One of the benefits of working with a large staff is the opportunity to occupy a place in the pew to listen to Margie and Debra’s sermons. You, too, benefit from hearing a variety of voices from the pulpit, of course.
Margie, Debra and I talk about the task of filling the pulpit. I had a professor in seminary who said, “If you want to fill the pews, fill the pulpit!”
As I listened to Debra talk about the fears and phobias she’s had to deal with over the years I thought of those famous, penetrating words from Emerson’s Divinity School Address: “The office of the true preacher is this; that she deals out her life to the people, life passed through the fire of thought.” (I changed the gender from Emerson’s quote to fit.)
Debra acknowledged that ‘this is the hardest sermon I’ve ever had to give.’ She knew she had to give it, if she was to be real.
Emerson went on to say, “The spirit only can teach…the one on whom the soul descends, through whom the soul speaks, alone can teach. Courage, love, wisdom, can teach; and every person can open the door to these angels, and they shall bring the gift of tongues. But the one who aims to speak as books enable, as synods use, as the fashion guides, and as interest commands, babbles. Let them hush!”
I listened to Margie’s sermon about peace-making as opposed to war-making; she referred to Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, who said he wished to include a department of peace in the Constitution. I felt the energy coming from the depths of her soul and was reminded that ‘the spirit only can teach.’ The pulpit was filled—our hearts were filled, as she reached way down deep and pulled passionate concerns from ‘the fire of thought.’
In addition to Debra and Margie’s fine sermons I listened to former UUA President Rev. Bill Shulz give the first of the three lectures in the ‘Bridges to Belief’ series, and he certainly filled the pulpit as he talked about ‘Restoring America’s Good Name: Human Rights in a Post-9/11 World.’ His passion was balanced by thoughtful reflection on his experience working with Amnesty International during a challenging decade of human rights abuses.
Congressman Christopher Shays attended the lecture, responding to our personal invitation, and I was pleased that he spoke up during the question-and-answer session following Bill’s talk. He started his comments and questions by saying, “I wish I could speak with so much certainty,” and Bill began his response to Chris by explaining that he went to seminary, not law school, and in seminary you’re taught to speak with conviction, which sounds like certainty, even when the things we talk about can’t be certain. It got an appropriate laugh!
In addition to listening to Debra, Margie and Bill I got to hear from 25 of the folks who took the journey to New Orleans where they worked all week gutting and repairing houses and planting trees. I met with them in preparation for that service and asked them to think of one thing from their experience that they could share briefly. They did just that, filling the pulpit and inspiring us. I loved looking at the children’s wrapped attention during that moving family service.
All of this is available on our web site—I encourage you to use it. I hope to see you soon.