Needham Lyceum Sunday, October 15, 2017 9:15am in the Parlor Diego Low speaking
Diego Low is the Coordinator (ED) of the Metrowest Worker Center, with headquarters in Framingham. The Worker Center serves undocumented immigrants from Guatemala, Ecuador and Brazil who live in the Framingham area that includes Milford. Diego works tirelessly and effectively with wage-theft and work-related injury cases. I am honored to be a member of the Worker Center board.
As First Parish considers the path to becoming a Sanctuary Support Church, in Sunday’s lyceum (October 15), the stories that Diego shares with us will throw a spotlight on key issues that immigrant workers face in their efforts to provide for their families.
Through my work with the Needham Area Immigrant Justice Task Force, which I chair, I have come to know Diego well. Along with other members of the Task Force (which includes FP members) I have participated in various protests against employers who do not pay their workers what they are due. Many of these protests have resulted in workers getting the wages they have rightfully earned, but been denied by unscrupulous employers. This kind of protest is on the frontlines of worker justice.
One other vivid image of Diego came when I was in the hospital for an appointment dealing with a broken hip I suffered a couple of years ago. In a waiting room I found Diego accompanying an injured worker there for treatment. This is another part of what Diego does year in and year out. The Ecuadorans that participate in the Worker Center tend to be roofers, which means their injuries can be quite serious.
As you can imagine, Diego has many stories of workers in the struggles of their lives for a just wage and for adequate treatment for injuries they suffer on the job.
If you are planning to be in church this Sunday I hope you will come to the parlor at 9:15 to hear Diego and to have him respond to your questions.
Thanksliving and Thanksloving in a Challenging Time
By Kay and Clark Taylor
Introductory note: The following was given as the sermon on June 25. It introduces two made up words, which you can see italicized in the title just below, and it seeks to define and enlighten the notion of “Beloved Community,” which Martin Luther King Jr. used to describe what he was working to create. It is based on a powerful love that transforms enemies into people we can work with to find the way to justice and peace. In the sermon, we drew on our own spiritual practices and the deeply real sense of community that infuses this church to point out that the Beloved Community that we find in our personal relationships and this church will lead us to work to create it in the wider world.
K: How do we — any of us — deal with life “in a challenging time”? Clark, you and I struggled early in our marriage to have a family and came through it with one wonderful biological son and two wonderful adopted daughters. That was a challenging time for us, for sure. During that time we found ourselves agonized over the assassinations of John Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and Bobby Kennedy, which was a different form of challenge to make sense of. And there have been many other challenges along the way. But now both of us find that, given our health and aging issues, this time stands out as particularly challenging. As all of us sit here this morning, each of us can think about the challenges we have faced and are currently facing in our own lives. And most of us can probably agree that as we currently experience life as citizens of our nation, with our cherished democracy hanging in the balance, this is a challenging time indeed.
C: The two of us experience this church as a warm and loving community of people that is helping us in a powerful way to meet both the personal and societal challenges of our lives. And we have become aware of the ideal of the Beloved Community, which the UUA has taken as a central part of its belief system. Three years ago, 21of us heard Meck Groot, an official of the UUA, speak in this church about Beloved Community, including its use by Martin Luther King Jr. It is based, she said, on the belief that love is the greatest force in the world, which is to be expressed through right relationships of love and respect. At times, she said, the love of Beloved Community is confrontational, bringing to mind the recent huge demonstrations that have been organized to resist the negative, backward-looking policies of our President and the efforts of the rich powerful oppressors to become ever more rich and powerful. But underlying the resistance and protest is a disciplined love, respect, and iron will that is determined to stop the oppressors in their tracks. The goal is to make their oppression too expensive for them and too much getting in the way of what they are intent on doing. At that point, they may find it necessary to sit down to work out a constructive solution based in our mutual humanity. Martin Luther King said about it: “It is this type of spirit and this type of love that can transform opponents into friends.… It is this love which will bring about miracles in the hearts of men.”
K: Beloved Community, in other words, is not based in a spineless weakness, but in tough love and strength. Within that framework it provides plenty of room for respectful tenderness and love. At this point in our 59 years of married life together we also experience our own love as an expression of Beloved Community. And we also find that our church community participates in it, as well. Our deep love and this church community are imperfect expressions of it, to be sure, but the vision of it inspires and guides us. Because I know I am loved, I have strengths and energy to reach out to each of you and the world beyond.
C: Let’s start logically with thanksliving in our personal lives in the context of our church. We think of thanksliving as an outward impulse. It reaches out from us for this or that good experience, friend, family member, or aspect of our lives. The two of us have spoken before of our practice of lighting a chalice in our home every day when we are first together in the morning. Regardless of the kind of sleep we have had or the various pains in our bodies, we start with a simple candle of thanks that, in effect, lights a fire within us. We are first of all thankful for a precious new day as a gift of life and love to share with each other and with others. We used to just take a new day for granted.
K: Then we are thankful for the particulars that come to mind, including family, church friends, and the challenges that are before us in that day. The hope is to set a pattern for the day to make the whole time we are awake lived in a thanksliving way. Realistically, it never lasts through all parts of the day—especially when we are deeply frustrated by some problem in our lives. You can fill in the blanks of points in your day when you lose all sight of living thankfully. But the challenge is there to find ways of centering ourselves to recover the fire of the thanksliving spirit. And this church helps us do it.
C: Science itself is supportive in this endeavor to live thankfully and names amazing multiple benefits that come from thanksliving. A Newsweek article quotes a psychologist from the University of Birmingham, who noted in 2013 that the “list of potential benefits [of living thankfully] is almost endless: fewer intellectual biases, more effective learning strategies, more helpfulness towards others, raised self-confidence, better work attitude, strengthened resiliency, less physical pain, improved health, and longevity.” The author goes on to name five more specific ones, all scientifically demonstrated. What’s not to like about thankful living? You can be sure that the two of us are listening to ourselves even as we speak, to find a way more deeply into the benefits.
K: Thanksloving can be singled out as a profound form of thanksliving. It is relational at its core. As human beings we find it difficult to impossible to love ourselves if we do not experience others reaching out to us in a loving way. You may point to one person in your growing up life who inspired you with the will and confidence to live in a productive way. For some it is a teacher, a grandparent, or a special caregiver. We may well have several such people in our lives. Thankful living, thus, incorporates thankful loving, but the loving aspect is worth focusing on in itself because of its profound importance in our relationship with others and, ultimately, with how we love ourselves.
C: The Jewish philosopher Martin Buber wrote of contrasting ways of engaging with others, as I-Thou, on the one hand, and I-It on the other. I-Thou involves treating other people as holy or sacred loving others rather than as things, as “its.” Every person, whoever we are, has an innate desire to have others care about us in a loving way. In our defensiveness, we often have developed habits and attitudes that make it difficult for us to be easily loved and accepted by others. But we can remind ourselves that all of us are alike in that essential way of needing to be lovingly accepted by others. Quakers speak of “the god in us” and “holding one another in the light,” i.e., with reference to the holy Thou in all of us. Kay, you and I have developed ways of working through the difficult differences of our lives.
K: I was and am more focused on creativity and beauty, while you have been committed to social change and activism. Then you took up garden photography as a hobby, which served as a bridge for our interests. Even with that, I found it hard not to think of your social justice work as more valuable than my focus on artistic beauty. But I have come around to becoming very supportive of your justice work, which I also believe in. As a result, we have become each other’s cheerleaders. As we have become older and are now heading into some difficult uncertainty on the health front, our thankfulness and love for each other has become deeper and even more emotionally satisfying and life fulfilling.
C: We have been offering a window into our marriage as a kind of case study of how we have worked to become more intentional in our thanksliving and thanksloving. But as all of us here today seek to become more thankful and loving people, both in our primary relationships, our friendship circles, and in our church, the further truth is that it opens the possibility for us to offer more as citizens in uplifting artistic beauty and the political justice struggles in our world. Another way of saying this is as we work to create the Beloved Community in our church, we are more prepared to work toward the Beloved Community at a grander loving justice scale as we join forces with others in the world around us. As a church we can see that we are already on that journey:
K: Our church has tackled the challenges of Beloved Community-building in many ways. To mention a few: by becoming a green congregation, with support for the health of the planet, and a welcoming congregation with an open love for all people, including LGBTQ, transgendered people, and folks of all gender identities. We have taken on the challenge of becoming a more racially just congregation and the cause of helping to release people who have been trafficked and try to support them. We are in the process of deciding whether to become a sanctuary congregation that would support a faith community that has enough space to house an undocumented immigrant or family.
C: Given these outreach efforts and others, in which many of us have been involved, we can say that this church is engaged in helping to create the Beloved Community in the world around us. And if we add up every single thing different ones of us are doing as volunteers or in our places of employment to make the world a more just and peaceful place, we would be impressed. You who are volunteering or working for a just peace at work are unheralded ambassadors of the spirit of this church. But clearly there is much more to be done. We invite you to consider what you can do in light of your own spiritual practices to become more of an ambassador for beauty, justice, and peace. Our hope here in sharing some of our own thanksliving and thanksloving practice is not that you will do what we do, but that you will draw on your own way of building and sharing in Beloved Community.
Leaders of the Guatemala Partnership, which First Parish members Kay and Clark Taylor started in 1987, will make a presentation at First Parish. This partnership has continued for the past 30 years with the village of Santa Maria Tzeja in northern Guatemala. The young people, who are now the leaders of the village, are asking us to help shape a vision for the next 30 years. Come on Sunday to listen, to learn about a vibrant international partnership, and to think about how First Parish might become involved. For more information see this blogpost.
Kay and Clark with Manuela Hernandez, mother of two outstanding student graduates
Kay and I returned recently from a stimulating and deeply satisfying trip to the Guatemalan village, with which she and I established a partnership with the Congregational Church in town, now in its thirtieth anniversary year. Our trip was part of a delegation, the 59th that the church has sent each February and August. Continue reading…
Needham Lyceum Sunday, January 22, 2017 9:15am in the Parlor Cassandra Bensahih and John Bowman
Mass incarceration is increasingly recognized as a major problem. Many people — a disproportionate number of whom are black — are locked up for nonviolent crimes for which other forms of treatment would be more appropriate. As a result, families are broken up and neighborhoods disrupted.
Massachusetts has more than 90,000 individuals enmeshed in its criminal justice system. Sunday’s program will include life stories and a slideshow with data that lays open this painful problem in a powerful way. Cassandra Bensahih is Executive Director of EPOCA (Ex-prisoners and Prisoners Organizing for Community Advancement). She is an ex-prisoner and founder of EPOCA and is known as a powerful, motivating speaker. John Bowman is a retired lawyer and a volunteer with Jobs NOT Jails, a coalition of groups that works for a humane solution to the problem of the heavy overuse of jailing people when other options are available.
Attend this lyceum to learn and leave to act, as you are moved, to make a difference.
To What Extent? What Can We/Should We Do to Make It More So?
Let’s start with the “Should We” part of the title. The Parish Committee adopted a Five-Year Plan in the spring of this year. One of its five major goals for the church reads, “Make social and environmental justice central to our identity, activities and programs.” Continue reading…
Americans have an unreserved admiration in our historical mythical memories of the American Revolution that separated us from the totalitarian grip of the English throne. “Taxation without representation,” the Patriots cried. Continue reading…
Last Thursday, seven of us from First Parish headed for a gathering of people ready to protest the construction of the West Roxbury Lateral Pipeline which, if completed, will carry a huge amount of highly explosive natural gas through residential neighborhoods in Dedham and West Roxbury at extremely high pressure. The FP group included Carolyn Lynes, Eleanor Rosselini, Becky Siebens, Dick Anthony, Ellen Fine, Zack Packard, and me. We were going to join upwards of a hundred people, mostly from the Boston area, but with a couple of folks who came from out-of-state to join us. We were in three equally important categories: 27 people, including me, were prepared to engage in civil disobedience (CD), risking arrest for entering the hard-hat work site. The second group included those who came in direct support of those of us willing to engage in CD who would transport us to the site and keep track of what jail the CD person was in, with a commitment to bring us home when we were released. Carolyn Lynes was that person for me. The third group was those who swelled the crowd to give the critically important emphasis to the broader numbers of people who are against the construction of the pipeline.Continue reading…
Pictured in the photo, left to right: Marianne McGowan, Mary Margaret Earl (UU Urban Ministry), Kalila Barnett (ED of ACE), Tracy Zendzian, Becky Siebens, Dick Anthony, Eva Jansiewicz, Clark Taylor
Six of us from FP in Needham traveled to Roxbury on Monday, May 23, for “Jammin’ for Justice,” a fundraiser for the Alternatives for Community and Environment (ACE). All enjoyed circulating in the diverse gathering of some 150 people. Continue reading…