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Minister's Monthly Column

Message from Reverend Carolyn

On December 14, 2017 I traveled to the National Rifle Association headquarters in Fairfax, VA.  Clergy from all over the country were invited to join in a witness on the fifth anniversary of the Newtown school shooting.

Especially for those of us who call CT home, the date will live in infamy.  There is not a one of us who cannot recall where we were when we heard the astounding news. 

Remembering the Newtown parent, David Wheeler, who spoke so righteously at All Souls about his advocacy efforts and those of his colleagues involved with Sandy Hook Promise, I determined that I had to go. Those “colleagues” are, of course, the other Sandy Hook parents whose children died on that day.

There will be other opportunities to share my experience at the witness itself, but in this space I’ll focus on one tiny slice of that very full day.

I had arrived the night before the event having traveled by train to Washington, D.C.   I traveled with my friend, Reverend Tom Schade who you may remember preached at All Souls last winter.  We stayed with friends that night, readying for the following day. 

The next morning I felt a certain solemnity taking over.  We traveled to the Fairfax UU Church as the minister there was the witnesses’ lead organizer.  As we approached the church campus, we saw the bus waiting to shuttle us to the National Rifle Association headquarters.  I took a deep breath.

As we approached the bus we recognized several colleagues wearing the neon apron that folks who see to others’ safety often don.  Out front was my colleague, Reverend Rebecca Savage, a military chaplain.  We worked together when she preached the sermon for the Service of the Living Tradition at General Assembly a few years ago.  It was such a joy to work together that the memory lingers between us each time we meet.  I got on the bus and there was my colleague Reverend Ahbi Janamanchi.  Ahbi and I had gone on the UU College of Social Justice trip to the Mexican border where we learned so much about immigration justice.  He radiates light.  We embrace with memory of that experience lingering between us.  I’m telling you: that bus emanated love. 

I feel myself getting quiet, which is what happens to me at every witness I attend or help organize.  My mind begins to focus and dig deep.  My heart opens in hopes that more justice will come of the effort.  On this day, however, I harbored no illusion that the NRA would miraculously have a change of heart or soul.  To affirm this sad sense, the NRA headquarters is a hulking glass block that is as soulless a creation as architecture can conjure. 

I once heard an interviewer ask President Obama if he’d ever lost hope during his presidency.  He said that Newtown almost did it.  He had thought that surely something would have changed as a result of this particular carnage. 

So why do we do it? 

Because our faith tells us that we must.  Whatever progress is ever made is only because of the determined effort and tenacity of ordinary citizens like you and me. 

How do we keep on? 

I remember why I keep on every time I arrive at a witness and I see the likes of Rebecca and Ahbi.  When I see Reverend Jason Shelton up front inviting us to sing and voices rise up, “There is more love somewhere and I’m gonna keep on, ‘til I find it.”   When I see Souls in front of our building at our Black Lives Matter weekly witness.   When I see two buses full of Souls headed for Boston, to the Women’s March last January. 

Keeping our light under a bushel is not an option.  When we join voices and sing, “Everywhere I go, I’m gonna let it shine!” we are making a promise.  In stormy times we will let our light shine.

You have heard me say a thousand times that the purpose of a religious and faithful community - and life – is to keep hope kindled.  We do that in ways great and small.  Just one of those ways is through the simple act of showing up for each other and for justice. 

This is all to say, keep showing up Dear Souls.  Show up for worship.  Show up for other Souls.  Show up to change the world. 

Together we’re “gonna keep on till we find it …” because truly, there is more love somewhere. 

Shine on. With love and hope for a peaceful New Year,

Carolyn