This last Sunday's sermon at Vashon, "Roots and Wings", was a look at UU history using those metaphors, roots being our history, wings being what we are doing with that history besides sitting on it.
Not too highbrow nor too casual (IMHO), the sermon presented several examples of Unitarian and Universalist contributions to the world at large (the normal Arius, Origen Priestley, Jefferson, Rush, Fuller, Emerson, Barton stuff), establishing pretty firmly the great roots from which UUism springs. I began my remarks by asking the congregation to tell me about their roots, where did their family come from and what were their religious roots, then segued into the history lesson.
After an aside to remark upon the connection of Unitarians and Universalists to the establishment of American democracy and the sacred texts of our nation, the sermon took a new tack, moving to the challenge of using the wings that UUism gives us to build upon the legacy of our religious ancestors. I liked the final paragraph of this sermon and reprint it here:
"Our roots are great. We can be proud of them. But we also need to exercise and use our wings. Our UU principles and purposes are the wind beneath our wings, but if we don’t use those wings, we are not fulfilling the promise of our faith. It doesn’t do us much good to brag about our roots if we aren’t willing to use the wings they gave us.
"At the beginning of this sermon, I asked you to tell me about your roots. Now I ask you, 'tell me about your wings.'"
And we moved to a time of silent reflection and prayer.
Today, at Whidbey, I met with the new Social Action committee, which has been commissioned to rethink our past SA efforts and consider how we as a congregation can more effectively use those wings (though they haven't even heard the sermon yet!), and I was amazed and delighted by their thinking and where they went with their ideas.
That there is a change in the global winds was evident to all these folks; they saw their challenge as using the change to effect substantive movement in society. The discussion was not about bandaid approaches to social action but systemic change. They came up with ideas that would begin to shift attitudes and behaviors in our corner of the world.
How can we use our congregation members' interest in gardening to address the problem of food security and the local food supply? How can we use our knowhow around energy conservation to increase the effectiveness of the local "Hearts and Hammers" work? Can we partner with anyone to restore local watersheds? How does classism affect our congregation and can we address it through our committee?
Wow! I've never worked with a social action committee/task force that thought in these terms! The Whidbey congregation is going to get the "Roots and Wings" sermon this coming Sunday and, judging from the responses of these volunteers, they have some answers when it comes to wings. I can hardly wait!