From the Minister: Turmoil

by Rev. Dr. Stephen H. Furrer

There’s a lot going on. And much turmoil across the land as America deals (or tries to avoid dealing) with the novel coronavirus, the murder of yet another unarmed African-American, George Floyd, by white Minneapolis policemen, and strains upon our creaky 232-year-old governmental structures as a result of the science- and compromise-defiant extremism coming out of the Executive Branch. These are dangerous times and people have good reason to be anxious and uncertain.

The President of the UUA, the Reverend Susan Frederick-Gray, in consultation with the UUA Board of Trustees, has sent letters to all Unitarian Universalist congregations recommending they restrict their programs and activities to exclusively virtual for the next twelve months, i.e., through May 31, 2021. Meanwhile Governor Inslee has approved initial guidelines for reopening various public activities, including small gatherings at churches. Everything is fluid and the staff as well as your Board are focused on keeping everyone both safe and spiritually nourished until the contagion is under control.

Responding to the continued violence against people of color, often at the hands of overly militarized police officers, may be the harder, more intractable issue: systemic structural racism—America’s original sin.

In the hours after a face-on-the-pavement chokehold killed Mr. Floyd, protestors’ grief and anger exploded. Minneapolis businesses were broken into, graffitied, and looted. Its air filled with tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, live bullets fireworks, smoke, chants and cries. A police station was set on fire. It’s been five and a half years since an unarmed Eric Garner, also pleading, “I can’t breathe!” died of another chokehold at the hands of another group of all white officers. Between the death of Mr. Garner and that of Mr. Floyd, dozens of people of color have met equally abhorrent fates. This is why it’s important that ESUC continue to participate in Black Lives Matter.

But it will take more than protests and flash stances to turn America around; it will take a change in our country’s political culture. The current President’s unremitting, often baseless attacks on his political opponents, the news media, career bureaucrats, scientists, artists, and academicians have many questioning his commitment to the very Constitution he once made a vow to preserve, protect, and defend. Given the opportunity to repeat that oath this coming January, I’m afraid there will be little left to Constitution after all. Which would be a tragedy the world over. Like Dr. King, most Unitarian Universalists have a dream that “one day our nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed… that all men are created equal.”

Finally, the annual meeting on June 14 will make the retirement of several excellent Board of Trustees members. Foremost among these has been President Dennis Fleck—a very warm-hearted fellow of foresight, perseverance, and much persuasive appeal. I have enjoyed working side by side with Dennis immeasurably. Additionally, we will see the departure of Secretary Jerry Bushnell, and trustees Paul Buehrens, Clare Sherley, and Geoff Soleck. I will miss them all, sorely.

Throughout the months of July and August we plan to have a variety of virtual worship leaders, so please check the website and the Beacon to keep up with our calendar. It’s now possible to attend church without leaving your home, so pour yourself a cup of coffee and come on by.

Yours in faith, Steve