We are in Stewardship season – the time when we ask one another to think about the importance of this congregation in their lives and to make a financial commitment to the church for the year.
If you were in church on January 21 when we kicked off the Stewardship campaign you heard me speak about a crisis time in my life long before I had any idea I would become a UU minister – and how the Unitarian Universalist Church of Richmond saved my life. I know from personal experience that our UU congregations save lives, that this church saves lives.
One of the humbling privileges of being a minister is that people come to us when they are in troubling circumstances to talk about things they might be hesitant at first to share with fellow congregants. So, I see up close how much difference this congregation makes. I see how someone finds the freedom and support here to with agonizing decisions – like reproductive choices or end of life choices. I see how someone finds the courage here to come out as gay or trans, or finds the strength to leave an abusive relationship, or the resolve to change destructive habits. I see how people find the help they need when depressed or the assistance they need when despair closes in. This congregation saves lives because of the values it strives to embody, because of its very presence.
And I see how you help one another. How you came to one another’s aid during and after Harvey – mucking out mud, ripping out wallboard, salvaging precious possessions, ministering to each other with emotional, spiritual and tangible support. You helped people go on who were feeling overwhelmed, whose lives had been torn asunder. You did all that for one another because of the connections you have made here because of the presence of this congregation and the values it embodies.
And think of the many, many ways this congregation makes a difference in the Houston community and the wider world. Think of the difference our ESL program makes, how if just one person in a family learns to speak English better and because of that gets a better job, how much difference that makes to everyone in that family. Think of all the lives this congregation touches for the better through our programs like Rebuild Houston, and Meals on Wheels, and Ministry for Earth, Answer Nepal, and the Texas UU Justice Ministry. Think of all the lives we touch through the Outreach Committee’s support of Planned Parenthood, the Texas Health Initiative, and the Tahirih Children’s Border Project.
It has perhaps never been clearer that the world needs to understand the truth of the values we embrace. All people have to learn how to affirm others who are different; how to negotiate our own needs and anxieties so that we stop making others the scapegoats of our fears. We all need to understand that there is no they, there is only us, that all people are part of one human family. We all need to learn that reason and empathy can solve more problems than weapons ever did; that truth cannot be manufactured, that love is more powerful than hate. And the desire for justice needs to become as necessary and as natural to us as breathing.
I have no doubt that this congregation saves lives: Because we are here bringing acceptance and warmth to those spurned or despised, dignity to those demoralized, hope to those in despair. We are here spreading love and courage in the face of unjust laws, witnessing for peace and equality in an uncivil time. We make a huge difference – in individual lives, in the lives of the larger world. Let us support this church accordingly!
In faith and affection,
Rev. Becky Edmiston-Lange