Milestones in Religious Education

BulletinChildren’s Story

Please join us to recognize milestones in the Religious Education community. We celebrate five beloved high school seniors who are bridging from youth to young adult. We also offer a formal farewell to Aisha Hauser, Director of Lifelong Learning, ending her seven years of impeccable service to East Shore Unitarian Church and its congregation.

Milestones

This congregation, even without its walls, at whose center is held deep values, comes together so that we may be blessed to share life amongst the sacred bonds of community. 

Today we gather together from the middle of a bridge. We look around in all directions. Forward and back before and after past and future. Someday a new time will come when we will greet the day from a new place, across from where we stand now. When that day comes I want intuition vision collaboration I want collectivity cooperation care and concern. love deep listening and friendship to help me greet that new day. As teacher Joanna Macy says “If the world is to be healed through human efforts, I am convinced it will be by ordinary people, people whose love for this life is even greater than their fear. People who can open to the web of life that called us into being”.

Today is cause for mourning and for celebration. We hold those both in this space. We celebrate five graduating seniors in a uniquely Unitarian Universalist bridging tradition. We say goodbye to Aisha Hauser our beloved director of  lifelong learning and release her from covenant with the East shore community. And we look to cities around the country, set ablaze in fury, in protest, a prayer for Black lives to matter, for black lives to matter. We are filled with that grief and anger too for we want to exist in a society where Values like the ones we hold here are the brick and mortar.  Where the black and brown siblings  among us can live freely in their uniqueness and inherent worth and dignity. We are in a rite of passage socially. Where we have the opportunity to look to the past and to the future. On a bridge. This is a time to hold fast to one another and to the values that we have set in our bones, the values of love and compassion, of Democratic principles and interconnectedness, the values of this faith. this is a time to stretch our minds in ways that allow for new synapses to fire and for new possibilities to come forth. Our liberation is bound together Our black and brown siblings in spirit want a world where they can walk freely, go birding freely, Raise children freely, love freely, and i want to help get us there. this world aches For George Floyd Ahmed Aubrey Chris Cooper and breonna Taylor. amadou Diallo Rodney king Emmet till. Present only in memory. they deserved better. 

Today as we gather together we call on our faith ancestors to join us. We call to them so that they may join us to celebrate, reflect, and mourn. we call to them so that these moments will be held in eternity and that they may be able to help us to carry the joys and the burdens. We need the knowledge and passion of those who have come before, We need their witnessing. In these unknown and uncomfortable spaces may we accept the challenges of life with attention to care and with an application of steadfastness to our vision of a world with cause for love. We can start imagine a world where each and every persons well being is considered, prioritized, and even I imagine exalted. What a world that will be.

Today’s service is a rite of passage. we honor five of our beloved youth who are coming to an end of their childhood and of their youth. They are entering a liminal space as one does in rites of passage a going from one place to the next. These youth, Francis, Nicholas, Colton, Harry, Amelie, are venturing away from many familiar things- from school, from friends, from youth group and religious education, and in a way, from parents. They are entering a time when they have new choices and new responsibilities…to vote, to work, to create new relationships, to learn more about their uniqueness about their passions hobbies interests and values. Being a young adult can be an amazing time where a vast sense of possibility is alive in all of your cells and the expanse of life lies before you. It is a time to cherish. it is neither the before or after time it is the here and now time. This time will challenge you, push you up against yourself in new ways, where you navigate opportunity with a discerning and caring eye, where you learn to speak your voice and also learn to hear the voices of others. This moment in your lives is a time to say goodbye, to wrap up your memories in a box and store them for later or send them off forever. This moment is when you can stand still even just for a moment to breath and look backward and forward. You have much of your lives ahead of you, and yet you have already become so much. I hope that you can Appreciate who you are and In time who you are becoming. You are in two places at once right now. You are on a bridge between. Take your time as you go from one side to the next. It is your bridge to walk. and when you get to that other side there’s people right there to catch you. 

Aisha Hauser has been a vessel transporting lessons of our faith right into our hearts. She is capable of taking complex goals and putting them right in the table in front of you. What makes Aisha a great teacher and amazing friend and mentor is the stories she tells. Aisha loves telling the same stories and using the same phrases and anecdotes over and over. This repetition is actually a simple and profound teaching tool. It is what faith is based on, telling the same stories over and over to convey their lessons and messages. This repetition creates a storage in our minds that we can draw upon when we need to know how to navigate an experience we can rifle around and find a story with the response and outcome we’re looking for. 

One of the stories Aisha Often tells is about the difficulty she faced as a young adult leaving a strict Muslim upbringing and dating and eventually marrying  a Jewish man. Aisha tells the story to impart the wisdom she was given at the time from Brother Robert Clark who was a mentor to her at Rutgers University and who she still knows. He told her that either choice will bring you pain—to stay in her family of upbringing and go to Egypt obeying or to venture widely into her values and see where they took her. Which hurt could she live with he asked of her? Her choice was to live into her values, a choice that continues to compel her life and that as inspired so many around her to do just that. 

What ever moments you’ve shared with Aisha and memories you have, hold fast to them. Let them guide and inspire you just as they did at first, again and again. Tell those stories aloud and share them with your friends especially the ones at East Shore. Her legacy is a gift to this community and by sharing the wisdom of your moments with her it will continue to have positive affects, continue deepening our values and expanding our vision of an inclusive and radical life and Unitarian Universalism.

Pastoral Prayer / Joys and Sorrows: (“I Can’t Breathe”)

We usually invite congregants to step forward at this time—or to write in the chat—with news about milestones, joyful or sorrowful, that they are going through. In all of our lives, no doubt, there have been in recent days occasions for both celebration and for tears, but I am going to ask everyone this week to hold off the sharing of personal Joys and Sorrows. Next week we will have our first ever virtual flower communion… which should be a perfect service for sharing on many levels. But today.…

Today I feel the need to address a particular sorrow that affects everyone here,

Indeed, everyone who loves America, everyone actually,

who is doing their best to grow their souls

and learn how to love and respect others

across the barriers of race and class and ethnicity….

*                    *                    *

There’s a s-l-o-w-l-y growing awareness in our country of how differently people of color and white people perceive and are perceived by one another—and of the different treatment that’s dished out to our fellow citizens accordingly. This was made brutally clear last Monday when Minneapolis resident George Floyd got pulled out of his car by four police officers and pinned facedown on the pavement. For nearly five minutes he gasped, pleading “I can’t breathe,” until he lost consciousness and, still chokeheld for an additional three minutes, died—all for the accusation of trying to pass a counterfeit $20 bill. Was it counterfeit? Did he even know it if it was? Whatever. George Floyd was black. He found himself in the crossfire. He couldn’t breathe, and it killed him.

Perhaps some of you remember how, five summers ago, a man in New York, Eric Garner, was trying to exploit a narrow economic niche selling cigarettes one at a time. It’s against the law to do so; of minor consequence for sure, but illegal. When confronted by authorities, he shrugged his shoulders and asked, essentially, if they wouldn’t consider giving him a break. Whereupon the unarmed Mr. Garner was abruptly thrown to the ground by several officers and put in a chokehold. Thirteen times he cried out “I can’t breathe!” Thirteen times officers ignored his pleas… before he started foaming at the mouth and died. Like George Floyd, Eric Garner couldn’t breathe, and it killed him.

But these men are not the only ones who have died. There was an incident in South Los Angeles where a young Hispanic man, Jorge Azucena, was arrested and placed in lockdown, had an asthma attack, and was allowed to languish and die despite his repeated pleas for help.

It’s dispiriting for sure. But here’s something else I know: these three countrymen—George Floyd, Eric Garner, and Jorge Azucena—are not the only ones who cannot breathe. If you, too, are among those who cannot breathe in the face of injustice, please (with your audio turned off, of course) join me responsively whenever I say “I can’t breathe.”

The Trevor Martins, Michael Browns, Tamir Rices and countless others of this country in similar situations: unarmed young blacks killed in fatal police or neighborhood watch shootings.

         I can’t breathe.

Racial profiling—a natural enough inclination—that needs to be drastically reformed.

         I can’t breathe.

Violence against poor people particularly poor people of color, including the undocumented and under age.

         I can’t breathe.

Unprecedented transfers of military equipment to police, turning some departments into virtual forces of occupation.

         I can’t breathe.

The sad reality that every responsible black or brown parent has to have a conversation with their soon-to-be-adolescent children—especially their sons—letting them know in no uncertain terms that they need to expect hostile suspicion and potential abuse from law enforcement authorities. And to be careful—they could easily get shot and killed.

         I can’t breathe.

The lack of community policing; replaced with something resembling a military occupation. And with it, the virtual impossibility of indicting law enforcement personnel for any crime, no matter how egregious or well documented on video.

         I can’t breathe.

When learning the truth—not the Gone With the Wind cover story—about slavery, Jim Crow, and segregation.

         I can’t breathe.

Trade and immigration policies that have helped create refugees clamoring to immigrate because of economic devastation in their countries of origin.

         I can’t breathe.

Divide and conquer mentalities that limit or downright prohibit public consideration and discussion of how Americans could organize our economy on a more just and humane basis.

         I can’t breathe.

Redlining, sunset laws, and restrictive covenants that created a kind of “Jim Crow Lite” across our country, making it difficult or impossible for people of color to live where they would choose, even if they had the money to do so. And the remnants of which continue to this day.

         I can’t breathe.

Neighbors and otherwise kindly people who, despite their rosy intentions, perpetuate racist cultural norms by refusing to acknowledge that past wrongs continue to linger, fester, and infect our body politic.

         I can’t breathe.

Congregants—believing themselves to be liberal and progressive—who condemn worship services, sermons, and prayers focusing on difficult, unhappy subjects like racism because they prefer a steady diet of upbeat, optimistic subjects that make them feel only good about themselves and their world—subjects, by the way, their worship leaders would prefer to focus on, too, were not the times and conditions in which we dwell so increasingly  perilous.

         I can’t breathe.

Resistance to the fact that black lives matter. That the lives of people of color matter. That all lives matter, not just people we think are just like us because of their skin color or place of origin or shared political perspective.

         I can’t breathe….

Spirit of Life and Love,

Spirit of democracy,

Spirit at the heart of Unitarian Universalism,         please:

take us out of this chokehold. Take our country out of this chokehold before we all start foaming at the mouth and our democratic experiment goes off the rails entirely. And dies.

Help us breathe. Help us help one another to breathe again, at long last. That we may rise up and up and live out the true meaning of our American creed, and be a truly free people…         at last.    

Amen.