sunshine while I’m gone for some, listen to the voices around you that offer the invitation to Lean on Me, and you may find at long last it really is a Lovely Day. And always remember that this is all part of the work of boldly growing compassion, justice, and joy!
And may it ever be so,
Rev. T. J.