Thursday, February 7, 2008

Sunday Morning Service - Remembering 1968

Third is a series of posts from the January 2008 UUA Board of Trustees meeting

Sunday morning worship at 25 Beacon is an intimate affair - gathered on the second floor landing with William Ellery Channing peering down at us after having spent 2 or 3 intense days together is a time for reflection and gratitude. We sing familiar hymns that are listed in our order of service, and both Sunday worship services I have attended have been led by one of the lay members of the board.

This one included two talented young men, one on clarinet and one on viola - both sons of Dan Brody, Financial Advisor on the Board, who led the service. Clearly a professional level of music, but what I remember most were the photographs Dan included in the OOS that he had taken in 1968.

The first shot was in Arlington Street Church, taken from above, of two young men holding draft cards. It was April 3, 1968. The photo on the back showed the cards being destroyed on Boston Common. The third photo was of several young African American men holding a handwritten sign "We will always remember the King". It was taken on April 5. The day between the two photos was the day Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. Dan spoke movingly of the journey that had taken him from 1968 to the room we were in, titling it "On Service".

Those of us who spent our formative years in the 60s and 70s were an idealistic generation, who knew that once we got "into power", we would leave the world a better place. We haven't. What went wrong? Were things just too complex? Did the "wrong ones" end up getting the power? Or did many of us "sell out" as life got comfortable, and the gravest injustices around gender and race appeared to be solved - or at least addressed.

One of the things that permeates the UUA Board meetings is the resolution passed by the 1997 General Assembly that says in part "the 1997 General Assembly urges Unitarian Universalists to examine carefully their own conscious and unconscious racism as participants in a racist society, and the effect that racism has on all our lives, regardless of color...the General Assembly urges the Unitarian Universalist Association, its congregations, and community organizations to develop an ongoing process for the comprehensive institutionalization of anti-racism and multi-culturalism, understanding that whether or not a group becomes multi-racial, there is always the opportunity to become anti-racist." In addition to time set aside for education and training, process observations are made with an anti-racist/anti-oppression/multicultural lens.

To what degree have we as congregations (the "real" UUA) have an "ongoing process for the comprehensive institutionalization of anti-racism and multiculturalism"? I have to admit I don't like defining myself as what I am against, but don't have a better alternative for this kind of work. I suspect many congregations don't see the need for it - if it weren't so politically incorrect they might even admit they feel that way.

In 1968 there were far too many people who had a similar observation about women's place in society - we could vote, attend schools, own property - what more could we want? The subtleties of glass ceilings and role expectations that are obvious forty years later weren't so obvious then.

Perhaps there is a lesson there.

Next post: Meeting with DRUUMM

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