Welcome to this online worship service of the United Church of Strafford, Vermont for July 5th, 2020.
This service is very different from the format we have been following. The heart of it is Frederick Douglass’s speech from July 5, 1852, “What to the Slave Is the 4th of July?”
We have brought together children’s books, music and a sermon given last month by the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II at the National Cathedral in Washington along with many other voices to help us understand “What to the African-American or Person of Color is the 4th of July in 2020?” Or “What to anyone living in or near poverty is the 4th of July?” How can we as Americans and particularly as Americans who are followers of Christ’s way work to make the 4th of July have a positive meaning equally for all people?
We have a long way to go, but the whole world can see that to preserve all that the 4th of July stands for, America must now undergo what the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called “a revolution of values” and “a radical restructuring of society.”
Langston Hughes began his great poem, “Let America Be America Again,”
Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.
(America never was America to me.)
Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.
(It never was America to me.)
O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.
(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)
You can read the whole poem by clicking here.
Special Offering and Action Suggestion
You will want to do something right now to help if you allow this service to touch your soul. Here is a suggestion.
Every major religion teaches its own version of the Golden Rule, based on loving our neighbor as our self. Racism goes entirely against the ethics that Jesus and the other founders of those religions taught. So does poverty. On the other hand, equality and equity fulfill those ethics, as do universal compassion and respect.
Democracy is the form of government that most clearly embodies the values that Jesus and the other great religious leaders taught. One of the most egregious violations of the Golden Rule and love of neighbor is undermining the right or ability to vote.
Working to ensure that everyone has that ability is not just an act of social justice, it is an act of worship providing a secular sacrament, and as the Rev. William Barber points out, it is also a matter of life and death.
People can die from an inability to vote because the politicians who then get elected tend to neglect or abuse them, denying them health care or siting polluting industries in their neighborhoods. As Barber says, “Every piece of socially regressive legislation has a death measurement.” Covid 19 has made this clear to see.
Here is one organization that is helping make sure everyone can vote: https://www.voterparticipation.org/home-page/ And click here to see what eight other organizations are doing including the ACLU and Common Cause and the League of Women Voters.
Please consider supporting one of these organizations as a special offering today in addition to supporting the work of the church in the offering section below.
Here is the order of the sections of this service. Overall they include much more than you could watch or read in an hour, which is our usual service length. We hope you will return to these materials over the week or weeks ahead.
- Welcome, Special Offering and Announcements
- Frederick Douglass Speech Section
- Music Section
- Children’s Section
- Rev. William Barber II and the Poor People’s Campaign Section
- Ibram X. Kendi and Anti-racism
- Call to Communion
- Benediction from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
You can respond with thoughts about the service or with anything you would like to say by using the comment feature at the end of the post or by emailing us. You can also bring others into this experience by sharing the link to this service by email or social media.
Please note that we are gathering as a congregation by Zoom at 10:30 AM on Sunday mornings to say hello to one another and share our Joys and Concerns and Prayer requests and offer our compassion and support and company for this journey.
Our Heartfulness Contemplative Training Circle is also meeting by Zoom on Thursdays at 6:00 PM. This is for anyone who is interested in practicing mindfulness or meditation, or heartfulness and centering prayer. It is a time for talking about those practices and also more generally about our spiritual life.
You can find links to instructions on how to be part of those Zoom gatherings on the Welcome Page of our website.
If you are not on our weekly email list and would like to be, please email us at email@example.com and we will make sure you receive all our church news.
It is extremely important that we stay connected now. Please reach out by phone or email to neighbors and other members of the congregation, especially those who live by themselves or are struggling or vulnerable. Our Deacons, Becky Bailey, Kim Welsh and Maggie Hooker, are coordinating our Deacons Fund and our outreach to people in need of support, and Danette Harris, Chair of our Mission Committee, is leading our work with the Food Shelf. Becky, Danette and Joey Hawkins are on the town committee that is coordinating outreach as well. If you would like to donate or help please email us or use the comment feature on this page.
Frederick Douglass Speech
You can listen to a book-quality recording of the entire speech below and find a link to the entire text. First we have James Earl Jones reading one-tenth of the speech to give you a sense of the breathtaking power of this entire masterpiece:
Here are five young descendants of Frederick Douglass reciting short excerpts of the speech. It is moving to hear his words made fresh in their voices, but even more moving to hear them talk about it briefly in the Coda at the end of the video.
The complete text of the speech takes an hour or so to read. You can find it many places on the internet. Click here for one of them. You can either download and print it or click “Start Reading” and see it on your screen.
The complete audio reading. Not an inspired rendition, but the power of the words still rings out.
Here are two spirituals from Dashon Burton’s collection, Songs of Struggle and Redemption: We Shall Overcome. We featured Dashon singing from Handel’s Messiah in the Easter online service this year. Our church musician, pianist Annemieke McLane, accompanied Dashon when we was a visiting artist at Dartmouth. You can purchase this extraordinary album here.
Chester Children’s Chorus
Last week’s service included a piece by this inspiring chorus, a project of Swarthmore College dedicated to serving the community and children of Chester, Pennsylvania. This week we will look more closely at the amazing, life-changing work it does and hear the same piece with a deeper meaning and connection to it and also hear their recording of the Civil Rights Movement song “Oh, Freedom.”
First, you can see the description of the Chorus by clicking here. It is also well worth reading about the city of Chester to get the context for this chorus by clicking here. Note especially the sections on its history in the second half of the 20th Century, and Political Corruption. Note also that the population is almost 85% people of color.
Second, please watch this short video about the chorus. In it you will meet a beautiful, articulate young woman named Skyy. Remember her, because she will be featured in the video that follows.
“I Still Can’t Breathe,” words and music and introduction by John Alston, Executive and Artistic Director, Chester Children’s Chorus, a project of Swarthmore College, sung by the Chester Children’s Chorus. This is an extremely moving introduction and performance, but the YouTube bears this message: “Content warning: This video contains footage of graphic violence that may be upsetting to some viewers. Please use discretion when showing the video to children under age 13.”
And here is the culmination of a 2011 concert by the chorus singing one of our congregation’s beloved Civil Rights Movement songs:
Older children are encouraged to watch the Chester Children’s Chorus videos above. Here are some books that address racism from different angles for younger children:
Finally, below is a powerful message and reading of a book. The YouTube introduction says, “I made this video for the kindergarten students at my school. I realize this might be a helpful video for non Black children to also watch. In the video I discuss what racism is and how it’s impacted the lives of Black and Brown people. I also read aloud the story Let’s Talk about Race. Finally, I encourage young people to think about what actions they can take to use their voice to speak out against injustices. You have my permission to share. It seems that I missed a sentence in reading this story. I apparently missed the sentence when the author says, ‘I am Jewish.’ I apologize for this mistake, especially if it offended anyone.”
You can find out more about “The Tutu Teacher,” on her blog. She says, “I’m Vera. A dancing and singing, twirling and whirling, tutu wearing Kindergarten teacher. I love teaching, creating, and spreading happiness and positivity!” http://www.thetututeacher.com/p/about-me.html
Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II and the Poor People’s Campaign
Here are two video presentations from the past few weeks. The first is a powerful sermon by the Rev. William Barber II given in the National Cathedral in Washington, DC.
The second is the link to the full three and a half hours of a virtual Poor People’s Campaign event that will change your view of America and introduce you to one person after another who will both break your heart and inspire your hope and your will to work for a better world. It is worth watching every minute, but you can skim it and focus in on sections and still get the message.
THE POOR PEOPLE’S CAMPAIGN: A NATIONAL CALL FOR MORAL REVIVAL
“The Mass Poor People’s Assembly and Moral March on Washington is a Digital Justice Gathering to call for a revolution of values to save the soul and heart of our democracy. The political and economic systems in the U.S. are plagued by the interlocking injustices of systemic racism, poverty, militarism and a war economy, ecological devastation and a distorted moral narrative of religious nationalism. Somebody’s hurting our people. It’s gone on far too long, and we won’t be silent anymore.”
Click here to find this on the June2020.org website.
You will need to scroll down the screen to the video window and click the play button. Be sure to turn on the audio in the lower right hand corner. You can also expand it to full screen in that same corner. You can use the bar at the bottom of the video to scroll ahead if you want to get an overview by skimming. Please email us if you have any technical difficulties at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ibram X. Kendi and Anti-racism
“IBRAM X. KENDI is one of America’s foremost historians and leading antiracist voices. He is a National Book Award-winning and #1 New York Times bestselling author of How to Be an Antiracist. Kendi is the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities and the Founding Director of the Boston University Center for Antiracist Research. Kendi is a contributor writer at The Atlantic and a CBS News correspondent.”
This brief TED talk and interview provide a good introduction to the key concepts of his work.
A Call to Communion
This congregation is a small but meaningful part of the movement to establish God’s realm of peace, justice and care for God’s creation on earth, actively engaged in serving our community and supporting the wider worldwide movement.
Our Mission Committee has supported antiracism efforts financially and our Fulfilling Our Vision committee has helped organize a townwide antiracism education and action group in Strafford. Many members of the congregation have been involved in antiracism and related issues from the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s to Black Lives Matter and the Poor People’s Campaign today.
One of the ways we work together and increase our strength beyond our individual abilities is by pooling our resources. This is hard to do when we are forced apart by the pandemic, so we hope you will take just a minute to use our online donation service.
To make your offering on line, please click here. (This is a service we are providing through an extremely well established on-line donation company specializing in churches that is recommended by the national United Church of Christ and used by thousands of churches like ours. To read more about our decision to allow on line donations, click here.)
Benediction from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Final Sermon: “The Drum Major Instinct”
Based on Mark 10:35-45
Postlude Improvisations on “We Shall Overcome” on the United Church of Strafford organ by our church musician, Annemieke McLane.