Our theme for the month of February is “The Outsiders”. I admit, I often struggle with this concept. On the one hand, our goal as Unitarian Universalists and as people of faith (and simply as decent human beings!) is and should be to bring as many people as possible from the “outside” into our circle of care. We are reminded by our First Principle that each person has inherent worth and dignity- it needn’t be earned or asked for; it is not dependent on any action on their part. By virtue of simply being human they are, or at least should be, “inside”. To be sure, most of the world’s faiths teach inclusion to some degree: the famous “Golden Rule”.
But there is a tension here, I believe, because we humans are also a decidedly tribal lot. We are suspicious of difference. We fear “outsiders”. We see them as threatening. We seem to be as often motivated by “Do unto others before they do unto you” as by “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. History, religion, politics- even popular drama- shows this aspect of human nature over and over again.
In a 2009 article for UU World, entitled “The Gospel of Inclusion”, Kimberly French explores the transformation of All Souls Unitarian in Tulsa Oklahoma when “some 200 Pentecostal Universalist Christians—most of them African American—began attending the 88-year-old overwhelmingly white, upper-middle-class church en masse.” The circumstances surrounding this event are a wonderful read, and I would urge you to look up the article.
But the transition wasn’t without its challenges. Having that many new people in a congregation changes the dynamics. There were some, I’m sure, who felt very uncomfortable with all the changes these new people brought. In fact, the Senior Minister, Marlin Lavanhar, says in the article, “…a portion of the congregation, mostly long-term members who are uncomfortable with the overtly theistic language of the music, may never embrace the new musical style at the 11 o’clock service. About seven people have told the board they are reducing or withdrawing their pledges because of the changes, he reports. And some people have stopped coming.”
While I understand the feeling of “losing their place” that these folks might have, if we are truly to embrace the “Outsider”, we must accept the fact that their point of view will be different from ours. They will be different. It requires work on our part, certainly. But if we are to truly believe our First Principle, we must accept – even embrace the differences of others.
We’ll be thinking about these “Outsiders” this month as we explore our weekly themes:
On Feb 4 we’ll be thinking about “The Traveler” Worship Associate Page Kimball and I will be thinking about how travelers are the ultimate “outsiders”, and considering how we might provide more hospitality to “the traveler”. Suzanne Mallow will be providing our music for the day.
On Feb 11, our friend Amber Green of the Fenix Youth Project, along with Liz Dale, will explore what it means to be a “Neighbor”. Our choir will be leading us in song!
On Feb 18, Worship Associate Shane Blaz and I will be considering “The Worthy”, with music provided by Mickey Justice.
And finally, on Feb 25, our own Vicki Demos, along with Worship Associate Ron Pagano, will be touching on “The Tormented”, and The Legacy of Homer Plessy: The NAACP and the Challenge to Apartheid in the United States, Sam Eddington will be accompanying our choir in song..
This month we will explore the many aspects of how we, as a loving community, as Unitarian Universalists, as decent human beings, might meet the challenge, might overcome our distrust, might open our hearts and offer kindness and welcome to “The Outsider”. Please join us!
Wishing you peace and blessings,