The First Parish Blog

Pastoral Message During a Tense Weekend

By , Published on January 18, 2017

Perhaps this week, you’ve been feeling as I’ve been feeling: anxious, tense, apprehensive, with an underlying sense of dread. We have arrived at the week when Donald Trump will be inaugurated as the next president of the United States, with a cartload of promised policies that threaten protections, safety, and rights of our neighbors, family members, friends — even our own selves.

I’m writing today to invite you to set aside time over the next three days of self-care, reflection, and action. Practicing a cyclical rhythm in our lives of self-care, reflection, and action can sustain us in troubled times to come.

Thursday for Self-Care: Earlier this month, I wrote a blog article encouraging us to take care of ourselves leading up to the Inauguration. If you haven’t set aside time for self-care and spiritual practice yet, I encourage you: please, please do so on Thursday! As we’ve been saying in worship this month, in a paraphrase of the Muslim poet Jalal-ad-Din Rumi, there are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the ground. Strive to make space on Thursday for prayer, meditation, your favorite kind of movement (yoga, dance, weightlifting, aikido, running, etc.), creating or appreciating art and music, dialoguing with loved ones, reading the works of prophetic ancestors and compassionate poets, journaling, communing with nature, etc. One strategy a colleague recommended to me is to keep track of how much time we spend watching or reading the news, and then match that time in self-care. During difficult periods, we do ourselves a great service to make time for rejuvenation. Furthermore, when we take care of ourselves, we are better able to take care of others in need.

Friday for Reflection: Regardless of what is happening or who is in power politically, we Unitarian Universalists believe in and promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person and respect for the interconnected web of all existence of which we are a part. We know that as we commit ourselves to resist evils such as racism, sexism, heterosexism, ableism, ageism, classism, imperialism, and more, we must strive to rise above the conception of “enemies,” acknowledging we are all neighbors in a shared world. As Civil Rights leader Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said, we seek to defeat injustice, not people. On Inauguration Day, I encourage all of our members and friends to join me in a day of reflection, meditation, and prayer, seeking the courage and capacity to create more peace, unity, and justice in our nation. Our UU Standing on the Side of Love campaign has promoted fasting as a spiritual practice for Inauguration week. I will be fasting on Inauguration Day itself, while spending time in community with my family and friends in northern Virginia. If you’re looking for community that day in Needham, the Witness for Justice Coalition is sponsoring a vigil on Needham Common at 3 pm. On Friday, let’s all consider: Where and how is evil inhabiting our world today? How can we each become non-violent, non-compliant resistors of evil and instead answer the higher call to love and justice?

Saturday for Action: Now that we have cared for our spirits and reflected on the state of our nation, it is time to act — perhaps for the first of many times, perhaps as one more time after years of working for justice. What do we feel ready to do today for justice? What do we feel we can challenge ourselves to do today for justice? There are about a dozen First Parishioners attending the Women’s March in Washington (myself, Susanna Whitman, and Jen Duhamel included), and already forty members and friends have signed up to participate together in the regional Women’s March in downtown Boston. Beyond those rallies and marches, there are literally scores of ways we can promote our values and resist governmental policies that we find immoral. Our own congregation will host the Witness for Justice Coalition’s Empowerment Fair on January 29th, where local service and justice groups will gather to share their work and visions for a better Greater Boston. On Saturday, let’s all consider: What works of justice will we commit ourselves to in the coming weeks, months, and years? … And then, let’s act!

On the occasion of her friend Oprah Winfrey’s fiftieth birthday, the incomparable black American writer Maya Angelou composed a poem, excerpted here:

        “My wish for you
        Is that you continue
        To be who and how you are
        To astonish a mean world
        With your acts of kindness
        To allow humor to lighten the burden
        of your tender heart
        To let your eloquence
        Elevate the people to heights
        They had only imagined
        To remind the people that
        Each is as good as the other
        And that no one is beneath
        Nor above you
        To put the mantel of your protection
        Around the bodies of
        The young and defenseless
        To take the hand of the despised
        And diseased and walk proudly with them
        In the high street
        Some might see you and
        Be encouraged to do likewise
        To plant a public kiss of concern
        On the cheek of the sick
        And the aged and infirm
        And count that as a
        Natural action to be expected
        To let gratitude be the pillow
        Upon which you kneel to
        Say your nightly prayer
        And let faith be the bridge
        You build to overcome evil
        And welcome good
        To ignore no vision
        Which comes to enlarge your range
        And increase your spirit
        To dare to love deeply
        And risk everything
        For the good thing”

My prayer for all of us at First Parish is that we will indeed “continue to ignore no vision which comes to enlarge our range and increase our spirits, continue to dare to love deeply and risk everything for the good thing.” Take care this week, my beloved faith community — you will be in my heart as I march on Saturday, and I look forward to returning to you and to our shared work for justice after.

One response to “Pastoral Message During a Tense Weekend”

  1. Lynne Rachlis says:

    Thanks for going to DC to join the march on Saturday for those of us who cannot be there. And thanks for being a source of support, guidance, and loving leadership as we prepare for whatever lies ahead these next four years. I speak for many in expressing heartfelt gratitude for your presence, even as we face the unknown with much trepidation, many questions, and few answers other than speaking up, standing tall, and staying strong. Together. In beloved community.