Our nationwide reckoning with racism continues to reverberate across the land. As many of you may be aware, one local development has been the formation of the Sharon Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee, voted into existence by the town Select Board on June 23. This Committee will include one representative from the Sharon Interfaith Clergy Council, of which I am a member. It will be good to have this connection to the work of this Committee in addition to the other ways I’m sure many of you will be connected. I hope the Committee can truly be part of the difficult work that this moment and this movement demands; more than just paying lip service to diversity, we need to dismantle institutionalized oppression at every level of our society, including right here in Sharon.
During the week I was preparing this column, virtual GA was in full swing! General Assembly, or GA, is the annual gathering of Unitarian Universalists from across the US, Canada, and the world. It is a conference with scores of workshops, worship services, keynotes, and sessions to conduct the business of our Unitarian Universalist Association’s annual meeting. Because of COVID-19, GA was entirely virtual for the first time ever this year. As 2020 is the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower’s landing on Wampanoag land, this year’s GA wrestled with the legacy of settler colonialism in our country and in Unitarianism specifically. There is a direct link between the congregations founded by the Pilgrims and Puritans of the Mayflower and the Arbella (another ship that arrived in Massachusetts land ten years later) and Unitarianism. And there is a direct link between the religious conversions, commercial enterprises, and conquests of these colonizers and the centuries of policies and narratives that have supported Native genocide in this land. Acknowledging these hard truths is an important first step to heeding the calls of Indigenous people today: the call to recognize that Indigenous people are still here and still fighting for land and dignity. Among the opportunities to live into that call shared at GA was to #StandWithMashpee, as the Mashpee Wampanoag lands are currently under threat and there are many ways to lend support including through advocating for a bill that would reaffirm the status of the Mashpee reservation. For more information, visit:
Another feature of virtual GA was a workshop that Louise Marcoux and I co-led on “Collaborative Planning of Highly Interactive Family Worship.” Our workshop had over 230 attendees and highlighted the unique model of multigenerational worship that Louise and Rev. Jim developed and that she has continued to refine with Rev. Wendy and me. We were proud to share our special approach which presents core worship themes in an interactive format where everyone’s input is valued and the conversations can continue after the service to support the faith formation of people of all ages. I’m so grateful to have served alongside Louise during this first year of my settled ministry at UCS. I learned so much from you, Louise! We love you and we will miss you.
For more about GA I encourage you to attend our virtual worship service on August 2, as three of our UCS delegates (Gare Reid, Mia Joiner-Moore, and Beth McGregor) will lead a service on “The Faith We Are a Part Of: Reflections on General Assembly.” And the rest of our lay-led summer services look fantastic too, for that matter! I will see you online for summer worship except for when I am off.
Speaking of, I am planning some time off this summer. I will be on vacation from July 12 through Aug 1, and then on study leave from August 2 through 15. The difference between the two is that vacation is simply a break whereas study leave is to plan, read, and delve deep into the spiritual practices that nurture and support my ministry. I will send an email reminder about my vacation and study leave with additional details and contact information for emergency pastoral care coverage before I am off.
And a final note: I hope you will join me in offering a warm welcome to our new Interim DRE, Christine Bulman! Christine’s first official day with us is July 6. I am looking forward to the guidance and reflection Christine will offer our RE program during this two-year interim. Our congregation truly values religious education, and we will enter into this time of transition with our sleeves rolled up and our hearts open, so that RE at UCS may continue to shine!
In faith and love,