Soul Seeds: Excited About the Year Ahead

It’s been an eventful summer! Laura and I celebrated our 20th anniversary on Aug. 18, and we also continued preparations for sending our daughter Sophia off to college at St. Andrews in Scotland. We’ll be accompanying her there in mid-September. And then begins a new chapter in our lives: empty-nesting!

It was also an eventful summer in the larger world. We saw the worst offshore spill in U.S. history unfold before our eyes, and it broke our hearts. Finally, the BP well was plugged… and then in early August I was grateful to read a news article about the unexpected self-healing capacities of the affected marshes: “More than a dozen scientists interviewed by The Associated Press say the marsh here and across the Louisiana coast is healing itself, giving them hope delicate wetlands might weather the worst offshore spill in U.S. history better than they had feared.” Once again, I am reminded of the unquenchable resilience of life.

We also saw Justice Vaughn Walker’s determination that Proposition 8, California’s federal ban on same-sex marriage, violated the 14th Amendment. It was also, as the New York Times put it, “a stirring and eloquently reasoned denunciation of all forms of irrational discrimination, the latest link in a chain of path- breaking decisions that permitted interracial marriages and decriminalized gay sex between consenting adults.” I celebrate this decision wholeheartedly and rejoice in Justice Walker’s good sense. I also know that there’s still much more work to be done.

Yet a third thing we saw this summer was Unitarian Universalists from around the nation gathering in Arizona to protest the scheduled implementation of Arizona’s Immigration Law. I’m so proud to say that our congregation was represented by my colleague, the Rev. Marti Keller— way to go, Marti! And, I’m so proud to know that our UU organizing efforts stood out as distinctive. Writes Kim Bobo in Religious Dispatches magazine, “Although most faith bodies and denominations have very strong statements on immigration reform, those same denominations did not activate people. With one glaring exception—the Unitarian Universalist Association. Of the several hundred religious leaders who showed up, only the Unitarian Universalist Association seriously committed staff, money, and organizing talent to the struggle.” We have much to be proud of—and, as with marriage equality, there is still much more to be done. As the year progresses, you’ll be hearing a lot more about immigration reform.

Lots going on this summer. Yet a fourth thing is the storm brewing around the proposed mosque near Ground Zero in Manhattan. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg sees this “as important a test of the separation of Church and State as we may see in our lifetime.” On the other hand, there are those who view it as an “unnecessary provocation.” Still others see Islam as inherently anti- democratic and violent. A storm is brewing.

As I see it, the controversy in New York City is but a small example of how we’re struggling, as a nation, to claim our call to religious freedom. Mistrust and misunderstanding abound. I believe that one of the gifts we Unitarian Universalists can give to the world is clarity about how to live in a 21st century America that is multifaith and multicultural. We can model ways of celebrating our differences even as we discover common ground. We can learn how to separate the good from the bad and remind each other that the timeless call of all authentic spirituality is love.

In May of 2011, the Unitarian Universalist Association celebrates its Golden Anniversary. Fifty years ago, a new religion was born, even though its parent faiths (Unitarianism and Universalism) were themselves hundreds of years old. Ever since, this new religion has happily drawn from many religious traditions and many cultures as it has sought to empower people to live more richly and to create a more just world. Pluralism is in our DNA.

I’m excited about the year ahead for us. All year long, we’ll be exploring what it means to be Unitarian Universalist in an America that’s multireligious and multicultural. We’re going to recognize and celebrate the unique gifts that are ours to give. And we’re going to look at ways in which we can enhance those gifts and give them in ways that are more relevant and inspiring than ever. Our goal is not just to celebrate the past 50 years, but to envision who we may yet be in our next 50 years. Nothing less than that.

Rev. Anthony David, Senior Minister