Imagine Equity and Justice

Published by FirstUUAdmin on

by Rev Michelle Scott-Huffman

Our opening words are “It begins now in the imagination” by Rev. Gretchen Haley.

It starts here
In this moment
In this breath
You feel rising
In your chest
This beat building between us
The healing, the hunger, the hope
The courage, the calling, the commitment The drawing out
of a new day
It begins now
In the imagination
In this story we weave
this song we sing
this prayer
we bring into being
from our hearts
to our lips
from our hands
to our life
Our shared life
It starts here
With praise, and thanksgiving Forgiveness, and this humble centering
that we could be wrong –
this promise
that we make –
to keep learning
to keep trying
to keep our sense
of humor
to keep close
this knowing
that we are all
in this
Come, let us begin,
Come, let us worship, together.

Sunflower Slow Drag
by Scott Joplin and Scott Hayden
Public Domain
Performed by Eva Riebold

This work is truly delightful and the available program notes describe it as being “full of gaiety and sunshine.” I can almost hear the sunflowers nodding their cheerful blossom heads in time when Eva plays. This work is lesser known among Scott Joplin’s ragtime piano works but it deserves just as much attention as “Maple Leaf Rag” or “The Entertainer.” I also think it’s wonderful that we get to feature the music of a Black composer. Asking myself whose music gets performed and how often is one way I am trying to imagine more equity and justice in our music program.
You can read more about Scott Joplin here:

We’ll Build a Land
Words: Barbara Zanotti (text from Isaiah/Amos)
Music: Carolyn McDade, arr. Betsy Jo Angebranndt
Used with Permission
Performed by Marilyn Day, Laura Parsons, and Eva Riebold

I wish we could say “we’ve built a land where justice does roll down like waters, and peace like an ever flowing stream,” but we all know that the work is not done. So, this beautiful hymn is an invitation for us to come and do the work of justice, and the work of peace. Every year for MLK day, I see people posting calls for “peace and unity” on the issue of racial justice and writing things like, “Remember that MLK gave his life for peace.” Please let me serve as our annual reminder that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. did not give his life. He was murdered by white supremacists. At the time just prior to his murder, he was one of the most hated men in America according to opinion polls at the time. White people in America were, for the most part, filled with vitriol and resistance to his message. And he did not issue empty calls for peace that were devoid of accountability, or reparations, or justice. He was fond of quoting this same passage from the books of Isaiah and Amos about justice rolling down like waters. In my mind, this is more like the raw, crushing power of Niagara Falls than a polite creek that doesn’t dismantle anything along its way. White supremacy must be dismantled. We’ve seen it alive and well in living color on the news recently.

I’ll leave you with a link to follow Rev. Dr. King’s daughter, Bernice King on Twitter:

And with this quote from Rev. Dr. King: “First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action;” who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a “more convenient season.”

Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”

Give Us Justice, Give Us Peace
Dona Nobis Pacem Round
Public Domain Work
New text from BLM
New music by Emily McKinney
Performed by the Virtual First UU Choir

I wish that I had heard the additions to the protest chants of “No justice, no peace, no racist police!” prior to arranging this and recording it with the virtual choir. You will just have to imagine that line is in there. The theme IS Imagination, after all. I know I write about this every time we use this song for a service, but it bears repeating: we simply cannot have peace without justice. Justice must be the first goal and the peace will follow. It’s been an interesting parallel to me in the last two weeks to see people calling out their elected officials to account for their requests for “peace and unity” and “just moving on” without ever acknowledging their own role in the violent attack on our Capitol, and to see that many of those same people calling their elected officials out for this were often the very same people this summer calling for BLM activists to stop agitating, to promote “peace and unity,” and just move on. We know that we cannot move on until we work through. Pasting over a wound does not allow it to heal, and we so desperately want to heal. May we be open to doing the work of justice that will allow us to be ready for peace and healing.

Step by Step the Longest March
Words: From the preamble to the Constitution of the United Mine Workers of America
Music: Irish Folk Song, arr. Waldemar Hille
Used with Permission
Performed by Marilyn Day, Laura Parsons, and Eva Riebold

I’m really looking forward to hearing Rev. Michelle’s reflections from her own “virtual march” this week. This hymn has a very interesting back story, which you can read more about here:

While this song comes out of the Labor Movement originally, I think it fits as a metaphor for the work of dismantling white supremacy. It will be a long march, and it will take our collective efforts. The words are simple but create a powerful picture of what we could do together if we had a little Imagination…

My gratitude to Marilyn, Laura, and Eva for recording this beautiful duet for us this week.

Our closing words are Rev. Michelle’s slight adaptation of The Prayer of St. Francis:

Lord, universe, humanity, holy mystery,
make Me an instrument of Your peace
Where there is hatred let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Love grant that I may
Not so much seek to be consoled as to console
To be understood, as to understand.
To be loved. as to love
For it’s in giving that we receive
And it’s in pardoning that we are pardoned
Give me the wisdom to know what is mine to do
And the Courage to get it done.