The Premise and the Promise

Building the World We Dream About

By Roberto Padilla

Delivered at First Unitarian Church of San Jose, CA

On February 24, 2008

Please allow me to start by quoting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.:
“Today I have a dream that all children of God, white men and black men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestant and Catholics, will be able to join hands together and sing with the words of the old black spiritual: “Free at last!” This was Rev. King’s dream and it is also our dream. It is the premise that we have, to become multiracial and multicultural UU communities.

¿But how are we going to achieve that? The answer is, applying the UU principles.

We, covenant to affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person, justice, equity and compassion in human relations. Acceptance of one another, and encouragement to mutual spiritual growth in our congregations. These are the basis of the premise for ‘Building The World We Have Been Dreaming of’.

Many years ago, our then senior minister, Rev. Lindi Ramsden, started the experiment to build here in San Jose, a multicultural, multiethnic, and bilingual community. The idea seemed good. And it did fit perfectly well with our UU principles. She was talking about the fact that our community where our church sits is a community where the BMW’s meet the supermarket shopping carts. In other words, in the Silicon Valley, there are the upper middle class people that belong to the High Tech world and those on the fringe who live in the back streets.

The idea was to work with both groups together but, How and where to start? There were a few obstacles to overcome. Some members of the church did not like the idea and left. Some of the people that remained also had fears of mixing with another culture. If we invite Latin people to our homes what can we talk about? How are we going to understand each other in two different languages, two different ways of being and acting?

Initially, the idea was to integrate our community with the unprivileged group, but we had the language barrier. We started by translating into Spanish, sermons, prayers, songs, poems, brochures etc, for all those who did not speak English. And then, after some negotiations, the UUA authorized the translation of the book “Our Chosen Faith” which was translated by Ervin Barrios. Also, Rev. Ramsden took several Spanish courses.

We also had the social and economic barriers. The income level of the Latino people was very low and they also had to be integrated into the productive world. Then we created the ESL and Computer courses. Behind it all was the idea of creating personal relationships, because that way it would be easier to integrate both groups.

Talking about personal relationships, privileged and unprivileged, it reminds me that I was privileged enough to be born in Mexico City, surrounded by different universities, different options. My parents, although not from a wealthy class, allowed their children to attend school, we had the privilege of studying without worrying about where the money for our food and for our books came from. I had the privilege of all city children. This privilege gave me the opportunity to go to school, to get an education and to pursue my dream of becoming a doctor, because I wanted to help the people in need. The day I graduated I swore that I would dedicate myself to those in need. I was going to use my knowledge for that purpose, the privilege that I had. That was my promise.

Privilege can be defined as an advantage that one has, one which one has not had to earn. I did not ask to be born in Mexico City, I did not ask to have the family I have, for me it was a privilege, but I also had the responsibility, of using that privilege I had. After I went to the university and in my quest for helping those in need I chose to go and work at a small village in the Sierra of the state of Veracruz. My privilege of being an urban, middle class, and well educated person, I took that with me. I was going to follow thru with my premise and my promise. On my way to that village I got lost in the middle of nowhere because I with nothing but my privilege of having studied at the university, with my knowledge, but that would not take away my hunger or my being cold, nor the fear of being at an unknown place.

When I finally reached that village, I came to a modest medical office with my knowledge and my dream to help. I came into a society that had never had a medical doctor, they all spoke Spanish (supposedly there was no language barrier) and my first patient said to me, “doctor, I feel ugly”. Ugly?, we were talking the same language but I could not understand my patient; I who had passed all my biochemistry tests, and I just could not understand what this man wanted to tell me when he said, ‘I feel ugly’, I who had written long essays with perfect spelling, could not understand what he meant by ‘ugly’. I had to ask someone from the village to help me in order to understand what he was saying to me. (he was feeling sick)

In this village, besides the health issues, they had some education issues; the only school they had was 1st to 3rd grade only. If they wanted to continue studying, they had to go to another village that was two hours away. Then, how was I going to achieve my goal of making my dream come true, with my premise and my promise of helping them? I started to talk to them, to come into their homes, to understand their language, their culture, their costumes and traditions. I took my doctor’s robe off and went to the field with them, I also went with them to milk the cows and get the milk that I would later drink. Besides being fun, I learned new things, started to build new relationships, to be part of their community. Instead of waiting for them to bring the food to me, I decided to go directly to the person who was cooking for me and wait patiently until the food was ready, having the opportunity to talk with the people about their own dreams, their own longings, but in their own terrain, where they felt more comfortable, in the heart of their homes. And people started to appreciate it.

First I had to build relationships at a human level, at a sensible level, in order to use the responsibility that my privilege gave me to help them. I had the ability to speak better than they did, to communicate with higher government levels when ever it was needed. That was part of my responsibility given the privilege that I had. That is how we managed to create a kindergarten, we made the elementary school go up to 6th grade, we created a distance learning junior high school, and introduced the telephone service into their village.

Whenever I needed their help for any public health related project that my job required, they helped me very gladly, because they were no longer working with the doctor, they were working with a friend, with one of them. When I first arrived in that village, I was, of course, afraid. When I left my home, I thought to myself, will I be safe? What will I talk to them about if we have nothing in common? Later, I understood that there was not a great difference between the man that milked the cow and myself. We both were drinking the same milk, we both had the same dreams of growing and seeing our own families grow, they were working in the field and I was working in my own field of knowledge. In reality there was not much difference. The cloths that I was wearing and the ones they were wearing did not make any difference, the difference was in the way we related to each other.

Dr. Marin Luther King Jr. was a doctor who had the privilege of having a father who encouraged him to study, he had the privilege of being born with the gift of being a great speaker, but he went back to the church where the conflict was happening, and he started building relationships. During the time of the boicott against the buses, he walked with the rest of the people, he walked with his friends. We also know that César Chávez, organized all the field workers, but first he created personal relationships with them in order to achieve a common goal. Here we see two different qualities of leadership. This community of San Jose, is a leading community, and all of you who are attending the “Now is The Time“ Conference, are also leaders, leaders in your own communities.

Multiculturalism is not about learning a language or translating some brochures. This goes even further, It means to sit down together at the table of the other people. It means to go and milk the cow and enjoy that process together, without the fear of what people might say. Without the fear of not understanding each other, without the fear of not doing well in this intercultural encounter. Let me ask you now, How many of you have visited the homes of people of different color, race or culture? How many of you have invited someone whose culture, race and color are different from yours to your table?

Most of the Unitarian Universalists in this country have the privilege of being born white. They did not ask to be white, but they have the responsibility that comes with that privilege, which means, figuring out how to use the privilege that one has. How to use that privilege for the common good. Those of us who have that kind of privilege do not have to worry about immigration issues, about language barriers, we know the system, we know our laws. We can become the voice of those who don’t have that privilege, and we can start by recognizing the worth and dignity of every person.

This is the premise and at the same time the promise: to affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person. Justice, equity and compassion in human relations and acceptance of one another. With the promise of a world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all, respecting the interdependent web of all that exists, of which we are a part.

All of you who come from many different places in the country, and us here in San José, we all have a dream. Today we have the dream that in a not so far future, we might be able to see our UU communities converted into communities where blacks and whites, Asians and Latinos, Catholic and Muslims, and Jews, will hold hands like brothers, united by one single faith.

The book of Exodus tells us that Jahve promised to his people to take them to the promised land, to the land where they could be free. They followed him in spite of not being told where that land was from the beginning of their journey, nor they were told how long it would take for them to get there. They only knew that with faith they would be able to make it. We the UUs who are gathered here under this beautiful dome, we know that the road is hard, that there will be some very hard journeys within and outside our own communities, in order to reach our promised land, which is that of becoming intentional multiracial, multicultural, multiethnic communities, and why not multilingual communities too….

Come, come, whoever you are, says the song we sang at the beginning of this service. This song is inviting us all to belong to the caravan of love, no matter what race, color, language, sexual preference, religion or socioeconomic level. In other words we are inviting everyone to become part of this multicultural, multiracial community. Now is the time to start getting rid of our own fears, our personal arrogance, our misunderstandings. Now is the time to work together to make this dream come true.

Let’s pray to whomever might be the God that we worship, keeping in mind that Christ was not a Christian, that Mohamed was not a Muslim, nor Buddah was a Buddhist, nor Krishna was a Hindi, nor Jahve was a Jewish. Lets remember that God is multicultural, multiethnic, multiracial and multilingual.
Now is the time!


(Read this sermon in Spanish.)

Reflections on ministry

Reflections on Ministry

By Shawn Koester (as Kwana Rosca)

Delivered at the First UU Church in Second Life

On Saturday, December 15th, 2007

My sermon today will focus on the meaning of ministry. Certainly I like so many others in the professional, and lay clergy are ministers to be sure in that we are offering our wisdom, and experience, to deepen the meaning of what it means to be human. Forrest Church, the great minister of All Souls in New York says countless times that religion is the dual awareness of being alive, and of knowing we must die. We seek to awaken to what is around us, and make sense of it all, even if there is murkiness and uncertainty. But each of you sitting here today and indeed all people are prophets, ministers, and healers. Each of you bring your own talents, experiences and wisdom in such meaningful ways that impact the world, others, and even bring a person brighter days. Gautama, the Buddha, in his first incarnation was living a common life to most people of India in a state of squalor, but as he encountered a lady ready to be swallowed whole by a tiger, he willingly offers himself to be eaten by that tiger. As a reward he is reincarnated as Prince Sidharta. Prince Sidharta was then born into high society, and among the ruling classes. Seeing the pit of despair, and the plight of the oppressed peoples of his land and time, renounced his power, and title, and sough to bring enlightenment to all who would listen. The Rabbi Jesus sought to bring back to Judaism the prophetic stances of Micah, Amos, and others. He openly sat with those who society and the mainstream religious officials deemed worthless including sinners, prostitutes, tax collectors, and even his bitter enemies. He saves a woman, an adulterer who is ready to be stoned saying, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone" In turning the original idea of Sabbath on its head, he is heard to remark that the Sabbath is made for humanity, and not the other way around. John Murray as he was preaching the great gospel truth of our Universalist faith in the final harmony of all souls with God, one of his critics threw a rock into the window of the Boston Church he was preaching in, took the rock and he noted, "This rock is weighted, and pointy but is neither convincing or solid lest all the rocks in Boston stop my breath". The great Unitarian minister, Theodore Parker went on a limb to protect slaves in his parish to the point of wielding a gun behind his pulpit to defend them against the Fugitive Slave Act. James Reeb, a UU minister in the Civil Rights Movement headed Dr. King's call to inter-ethnic harmony, in going to the South. Unfortunately, he was killed at the hands of segregationists. Ministry requires that one give up their comfort, their security, and their lives to be able to lend a healing hand. And it's not simply just being present, and attending to people's needs, it is also simply listening, and in that act of listening we able to attune ourselves better. Comforting the sick, or the dying, or witnessing a birth are indeed miracles seeing the ebb and flow of life itself. In our individual ministries, we must be reminded that we are the vessels through which divinity can act, and bear witness to the idea of the Beloved Community free of strife, and hardship, where all seen as sisters and brothers of God. That no one person be seen as a stranger. Ahisma, the release from suffering must not only focus on conscious suffering that we do between others, but the impact it has on larger systems of life, even if what we do is unconscious. Even if we have impacted the life of one person, we know we will be at peace knowing that the world just got a little brighter. As it says in the Talmud, "To whoever destroys one life, destroys the world entire, and to whoever saves one life saves the world entire". In closing, we are each prophets speaking truth to power, we are each messiahs with the ability to bring about redemption, and each of us are the creators of our own destiny. May it be so. Amen

How Universalism affects modern day Unitarian Universalism

How Universalism affects modern day Unitarian Universalism a sermon preached by Shawn Koester (as Kwana Rosca) at the First UU Church in Second Life September 27th, 2007 Tonight I'm going to discuss Universalism and its impact on our free faith. this comes with a confession- I am an unapologetic Universalist. Universalism since the merger of the Universalists and the Unitarians in the early 60s has been lost as the Unitarians had stronger finances, with a larger population. Since they were stronger they had substantial influence. What is Universalism? Universalism can mean one of two things- our founding doctrines of God as love, there's no hell, and all souls reach salvation. or if looking back at the new generation of Universalists starting with Ken Patton can mean universal religion. Now some of you are asking- How does Universalism distinguish itself from Unitarianism? Good question Universalism seeks to express our values through Biblical, theological language, and the tradition symbolism in new ways. Take for instance the cross- I recognize some of you came from backgrounds where the cross was seen as buried in dogma- of God requiring a sacrifice of an innocent- Jesus- to accomplish atonement. Instead, Universalism seeks to use the cross as a sign of empowerment. the Romans used crosses to silence those who were deemed threats to the Empire, Jesus being the itinerant Rabbi, and prophetic voice he was scared the living daylights out of those who would seek to embrace the letter of the law, and not the spirit. Preaching a message of radical inclusion, the transformative power of love, and that each person is worthy in the eyes of the Eternal no matter who far-off we stray. This is a love that will never let us go.So with that in mind the cross becomes a warning that among other things, "Defending the powerless is a risky business" Universalism seeks to solve the class issue in that Universalists were of the lower strata of society farmers, workers, and students. Whereas the Unitarians were drawing the professional trades in. So this too might solve the ethnic diversity issue as well. An example of how Universalists framed their faith in a non-creedal sense was in the 1935 Principles. We avowal our faith in God as eternal and all conquering love. By linking God to love that people are in harmony with the divine when they are in right relations with one another.that God is the x, the mystery at the heart of the universe. So love is the closet thing we will understand to this mystery. In the spiritual leadership of Jesus. this does not mean the leadership only of Jesus, or referring to the Jesus of orthodoxy. Since 1805 Universalists have been drawing from world religions and other sages as Moses, Confucious and Lao Tzu the supreme worth of every human personality basically the first principle of our denomination today. the authority of truth known, or to be known. a responsible search of truth from where ever it may come from. and the power of persons of goodwill and sacrificial spirit to overcome evil and progressively establish the Kingdom of God. the Kingdom of God in Universalism is right here and now, the world made whole. Universalism deals with those coming out of oppressive backgrounds in that it challenges people to look at their childhood faith and tear it apart so the poisonous aspects of the faith can disappear, and those positive and enriching can stay to form your current theology. another interesting feature of Universalism is the off-centered cross. the circle representing the universe, God. at one end is the cross, representing our liberal Christian and Jewish witness is set to the side to leave room for other paths towards the holy and truth. Universalists also had a claim on the unity of God and the humanity of Jesus before the Unitarians. It was in 1805 with Hosea Ballou, a popular Universalist preacher who wrote Treatise on Atonement stripping Universalism of Calvinism, legalism, and the trinity. That was at least 30 years before the Unitarians under Channing formed in the 1820s. Bringing out our message, or evangelism was a major point for Universalists taking it to whoever was willing so by going out they were able to be in the marketplace of ideas. May our lives preach more loudly than our lips. Amen and Blessed Be.

Going to the deep waters of the Lord's Prayer

Going to the deep waters of the Lord's Prayer

By Shawn Koester (as Kwana Rosca)

Delivered at the First UU Church in Second Life

On Thursday, December 13th, 2007

My sermon today will focus on our relationship as UUs with the Lord's Prayer. I recognize for a lot of you that hearing about Christian tradition, or anything related to the life and teachings of Jesus may open some wounds left by those who seek to do damage. But alas this important prayer is still useful. Lets break it down word by word.

Our Father

Jesus, in his ministry sought to bring Judaism back to its prophetic stances in the tradition of Isaiah, Elijah, and the rest and in manifesting divine love. In prayer, as a itinerant rabbi, and loyal Jew saw God as directly relational, and affectionately called God "Abba" roughly translated means "Daddy" or Papa. By having Our in front indicated that God rather than being the God of one tradition, or one set of people was the source of us all. Also this first line points to God being a parent like figure who seeks to correct us, rather than to judge or damn and a God that is not exclusively male. As to put any label, or sex, or name to the eternal one would limit our perception of the imperceptible

Hallowed be thy name. Hallowing the holy one's name(s) is if anything else, an act of making sacred the Spirit. As not to use the divine name to injure or mistreat

Thy kingdom come. This line is a bit more difficult than the others as thy kingdom come often implies a reign when God will destroy others, and uplift others. And that is contrary, I believe to the divine character, and the God who Jesus had deep communion with what this line means is in scripture, Jesus teaches that heaven, or the Kingdom of God is not in a far off place, but the realm of God is within, and all around us. It is the realm of wholeness when the least among us will be able to have a voice, and be treated as worthy, a time when forgiveness, mercy, and love prevails that the welcome table includes all or in the words of Amos, "Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever flowing stream"

Thy will be done. Thy will be done is that often in our lives we get caught in the rut, and follow actions and decisions that are contrary to our best selves, and embracing a higher call. When Jesus was being executed at the hands of an oppressive empire for his heretical stands he said, "Your will be done, not mine" that we are to trust our conscience, our still small voice

On earth as it is in heaven that in following the call of the divine, and conscience we hope to bring about the divine will on earth as things are in the whole of creation

Give us this day our daily bread. This refers back to the time of Jewish enslavement in Egypt, and their eventual liberation. As there was not enough bread, that they hoped in God to provide them bread for sustenance. Unfortunately, we cannot just wait on God to act but we must the arms through which those who hunger, and those out on the streets will be able to have to be filled

and lead us not into temptation. This is kind of self-explanatory but this line evokes that we'll be stronger than what challenges us, and will have the strength to endure

But deliver us from evil is the deliverance of evil by challenging unjust structures, and having the strength of will to ensure liberation for all

Forgiving debts, as we forgive others is important in the struggle towards reconciliation. Often it is hard to forgive when others have harmed us, because for many of us we would like to see them get their just deserts. So by forgiving, we must be able to reconcile with ourselves before we ask forgiveness in the eyes of the eternal. Jesus and the other wisdom teachers have freely forgiven that that have harmed them, and so was deemed radical to those in power

For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever and ever. This refers to back to the principles for which Jesus died, and to the God he was serving.

May we have the courage to forgive others, to love and to act freely in the name of justice and healing. Amen and Namaste.

Working for the Right to Marry is an Expression of Our UU Principles

Working for the Right to Marry is an Expression of Our UU Principles

By Kat Morgan, member, All Souls Church, Unitarian (Washington, DC) and Board Member, Equality Maryland[1]

Delivered at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Rockville, Maryland

On March 5, 2006

Good morning.

It's good to be with you this morning. As a member of the Board of a statewide LBGT advocacy organization Equality Maryland[1] and a resident of Montgomery County, it's good to be doing this work here in my home county. And as a UU, it's good to be here among fellow UUs - to be talking about marriage equality within my faith community.

My reading this morning comes from one of my favorite theologians and sermonizers - someone well known to all of us here. This short excerpt is from Dr. Martin Luther King's last presidential address to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in August 1967. It was entitled "Where do we go from here?"[2]

"Power properly understood is nothing but the ability to achieve purpose. It is the strength required to bring about social, political and economic change. There is nothing wrong with power if power is used correctly... one of the great problems of history is that the concepts of love and power have usually been contrasted as opposites - polar opposites - so that love is identified with a resignation of power, and power with a denial of love.

"Now, we've got to get this thing right. What is needed is a realization that power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love. And this is what we must see as we move on."

Our Unitarian Universalist faith calls us to "move on" - to act in the world for Justice. The 7 principles of Unitarian Universalism compel us to do so. This morning, I will share some of my thoughts about how our principles - our UU values - call us to work for marriage equality in particular, and how that work is an indeed an expression of our faith.

Our principles speak to us‹they are no creed, but they are demanding calls to action. They call us to "give life the shape of justice" as we sang this morning.[3] They do not call us to sit by and watch. They do not call us to quibble with one another over tactics‹something many of us love to do. And we answer that call to act‹we do act for Justice. On some social justice issues, UUs lead the way among people of faith. Marriage equality is a strong example of this‹the UUA[4] has consistently been up front and center in the lesbian and gay civil rights movement, especially in the current fight for marriage rights. The lead plaintiffs in the marriage equality lawsuit in Massachusetts were UUs,[5] and some of the plaintiffs here in the Maryland lawsuit are UUs.[6] Some of you here recently lobbied in Annapolis. For this, we should be rightly proud. I, among others, am also grateful. But we must continue this work‹now, more than ever. And I believe that while doing this work, we are most effective and indeed, ultimately unstoppable, when we recognize this as political work fueled by our deepest spiritual convictions. Our religious beliefs‹our faith.

There is only one word that appears twice in our principles - aside from the "of's" and "the's", the "affirms" and "promotes": that word is Justice.

There is another word that curiously and notably appears not at all: that word is Love.

Yet it was undoubtedly with Love that our principles were written. Love in the way described by Dr. King - as power "implementing the demands of justice." For we UUs hold in our hearts a deep Love for Justice combined with an abiding sense of the sacredness of Love itself and our damaged world¹s deep need for Love.

Our 1st principle "affirms and promotes the inherent worth and dignity of every person." UU minister Rev. Marilyn Sewell interprets its call this way: she says "we are called to create justice where justice now does not exist."[7] She goes on: "because of this radical respect for others and their choices" - radical respect - "UUs are able to act as advocates for certain oppressed groups when other denominations would find such action politically impossible."[8]Such is clearly the case in advocating for marriage equality. This struggle needs our active presence, and continuing leadership, not just because of our commitment to justice where it "now does not exist," but also because of "the theological grounding of our first principle."[9] Again, Rev. Sewell describes that foundation this way: "because we believe that our God is one God, one and the same spirit of love uniting all people, then all are brothers and sisters."[10]

It is simply not acceptable for our government to actively, willfully withhold rights and privileges from some of our siblings. In fact, by doing so, our government promotes a definition of marriage upheld only by some faith traditions, but not by ours. In doing so, the government erodes the separation of church and state, and promotes one religion over another - in clear violation of the constitution. That's why state constitutions around the country are now being amended - because our opponents recognize that their narrow definition of marriage IS unconstitutional - so they are rewriting constitutions - changing the rules to keep some out. As a religious minority in this country, that should give us pause. And as proponents of religious freedom and freedom of conscience - as our 5th principle affirms - we should recognize that the battle for marriage equality is a fight over many of our core values, our most deeply held beliefs.

Our 2nd principle "affirms and promotes justice, equity and compassion in human relations." Current laws banning same sex marriage codify injustice in human relations‹except for Massachusetts, all U.S. marriage laws elevate one form of love over another. We UUs are called by our faith to change this; to rectify this inequity. The world needs our active presence in this struggle. Of the 2nd principle, UU minister Rev. Richard Gilbert names it another call to action, saying "there is, then, in Unitarian Universalism a seamless garment of spirituality and social action. To refuse to act in life is to abdicate our role as spiritual and moral beings."[11]

Each of our principles in turn demands that we work to change the world as it is‹to create a "Beloved Community" here on earth. Now - for all of us. The 3rd principle "affirms and promotes acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations." This underscores that we must engage with one another and support that which each of us holds most deeply. And what do any of us hold more deeply than Love? Particularly covenantal Love? Some even say that God is Love. Again, we can not sit idly by when Love is under attack, when the recognition of Love is restricted as it is through unequal marriage laws.

Our 6th principle calls us to promote freedom: "we affirm and promote the goal of world community with peace, liberty and justice for all." This principle specifically says Justice for all, not Justice for some. And yet our state¹s and nation¹s current marriage laws promote injustice by limiting marriage to heterosexual couples only. These laws sanction enormous and damaging inequity, causing undue pain and suffering, exacting a high price from loving same sex couples.

A few examples: should I require emergency medical treatment, my partner of over a dozen years would have no legal right to be with me in the hospital or to consult with my doctors or consent to my treatment. Even with a power of attorney, all the appropriate legal paperwork, in Maryland the only thing that would guarantee us that right would be a marriage license. I am putting her through medical school, and yet, should anything happen to her in the future, I would not receive any survivor benefits. My gay and lesbian friends with children have to undergo a second parent adoption to ensure that both parents have legal rights to protect and raise their own children. They have to go through two adoptions - of their own children. All because we cannot legally wed.[12]

There are smaller, daily indignities as well. I have a co-worker who refers to my wife of over a dozen years as my "friend", not my partner or wife. Yet she enthusiastically asks after the newly wedded "wives" and "husbands" of my heterosexual coworkers. I routinely fill out forms that ask about "marital status." There is no box for me; I am not single. But neither am I legally wed. Being categorized as legally single denies the life I live, and the Love in my life. That Love is made invisible. Yet I know that Love to be one of the most sustaining forces in my life - one of the holiest. I ask you to imagine how you'd feel, how you'd suffer, if the person you were committed to - the person you'd pledged yourself to and shared your life with - whether for 5, 10, 15 or 50 years - was not recognized as your spouse by the state and social networks? If they were rendered invisible?

Our last principle affirms and promotes "respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part." It reminds us that injustice to one is injustice to all. Even the so-called protectors of traditional marriage, when they argue that marriage equality will somehow harm their own marriages, even they recognize our interconnectivity. But they get it backwards: the institution of marriage is not degraded by allowing same sex couples to wed. Rather, the institution of marriage is degraded by the narrow and exclusive definition of and unequal access to marriage now codified by law.

I call it blasphemy[13] on their parts - not a word you often hear from a UU pulpit, blasphemy. It is blasphemy against Love. It¹s blasphemy when they insist on treating Love as a force that must be contained and confined, withheld and restricted, as if it were finite - a precious resource that only some deserve - one that must be safeguarded against unholy hearts.

In working for marriage equality, we acknowledge Love as the abundant, renewing and sacred force that it is. We recognize Love as an infinite, precious power that all deserve. Like our Universalist forebears, we do not believe that only some are worthy - we hold that all are worthy, that all our welcome. We demand that our government recognize same sex marriages. We work for marriage equality so as to strengthen the power of Love in this world - a power sorely needed in this damaged world. By granting equal legal access to marriage, all Love is strengthened. Love is a force that multiplies and lifts us all with its grace and beauty and muscle. When Love is allowed to flourish, we all benefit.

Dr. Martin Luther King was right when he said: "Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love."[14]

I'm here today to ask you to join me in standing on the side of Love. Our country's current marriage laws need correcting. Our state's current marriage law needs correcting. Let us correct those laws that stand against Love.

In closing, I offer a prayer from Rev. Bill Sinkford, President of the UUA:

"We offer up our gratitude for all of the love which has sustained us throughout our lives‹the love of family and friends, teachers and mentors, the love of this church community. Those of us who have found one other person to whom we have pledged enduring commitment offer up particular gratitude for that covenant, which has sustained us and challenged us and ultimately reshaped our very being.

"May every relationship, whatever the gender of its members, be supported and accepted by the larger community.

"May our elected officials turn their attention to policies which strengthen the wellbeing of all of us, rather than tearing us apart by labeling some love as holy and other as profane.

"And, someday, may every couple equally know the protection and support not only of a loving faith community, but also of a larger civil society.

"May we support and protect one another, even as we continually seek to extend our common understanding of who we mean when we say 'wethe people.'

"And let the people say, Amen."[15]

[1] Equality Maryland is Maryland¹s statewide lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights and advocacy organization. For more information visit the website:

[2] This reading is excerpted from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.¹s last annual presidential address at the 11th Convention of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference on August 16, 1967, in Atlanta, Georgia. A longer excerpt from his talk can be found at The full speech is ©The Estate of Martin Luther King, Jr.

[3] From ³Spirit of Life,² hymn 123.

[4] For information on the UUA¹s many resolutions and actions, see:

[5] For information about the lead plaintiffs in Goodridge v. the Massachusetts Dept. of Health, see

[6] For information about the Maryland lawsuit, Deane and Polyak v. Conaway, see

[7] Sewell, Rev. Marilyn, Essay on Principle #1: ³The Inherent Worth and Dignity of Every Person,² in With Purpose and Principle: Essays about the Seven Principles of Unitarian Universalism, edited by Edward A. Frost, (Boston: Skinner House Books, 1998), p. 24.

[8] Sewell, p. 26.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Gilbert, Rev. Richard S., Essay on Principle #2: ³Justice, Equity, and Compassion in Human Relations,² in With Purpose and Principle: Essays about the Seven Principles of Unitarian Universalism, edited by Edward A. Frost, (Boston: Skinner House Books, 1998), p. 44.

[12] For details on the many legal rights denied to same sex couples because we can not legally marry, see

[13] Blasphemy is defined as ³an irreverent or impious act, attitude, or utterance in regard to something considered inviolable or sacrosanct² in the American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
Copyright © 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company.

[14] Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., SCLC, August 16, 1967 (Atlanta, Georgia); see

[15]For Rev. Bill Sinkford¹s entire Marriage Equality Week Prayer, see


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