Dear Good People of UUCNH,
I woke up this on this dreary, grey morning in a sour mood. The rain drizzled down outside the window. I was tired. The radio was on reminding me of the events to come today and about how deeply divided our nation is. It is an inauguration day like no other. “Oh well,” I thought. “I might as well just give into this feeling. Enjoy the wallow.” I shook my head, sighed, and noticed myself resigning, letting go into a daylong sulk. There was something about recognizing my voluntarily resignation that gave me pause. It seemed to suggest that I had some say in the matter. I had a choice. It made me wonder if I could push in the other direction and not let my mood be guided from the outside. So I gave it a try.
And, I’ll be darned, it worked. It felt defiant. I tethered onto kindness. I championed the good around me. I went to Bellwood Preschool after dropping of my daughter and watched the kids sing at “Happy Time.” (It is pajama day over there, so it was extra cute and that helped, too.) I acknowledged the truth of the day when I spoke with others, but fanned away the would-be clouds that began to form over our heads. I do not fear that I will lose sight of what is happening today. That is omnipresent. But our world is filled with joy and goodness as well. Both exist at once. And so I will just make a space big enough inside of myself to hold both. Or at least I will try my best to do so.
Someone asked me the other day how things will change for a church in this new world and new administration. I have given a decent amount of thought to this. First, we will be called to a direct resistance when we see things happening in our country and in our North Hills that run counter to our Unitarian Universalist values. Along with others who advocate for love and justice, the responsibility falls to us to speak out and be the voice of dissent and disruption. Time will tell where and when this voice is needed. But we can be certain it will be. We will need to show up in deed and action. More than ever, we will need to embody what we espouse. It is hard work to affirm the inherent worth and dignity of every person. Second, we will need to continue forward in areas that we believe are working to create a more just and sustainable world. We cannot simply be reactionary. We cannot spend the next years only in defensive mode. We must go forward with what we believe in. Finally, it is important that church remains a place of sanctuary and regeneration, of beauty and joy, of community and connection. While the world rages outside our church walls and discord in our own hearts, UUCNH will be a place where we can dare to love boldly, care for one another, inspire each other, show up with our full selves, and create a space where, as James Luther Adams said, we can “practice being human.” We will fill ourselves up with Love here so that we can go out and be Love in the world.
I am thankful for our church. I know it will be an important place in the lives of our members and friends in these coming days, months, and years. I am thankful to every single person who keeps this church running, healthy, and moving forward. We create this place together. We hold joy, anger, hope, sadness, and love all at once. We are each and together also a part of creating our human story with every other person breathing today. May we be strong and clear that the lines we write into this narrative are of peace, inclusion, and a vision of greater unity among our all siblings.
There is work to be done. On this inauguration day, I find challenge, hope, and a call in these words from Langston Hughes…
Let America Be America Again
Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.
(America never was America to me.)
Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed-
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.
(It never was America to me.)
O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.
(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)
Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?
I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.
I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!
I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean-
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today-O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.
Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That’s made America the land it has become.
O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home-
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”
Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
And all the songs we’ve sung
And all the hopes we’ve held
And all the flags we’ve hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay-
Except the dream that’s almost dead today.
O, let America be America again-
The land that never has been yet-
And yet must be-the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine-the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME-
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.
Sure, call me any ugly name you choose-
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath-
America will be!
Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain-
All, all the stretch of these great green states
And make America again!
With faith in love,