One Hundred Days of Unitarian Universalism

Rev. David Herndon
First Unitarian Church of Pittsburgh
January 22, 2017

Program staff members here at First Unitarian Church met together on Tuesday, November 15.We shared our personal responses to the election results.We also talked about how we could best attend to the spiritual and emotional distress within our congregation.

At one inspired moment in our conversation, Emily Pinkerton asked, “Why can’t we have our own one hundred days here at First Unitarian Church?”The rest of us thought it was a brilliant idea, and we decided we would go ahead with implementation.

Therefore, on Sunday, December 4, those attending church were invited to fill out forms suggesting things we could do during our one hundred days.Seems like there were about twice as many forms submitted as there were people present that morning!In any case, church member Rob Masterson volunteered to look over all the ideas and partially transcribe them and group them into categories.Along the way, Rob brilliantly observed that if you divide one hundred by seven you get fourteen with two left over.Fourteen days is two weeks, and Rob brilliantly went on to suggest that we could therefore devote two weeks to each of our seven Unitarian Universalist principles, with two days at the beginning to get started.We agreed that One Hundred Days of Unitarian Universalism would begin on Friday, January 20, and conclude on Saturday, April 29, thereby coinciding with the first one hundred days of the new administration in Washington, DC.We agreed that on each of the one hundred days, we would have one inspirational quotation, one recommended individual action, based on the ideas submitted on December 4, and on some days one or more recommended collective actions, also based on the ideas submitted on December 4.Steven Mead very helpfully suggested many wonderful quotations.Marlee Keffer in the church office designed an email template to be used for each of our one hundred days.Chelsea Marshall from our Marketing and Communications Team agreed to post our hundred days information on Facebook.And in this way, One Hundred Days of Unitarian Universalism was born!

This morning, our worship celebration is the ceremonial start of One Hundred Days of Unitarian Universalism.Listen again to the Rumi quotation at the top of your order of service, for in my view it compellingly presents the purpose of these one hundred days;

Today, like every other day, we wake up empty and frightened.

Don’t open the door to the study and begin reading.

Take down a musical instrument.

Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

In particular, I would like to call your attention to the fourth line:

Let the beauty we love be what we do.

In the face of dismay and fear, Rumi is not suggesting an anti-intellectual path, nor is he suggesting a path of withdrawal from the world.Rather, Rumi is suggesting that in the face of dismay and fear, the best path forward is the creation of beauty – the creation of beauty that we love.Or if not the creation of beauty, then at least active engagement with beauty, or mindful enjoyment of beauty.In other words, Rumi is suggesting that in the face of dismay and fear, the best path forward is spiritual and emotional renewal, making sure that one’s spiritual well is full and not empty.

This is the approach I took with Hope Night on Friday, which was the first of our One Hundred Days of Unitarian Universalism.I was prepared for a large group.I ordered lots of pizza, and I had the materials for lots of hope-rebuilding projects.As the minutes ticked down toward six o’clock, I began to wonder, for in my experience a few people always show up early.Then it was five minutes after six, and ten minutes after six, and fifteen minutes after six.I wondered what I would do with all that pizza.I also wondered how the newspaper headline would read if nobody showed up:Unitarian Church Cancels Hope Night – Entire Congregation Stays Away from Event Intended to Restore Hope.Eventually, though, people began to arrive, and all together we were fifteen people.

After making a small dent in that big stack of pizzas, we sang songs together for a while, and we shared some of our feelings on this Inauguration Day, and then we created some beauty.I was thinking that in contrast to Trump Tower, we would create Hope House.In fact, there were ten houses ready to decorate, so our task was really to create Hope Village.Over here on the chalice table you can see the results of our creative efforts.Allow me to hold up each of these beautifully decorated houses of Hope Village.

At the end of the evening we went outside and had a candlelight vigil at the corner of Morewood and Ellsworth Avenues.We sang songs, and once again we took the opportunity to create beauty.I hope that when everyone went home, they indeed felt more hopeful and spiritually renewed, in part because of the activities, and in part because we became better acquainted with one another.

Why is it so important, as Rumi says, that in the face of dismay and fear we need to make sure that our spiritual well in full and not empty?Consider this post that I found on Facebook.If we had our video screens here in the Sanctuary, I would display this post, for the image is quite beautiful.But the text will have to do.The text in this post says:“The devil whispered in our ear, ‘You’re not strong enough to stand the storm.’TODAY we whispered in his ear, ‘WE ARE THE STORM.’”Can I get an amen on that?The Universalist side of our theological heritage denied the existence of hell, and presumably that does for the devil as well.And yet we hear those whisperings:You’re not strong enough to stand the storm.You can’t make a real difference.You don’t have enough organized people.You don’t have enough organized money.Who are you to think that speaking your tiny truth to prodigious power will change anything?You might get arrested.You might get shot.How do we respond to all these whispered doubts and fears?“The devil whispered in our ear, ‘You’re not strong enough to stand the storm.’TODAY we whispered in his ear, ‘WE ARE THE STORM.’”My friends, that is the bold statement of someone whose spiritual well is full and not empty.To banish that non-existent devil, to silence those very real whisperings of doubts and fears, we need to ensure that we have plentiful spiritual reserves.And that is what One Hundred Days of Unitarian Universalism is supposed to do.Through our participation in One Hundred Days of Unitarian Universalism, we can ensure that our spirits remain hopeful and strong; we can build beloved community with one another; and we can then take bold and confident actions to bring our values and affirmations into the public square.

I hope we can sustain One Hundred Days of Unitarian Universalism for the next ninety-seven days.

I hope that your spirit will be renewed and refreshed through your mindful participation.

I hope that you will find the quotations inspirational.

I hope that you will try some of the individual actions.

I hope that you will come to some of the collective actions.

I hope that we can be more effective in our public lives by starting with the beauty we love, the values we affirm, and the world we envision that if we simply react against what we oppose.

For this morning, program staff members have designed a special ceremonial element of our worship celebration.It is called “Blessing of Our Hands for the Work to Which We Are Called.”The purpose of this special ceremonial element is to provide support and encouragement to each of us as we move forward with the task of putting our faith into action and our values into practice.When we get to that moment in our worship celebration, you are invited to move into the center aisle and move toward the chancel at the front of the Sanctuary.Four members and friends of our religious community will be present to cover your hands in water and offer spoken words of support and encouragement.This ceremony echoes the Christian story of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples.This ceremony also echoes the pagan ritual of purification by water.But you are free to find your own meaning in this ceremony, which is locally sourced, organic, artisanal, sustainable, hand-crafted, and made specifically for our religious community here this morning.Please be assured that I am not claiming that anything about this ceremony runs contrary to the generally accepted conclusions of the scientific community!And please be assured that your participation is voluntary.

Today, like every other day, we wake up empty and frightened.

Don’t open the door to the study and begin reading.

Take down a musical instrument.

Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

There are also hundreds of ways to put our faith into action and our values in practice.With overflowing spirits, may we roll up our sleeves, become organized, and get to work.

© 2017 by David Herndon

Come to be moved and held in mutual embrace. Come and be made whole.
First Unitarian Church of Pittsburgh
605 Morewood Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15213
(412) 621-8008     Map and directions
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