Fifty years ago, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered the Ware Lecture at the Unitarian Universalist Association General Assembly. Using the story of Rip Van Winkle, he cautioned the audience, “Don’t sleep through the revolution.”
King urged UU’s to instill in their congregations a world perspective and to see how we are all interconnected. “It has always been the role of the church to broaden horizons, to challenge the status quo, and to question and break mores if necessary,” he said, adding later, “all life is inter-related, and somehow we are all tied together. For some strange reason I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be.”
Then, he encouraged his listeners not just to broaden their minds, but also to take action. “The next thing that the church must do to remain awake through this revolution is to move out into the arena of social action. It is not enough for the church to work in the ideological realm, and to clear up misguided ideas,” he said. “To remain awake through this social revolution, the church must engage in strong action programs to get rid of the last vestiges of segregation and discrimination.”
I am struck by the timelessness of King’s words.
We – first as human beings, then as Unitarian Universalists – are called to face moral and ethical challenges in this world. We are called to wake up, ask questions, take action.
On June 12, an American-born gunman who pledged allegiance to ISIS gunned down 49 people in a gay nightclub in Orlando.
On June 24, members of the Westboro Baptist Church arrived at the UUA General Assembly in Columbus, Ohio, to spread their anti-LGBT rhetoric. They were met by 10 UU’s in big, white angel wings and 200 counter-protesters behind them.
Our work is not done.
The Rev. William G. Sinkford, who is African-American and led the UUA as its president from 2001-2009, spoke of meeting Martin Luther King, Jr., at the GA in 1966. He reminded us of the many ways that America still needs to confront racial injustice.
“Resistance is what love looks like in the face of hate,” he said. “Resistance is what love looks like in the face of violence.”
At GA’s public witness rally, we heard from the Rev. William Barber, II, leader of the Moral Mondays movement. He spoke passionately of the many problems we need to address. A sea of UU’s in yellow “Standing on the Side of Love” shirts rallied to his cry.
General Assembly drove home the point that we have work to do. And it reminded me powerfully that there are thousands of other UU’s who also left GA energized and ready to engage.
Now, I return home and to my home congregation, ready to begin our work together. I can still feel the thrum of 4,000 UU’s singing “Life Calls Us On” as it echoed through my body. If ever I feel daunted about the challenges before us, I will remember that feeling. We are part of a larger movement – a loving and courageous movement. We are better together.