This Sunday in worship we are preparing for an important congregational meeting to be held after the service on Sunday, March 3rd. It is the culmination of months of careful, prayerful reflection and conversation on the part of the Ad Hoc Fulfilling Our Vision Committee and many members of the congregation who have participated in the process so far. We have two goals. One is to decide how we will fulfill our Future Directions Vision statement, particularly where it says, “We intend to be a force, not merely a presence, effecting positive social change for peace, justice and the care of God’s creation.” The other goal is to design a process for considering specific proposals about actions that the church could take.
The Committee shared the impatience that many feel for the church to take bold steps immediately in the face of a wide range of urgent crises facing our world, but precisely because there is so much to do and such urgency to do it, we realized we needed to be wise and Spirit-led in order to use our limited resources as effectively as possible where they could do the most good.
To that end, we asked the congregation to consider several issues facing our society in light of the universal Golden Rule and ethic of love. If we are trying to establish the realm of God’s compassion and love on earth, what would it look like to succeed in applying the ethic of love to each of these issue areas? What does the Golden Rule say to do in relation to climate change or racism or economic inequity? What blocks our society from living that way, and what can we as a church do to get society past those obstacles? What can spiritual communities like our congregation contribute that other secular issue organizations cannot? On March 3rd we will start talking about the specific things we could do and then narrow those down to what we feel called to do right now.
The service this Sunday, the 24th, will celebrate the vision that is forming on our Parish Hall walls and all the collective wisdom that has been shared in the first two congregational conversations. By coincidence the lectionary passage for this week is Jesus giving the Golden Rule and talking about the ethic of love (Luke 6:27-38 and we will add the teaching about the greatest commandment, Luke 10:25-28). We will also read Psalm 37 which reminds us that we will face inner and outer resistance if we try to help the world live according to the ethic and wisdom that all major spiritual traditions have said for thousands of years are our only hope for a sustainable civilization. The Psalm coaches us not to fret and keep on working for justice.
We will also hear this Sunday about a closely related book that is being published coincidentally on Monday, March 4th, A Golden Civilization and the Map of Mindfulness, by George Kinder (Pastor Tom Kinder’s brother). It comes from a Buddhism-influenced secular perspective. It is encouraging to hear echoes of the conversations we have been having in our church that are coming to us from many sources now, many spiritual traditions, scientists, institutions—even the halls of Congress.
We will sing and talk about a hymn from another era when spiritual and secular communities worked together to revolutionize society following the ethic of love. The hymn was written by the anti-slavery abolitionist, poet and editor, James Russell Lowell, before the Civil War: “Men, Whose Boast It Is.” We will also sing the much beloved, “This Is My Song,” set to Finlandia. The choir will sing three favorites as well, the traditional Wesley hymn “Lead Me, Lord,” and the more recent, uplifting “I’m Gonna Lift My Sister Up” and “Mayenziwe.” Pianist Annemieke McLane will play pieces by Alexander Scriabin and Ludwig van Beethoven.
Here is a YouTube of a church choir singing the anthem to give a sense of its energy.