Years ago in seminary, I took a fascinating course entitled "Religions of the Afro-Atlantic Diaspora" and, using what I learned about myself and my own assumptions, I am going to preach on that topic this Sunday in "Honoring Our Spiritual Ancestors". I will refer not only to the great creativity and faithfulness of the African slaves who melded their own indigenous traditions with the enforced Christianity of slaveholders, but also to the ways in which we humans embody the ideals and character of our own spiritual ancestors.
In Voudou, Santeria, and Candomble, the Ancestors are invoked, embodied, and honored in rites of passionate trance and speech. Over the centuries, as human beings migrated here and there, those rites emerged in some of the traditions of the church, both African American and white: call and response preaching, the "amen corner", the impassioned singing of spiritual and gospel songs. It is critical to remember that much religious expression is a direct result of oppression's cruelty and to sing or pray or speak with another's voice without honoring that voice is to lack respect for the voice.
Unitarian Universalism honors many voices and our heroes of faith are often unsung---parents, mentors, teachers, friends---as well as famous men and women such as Jefferson, Barton, Alcott, Channing. During the sermon, I will offer an opportunity for the congregation to name the names of those women and men who are their own spiritual ancestors. For me, those ancestors are, among others, my mother and father, Mona and Merritt Ketcham, and the ideals they lived were those of faithfulness, trust in God, and service to others.
If you were to name your own spiritual ancestors, who would they be and what ideals did you learn from them?