We live in scary times and the news has been fretful of late, including, most recently, the news of 17 people killed in another school shooting in Florida. Such loss of life is tragic and certainly avoidable, although there exist a myriad of opinions about how to avoid such shootings in the future.
The thought of children and teachers caught in the deadly crosshairs of a military-grade weapon in their school is horrifying. Equally frightening to me is the fear-mongering and bad theology that I hear repeatedly spouted in the public square.
Whatever else gun ownership is, it is not a God-given right. And it is not a solution to the escalating violence in this country. Violence comes from the heart. And its root causes are fear and anger. Setting aside the volatile question of gun regulation, what we most need in this country at this time is for people to be less angry and less afraid.
Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite is a UCC minister, a professor of theology at Chicago Theological Seminary, has written,
What really scares me, not only this week but all year through, are the Christian theologies that prey on our legitimate fears of human finitude, physical suffering, economic uncertainty, environmental destruction, and the threat of war in order to accelerate anger and alienation.
I agree. And I think what we need most is a religion that counters such vitriol and fear-mongering. We need to hear again the words of one of our own religious forbearers, John Murray, the “father of Universalism,” who said,
“Give them not Hell, but hope and courage. Do not push them deeper into their theological despair, but preach the kindness and everlasting love of God.”
Those words have become part of our legacy as Unitarian Universalists, part of our vision, part of our values. We need to hear them again and proclaim them loudly. As one of our great theologians, A. Powell Davies, once said, “The world is now too dangerous for anything but the truth, too small for anything but brotherhood.
This church and our larger movement of Unitarian Universalism are vital, not first and foremost because they serve us, but because they are carriers – vessels – of a vision and a set of values that serve our society, our democracy, and our common good. And so, we are called upon to support the church, as those who have gone before us have supported it, to keep that vision and those values alive.
The church’s annual stewardship pledge drive will begin later this month. I hope you’ll spend some time reflecting on the value of this church and this movement in your lives and in the lives of our communities and our country.. And I hope you’ll give generously to support the vision and values which inspire us to work together for a better world.
Our Interim Minister Rev. Wendy L Bell’s bio:
The Rev. Wendy L. Bell received her Master of Divinity degree from Harvard Divinity School in 1997 and was ordained jointly by the First Church in Jamaica Plain and the First Parish in Chelmsford in 2000. She served as the Interim Minister of the First UU Society of Rockport, MA, before being called to the Harvard UU Church, Harvard, MA, in 2001. After completing 14 years of successful ministry in Harvard, Wendy returned to interim ministry, most recently serving the First Parish in Malden for two years before being hired as the Interim Minister of the Unitarian Church of Sharon.
Wendy grew up as a United Methodist in the Washington, D.C. area, and went to college at Grinnell in Iowa, where she studied Russian language, literature and history before graduating as a Religious Studies major. While at Grinnell, Wendy learned more about the Hebrew Prophets, World Religions – especially Eastern religious traditions – Feminist Theology, and Liberation Theology, all of which helped prepare her for a vocation as a Unitarian Universalist minister.
Wendy is passionate about climate justice. She is a graduate of the GreenFaith Fellowship Program, which was created to educate, equip and empower religious leaders of all religious traditions to become better environmental leaders. She was involved in efforts to try to stop the construction of the high pressure gas pipeline in West Roxbury. And she recently presented a paper on the prophetic role of pastors in helping to facilitate climate grief in local congregations.
Wendy currently lives in Arlington, MA, with her wife, Cathy, and their daughter, Katelynn. In her free time, Wendy loves to read, hike, camp, kayak, and spend time with her family, including her Cockapoo puppy, Winnie, and her cat, Wendell Berry. She also volunteers at a therapeutic riding program in Lincoln, and is learning to play the bagpipes.