7 April Minister’s Moment

Our church has been transformed!! Come tomorrow at 8 AM it will be full of folks buying up treasures, but tonight, the clothing, the glassware, the chairs sit quietly waiting. Set your alarm: it’s good stuff! If you have been following our sorters on Facebook, you have seen some of the finds that will be for sale Saturday morning.

This week I’ve been thinking about Billy Collins’ poem “Nostalgia” which begins “Remember the 1340’s?” It is a series of snapshots of time, and descriptions of what people did for leisure — the popular dance of the day, what they ate, and what they wore. All written in a very silly style. After waxing nostalgic about how much more pleasant even this morning was over the present moment, the poet turns to the future:

“.. that place where people are doing a dance we cannot imagine, a dance whose name we can only guess.”


With the purchase of 809 South Military Highway, we might pause to honor the limits of our imagination. We are not building a home for our dreams, we are building a home for the dreams of undreamed dreamers.

This Sunday we will be considering our Social Justice priorities for the next few years. This isn’t a vote, it is a chance to begin a conversation, a chance for your comment and observation on what might make sense for us to work on until our future congregation decides to repeat the process. It is a time to check in, to listen to each other’s thoughts and to learn. The task force,  Judy Welp, Amy Hutcheson, Paul Greggs and myself were charged with finding out what the congregation thinks — not deciding what we think.

The result will eventually be a short list of priorities for social justice efforts, and even if we select some areas of concentration, we can always add specific actions when opportunities appear.

Earlier this week we sent out a document telling about areas of concentration for the Unitarian Universalist Association and for our Unitarian Church of Norfolk congregation. It is not surprising, and entirely appropriate that our congregational social justice priorities are not the same as the national ones. Certainly, climate change is especially obvious here on the Hague.

The UUA Witness Ministries teaches us that there are four aspects to good religiously-grounded social justice: Grounding, Accountability, Fit and Opportunity. Areas for us to work — as a congregation — need all four of these. They need to be grounded in our core UU values. They need to address real problems, and that means listening rather than assuming. There has to be a fit – do we have resources, leaders and partners to work with in this area? Note that some things which are a fit for a UUA-wide study are not a good fit for us, and visa-versa. Also ask: is this our opportunity? Is it relevant; is it part of the current debate and do our UU values need to be expressed in word or deed?

We will be using a method called “Walkabout” at the end of Sunday’s service — forming groups responding to a set of open-ended questions “popcorn style”. You may be asked to scribe one or two of the questions. A “Walkabout” involves walking around the sanctuary, and, if you have limited mobility we will have a “Sit-about” at the same time, to gather your thoughts. The goal is hearing, not deciding – a beginning, not an end.

To quote the Witness Ministries: “This is about personal transformation. Our ability to create social transformation is linked with our willingness to go through personal transformation in the process. How can we expect the world to change if we‘re not willing to?”

Hope to see you Sunday.
I love you,
Rev Charlie