Unitarian Universalism is a frontier religion . . .
Two years ago, a paper sign with three words “Black Lives Matter” was placed in the glass case in front of our church, our “wayside pulpit.” The wayside pulpit, a roadside welcome that contains an inspiring, uplifting thought is a tradition in many churches. Most of the time (at most churches) the thought changes, sometimes weekly, sometimes less often. “Black Lives Matter” was never replaced. Once it was posted, it stayed.
Until our fountains were renovated. At that time, the paper sign was carefully removed and repositioned within the church entry. Visible to all who entered, but invisible from the roadside.
Last October, I was having lunch with my friend, T, a black woman who grew up in Schenectady and lives near our church, in her office. We talked about life and kids and my classwork at graduate school.
“Don’t you go to that church on Wendell?” T asked at one point.
“Yes,” I replied.
“So. Why did you all take down the Black Lives Matter sign?”
When T asked me that question, I had no idea that the sign was posted inside the building. All I could remember was the last time I saw the sign, lying flat on the pavement during construction.
“I don’t know,” I said.
“It meant a lot to me to see that sign as I drove by and to know that the people who belong there care enough to make the statement publicly that black lives matter.”
“Let me see what I can find out.”
The next Sunday, I stood in front of the building, noticing the Standing on the Side of Love banner and the rainbow flag. It wasn’t until I walked very close that I saw the Black Lives Matter sign in the entry. I shared my conversation with T with Reverend Margret and others. As a result of a series of conversations, a new Black Lives Matter sign is prominently displayed on the front of the building, visible to the community. I am grateful to members of this congregation and our leadership, all of whom carried the conversations forward. This is love in action.
This sign is an outward and visible symbol of our faith….our wholehearted desire to seek justice and to stand…..no, we are not content to STAND on the side of love. This sign must be an outward and visible symbol our intention to ACT on the side of love to dismantle systemic racism. It is, perhaps, less about WHAT we believe than HOW we believe. Love in action.
When someone asks, “Why is there a Black Lives Matter sign?” or simply makes a comment, an opportunity arises to listen, to ask open questions and to respond with curiosity and compassion. The sign offers an invitation for individual and communal discernment. The Black Lives Matter sign is a marker to all who enter that Unitarian Universalism is a frontier religion with a mission to explore the geography of our lives and our society; to seek out truth and meaning and to relate to one another in an ever-changing, ever-evolving landscape of diversity and complexity. Let us seek justice, love mercy and walk humbly in our work together.