Dear Members and Friends,
This past Sunday, my sermon veered in a direction I had not intended. Usually when I go off manuscript, I still hit what I want to cover. There are couple of things that I want to highlight that I had intended sharing in the sermon. Given the sermon was about the courage to grieve, I wanted to talk about my encounter with both many good people at the Islamic Center of Bridgeport, including Palestinians who have lost friends and family members to the war in Gaza. In addition, I intended to share with you a poem by Amanda Gorman.
This past Friday, ten members of UU Westport and I attended mid-day prayers at the Islamic Center of Bridgeport. We listened to a sermon from the Imam who sought to touch the hearts of people who are grieving deeply and struggling with anger. Then the several hundred gathered Muslims engaged in prayer. I was moved by the collective devotional expression that followed a message of seeking to live the truth while not knowing why terrible things are happening in the world.
We visitors were then asked to come in front of the gathering. Both a Missionary Baptist minister and I spoke briefly. I said, “Please know that you are not alone. You have many neighbors, including members of The Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Westport who are holding you and your families in our hearts. Our hearts break for the unfolding violence in Gaza. If your community gets persecuted here, we want to help ensure your safety.” The response of the people was sincere, gracious, and very warm. The acknowledgment of shared humanity in difficult times goes a long way.
This past week, I met in person with Rabbi Jeremy Wiederhorn. He is the president of the Interfaith Clergy of Westport and Weston and the Rabbi of the Conservative Synagogue in Westport. He had originally reached out to me in September to find a time to meet, but our calendars didn’t mesh. Even though it’s an especially challenging time for the Jewish community, he made time to meet. I found in him a committed partner to multi-faith engagement. Imagine my surprise when I learned that he was just interviewed by Dan Woog on 06880. I highly recommend it. The interview can be accessed here.
I also had the opportunity to meet with Rev. Frank Hall this week. He is enthusiastic to learn that I welcome him meeting with members of the congregation, especially in the context of developing an oral history of the Congregation. I will have a lot more to share about this idea of gathering the history—and I welcome knowing who would like to help coordinate this exciting project.
Lastly, I met with Rev. Frances Sink, a colleague whose UU faith was formed among this congregation and who has deep love for this community. After our meeting, she shared with me a poem by Amanda Gorman. Ms. Gorman is the 25 year old poet who spoke at
President Joe Biden’s inauguration.
“Hymn for the Hurting” by Amanda Gorman
Our hearts shadowed and strange,
Minds made muddied and mute.
We carry tragedy, terrifying and true.
And yet none of it is new;
We knew it as home,
Even our children
Cannot be children,
It’s a hard time to be alive,
And even harder to stay that way.
We’re burdened to live out these days,
While at the same time, blessed to outlive them.
This alarm is how we know
We must be altered —
That we must differ or die,
That we must triumph or try.
Thus while hate cannot be terminated,
It can be transformed
Into a love that lets us live.
May we not just grieve, but give:
May we not just ache, but act;
May our signed right to bear arms
Never blind our sight from shared harm;
May we choose our children over chaos.
May another innocent never be lost.
Maybe everything hurts,
Our hearts shadowed & strange.
But only when everything hurts
May everything change.