After leading worship, I, like many others, reflect on what I might have done differently. Actually, such insights often come while I am still in the middle of a service. Usually, there is nothing to do but file the learning for another time. But, increasingly, I realize that sometimes there are opportunities to follow up and that the availability of social media increases those opportunities.
Thus it is that I find myself following up on last Sunday’s worship service that began 13 hours after the acquittal of George Zimmerman. There are two major adjustments that I would make. I knew them very soon after the service and have had a chance to talk with some of you about them. I very much appreciate your thoughtful sharing with me.
First, our reading for the morning was excerpts of What to the Slave is the Fourth of July? by Frederick Douglass, originally delivered July 5, 1852. I was drawn to the piece because I believed, and still do, that it offers a cautionary tale about religious institutions and leaders not having the courage of their convictions. I knew there would be people present who disagreed with me. I knew there would be people who, although they did not necessarily disagree with the content of what I said, might nonetheless think that I should not be so provocative. I hoped the piece would provide some reference for why I needed to speak as I did. All that said… it was too long. While I would still choose it again as reading, I wish I had kept it shorter.
Second, I wish I had offered more on what comes next… addressed the question “So what do we do now?” Many people told me as they left the sanctuary that they would be getting a copy of the book I referenced, Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. Plans are underway to provide small group opportunities for conversation. People are using facebook and our 1U Justice email list to share information about how to be involved in related activities in the community. These are all ways we can follow up.
But there is more…
For some time now, my worship calendar has noted the fact that August 28th will mark the 50th anniversary of The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom during which The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his famous, I have a Dream speech. It will be our worship theme on Sunday, August 25th as we consider our progress in turning the dream into reality over the last half century. We will then be using The Dream as a theme for the coming program year. This will be our third year using a theme to connect the sanctuary with both the Children’s and Adult Religious Education programs, particularly on the first Sunday of each month. Together we will have the opportunity to consider the world that we dream about, the beloved community of which King often spoke. What is our vision and what are we willing to do to bring it into being?
The concerns raised in Sunday’s sermon are just one part of a continuing conversation. We are not all riled up with no place to go. On the contrary, I believe that there is much that we can do, individually and collectively, in spite of, and perhaps even because of, our diverse perspectives.
I look forward to being in conversation with you, dreaming with you, and most importantly, working with you to create a world with more peace and more justice for all people.