February 2017

“You can pretend to care, but you can’t pretend to show up.”

– George L. Bell

Dear Beloved Congregation,

Thanks for showing up!

On Sunday, January 15, seven people from GNUUC attended the community showing of “13th” (please see the film, if you haven’t already) and heard formerly imprisoned African-American men speak to their experiences of incarceration in Nashville. The next day 20 of us, including most of our youth group, participated in the Martin Luther King Jr. Day March & Convocation. Less than a week later over 30 of us participated in the Nashville Women’s March on Saturday, January 21st (have you seen the Facebook pic of Charles Sumner at the march, which had over 65K “likes” last time I checked?). On the afternoon of January 29th, I received livestreaming video of the Spencer-Smith family participating in the march to send Tennessee Senators Alexander and Corker this message in the wake of Mr. Trump’s latest executive order, “No Hate! No Fear! Refugees are welcome here!”

It is a time of resistance and resilience, and given the shared values expressed by the Unitarian Universalist Principles that guide our moral choices, we are a people of faith made for times such as these. Sustaining resistance and resilience is part of the special work of our Congregation. Not everyone can march – but there are many ways to “show up” as we resist the corruption of our democracy (check out UUA 2016-2020 Study Action Issue: The Corruption of our Democracy), and as we support the resilience of those in the trenches (for example, I loved the recent Facebook post of one of our members, Arleen Yeager, who said, “I'm putting my money where my mouth is...NOW, NARAL, ACLU...getting a bit old to march, but more than willing to support those who do.” I know that GNUUC Is on her list, too!)

With each passing day, although I am tempted to despair by the latest Executive Order, the latest billionaire Cabinet appointment, or the granting of absolute power to those whose personal values are at such odds with American values I cherish: religious freedom, radical compassion, and justice and equity for all – I am finding hope and courage from colleagues; from friends; from you, beloved congregants; and from wise teachers, including Rebecca Solnit (I recommend her book, Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities). Solnit reminds us, “The sleeping giant is one name for the public; when it wakes up, when we wake up, we are no longer only the public: we are civil society, the superpower whose nonviolent means are sometimes, for a shining moment, more powerful than violence, more powerful than regimes and armies. We write history with our feet and with our presence and our collective voice and vision.”

May ours be a Congregation with the continuing commitment of showing up in all the meaningful ways that we can – and may we remember that while we may not all agree on absolutely everything, our values call us to find common ground and to work from there. May we also remember that our presence, our collective voice, and our vision of a world influenced by our UU values are all worth showing up for – and that that begins when we show up for one another.

In faith and with love,

Rev. Carmen Emerson