May, 2018 Monthly Theme: Beloved Community – A Dangerous Idea – Rev. Patty Willis

On Sunday after the service, someone reminded me of a prophet who said something like, “A religion isn’t worth anything if it doesn’t require your life.” On the surface, Unitarian Universalism looks so easy. Instead of a creed, we have principles that guide us in the way we live our lives. Instead of a theology of an afterlife, which some UUs believe in and others don’t, we share a theology of Beloved Community. Unlike the concept of the Second Coming, Beloved Community doesn’t appear from the clouds to change everything, it is forged out of a knowledge and practice that we are all beloved and requires us to learn how to make a world within which freedom and respect are rights for all people, no exceptions. This is difficult and costly work.

April 3rd this year, marks fifty years since Martin Luther King, Jr.’s death. I believe that his vision of Beloved Community threatened the status quo and eventually cost him his life. In Montgomery, Alabama, one barrier to Beloved Community was the legacy of slavery that evolved into the Jim Crow laws of segregation. Here in the state of Utah, in this community, what are the barriers that we must overcome? The local history that calls from this land is around the dispersal, discrimination, and genocide of the indigenous people who were here long before white settlers. In Utah, we are practicing Beloved Community when we study the history of settlement and the resilience of the Paiutes, Utes, Goshutes, Shoshoni and Navajo. From a basis of that knowledge, we seek reconciliation. When I asked my friend Forrest Cuch about what reconciliation looked like to him, he wrote: My vision of the reconciliation is people having to hear each other’s pain, cry together, hug, and make a commitment to honor each other. This requires people to face each other with the truth. There will be resistance, disagreement, some will walk away…but we must stay at the table until we can accept the truth and accept each other, the darkness as well as the light. Let us have the courage to stay at the table in this work!

Throughout our country, there is a growing disparity between the rich and the poor. The work we do as a community in being inclusive and by preparing meals for homeless youth and burritos for homeless adults practicing tai chi at the library, are steps towards Beloved Community. Our Whole Lives sexuality program brings understanding and knowledge to the root of problems rampant in this State. Our music program spreads understanding and joy. When we notice that our doors are not welcoming for everyone who comes through them, we build Beloved Community by making them wider and by providing a button that will open them without pulling. If you stay in this community long enough, you will be grateful for that button for we are all only temporarily abled!

Let us continue to build this Beloved Community, step by step. By forgiving each other, allowing each other and ourselves to be imperfect, we learn how to create peace in the world. By transforming ourselves, we become able to be leaders of change. And be warned, this is not fluffy work. Building Beloved Community can be dangerous business!

In Love and Hope,

Patty