I received an anonymous letter. When I opened it, I laughed out loud.
A sermon had been purchased at our annual auction in November, and the benefactor, who wished to remain anonymous, had written to request that I offer a sermon on “Superheroes”. They wrote: “I would be delighted to hear you speak on this topic. I have no further instruction or expectations, other than: please enjoy.”
I take that as an invitation for us all to have some fun. And the timing could not be more perfect. We need some joy, and we are surrounded by superheroes.
Rather than one sermon, we will dedicate this whole month to the theme of Superheroes. We will celebrate the successes of our congregation as a team, all year long. We will honor the beings of light and power who help us every day, essential workers on farmers, in streets, and in hospitals. We will gaze into the sun in celebration of the Solstice. And we will revel in the legends of our favorite superheroes.
Of course, you can see where this is headed: we can all be superheroes. But how do we become one?
And so, in honor of summer vacation after a long school year, I’d like to give you some homework:
- Pull out your old comic books from the attic, your beloved tomes of ancient sagas, your favorite movies—from childhood or from today, alone or with someone you love, enjoy again the stories of your favorite superheroes. I am asking you to indulge.
- Think of those people in your life who are, truly in your estimation, superheroes—and thank them. Call, write, project a signal in the night sky—just tell them thank you.
- And check this out: https://www.enneagraminstitute.com/how-the-enneagram-system-works. The enneagram is one of many personality inventories, but it has the advantage of helping us understand the forces that shaped us, the personalities we have developed in response, the powers that those personalities we have created hold—and how we can connect with the gifts of others to work better and better as a team. There are many resources out there, but this is one of the best, reliable and clear, with good steps on how to actualize the very best in ourselves.
The answer is obvious: you are a superhero. Yes, you are. But how to become who we really are?
“I’ve learned everyone has power. It’s not indestructibility or flying or superspeed—it’s that fire in your soul that pushes you to touch the sky. Stepping up for those that need hope…leads you to the greatest heights, and there, we all soar higher, further, faster.” (Captain Marvel, quoted at the Celebration of Life service for real-life superhero and UUCS member Barbara Mattson: https://soundcloud.com/user-978330397/courage-words-for-barbara-mattson)
This will be fun—
Social Justice Discernment Process Update
Throughout the winter and spring during Sunday services and at additional educational events, we have considered six social justice projects—3 local and 3 national/global—that we might choose to focus on as a congregation in the coming year. We have held three congregational dialogues to further explore these options. We will vote on these choices at our Annual Meeting on June 14.
The projects focus on: support for the immigrant community in Spartanburg and our nation; a congregational anti-racism process to examine ourselves and to become a more conscious and engaged anti-racist congregation; being a neighbor in the South Converse neighborhood; working for voting justice in our state and nation; and ecological action through litter pick-ups, data collection, and advocacy.
Our study has led to an additional project idea which would combine many of these projects into one project. Acknowledging the interconnectedness of many of these issues, the primary importance of examining ourselves so we can do this work well, and the investment our congregation has already made in many of these areas, this combination option would be led by teams organized by the Social Justice Council:
Combination Project: Once/quarter, we would gather as a congregation to do the work of consciousness through workshops and dialogues on becoming an anti-racist, anti-oppression, multicultural congregation. From this commitment to consciousness, four teams would work on four distinct projects in the areas of Immigration, Voting, Ecology, and Being a Neighbor. These projects would be done in cooperation with partners in each of these areas: Alianza Spartanburg/PASOs (Immigration); the League of Women Voters (Voting); USC-Upstate/the SC Aquarium (Ecology); and the South Converse Neighborhood Association (Being A Neighbor). The following diagram illustrates this project idea:
Please plan to join in one final Social Justice Dialogue via Zoom, on Sunday, June 7 at 1:00 pm, to review all of our options before we vote as a congregation at the Annual Meeting on Sunday, June 14.
With gratitude and excitement,
Thank you for being who you are,
a people who think and question,
a people steadfast and devoted,
a people of endless vision and generosity,
a people of care,
a people of faith & hope.
You give me hope and energy.
WE SEW BECAUSE YOUR LIFE IS WORTH OUR TIME
(May 21, 2020)
May 19th Mask Production! Our team topped the 1000 mark last Saturday and is somewhere over 1075 now! We continue to give masks to our congregation and the numerous people we encounter in the community. In addition, we’re focusing on three groups for the remainder of May: the Hispanic community around Inman (40 masks donated there this week); the Navajo Nation, which is suffering greatly from the pandemic*; and Safe Homes Thrift Store, which will reopen June 1 and require all customers to wear a mask That means they may need to purchase a mask, and Safe Homes wants to charge $3 each and split that with us, so we can buy more fabric! We’re donating 50 masks to the Navajo Nation by the end of this week. Our new goal is to “double-up” for the Inman Hispanic community (40 more) and the Navajo Nation (50 more) and make 50 for Safe Homes, all by June 1st (140 by June 1) and I know we can do it!
BUT Our dedicated sewers need your help! Like the shirt off your back, maybe! Seriously, right now we do have enough T-shirts for filters but need flat 100% cotton, such as a bed sheet that is not worn thin or fabric some people have tucked away from a never-completed project. Please look in your linen cupboard and see if you have fabric to share! Email firstname.lastname@example.org
We sew two styles and three sizes. While workers who need to wear a mask for over 8 hours nonstop often prefer masks with soft fabric ties, most people wearing them for shorter periods prefer those with elastic straps to go around the ears. We are so lucky that , generously donated two full boxes of elastic to our sewing circle! Right now, you can’t get elastic for love or money, but we have plenty! Although sewing masks is not the most exciting or demanding sewing we’ve ever done, it is the only sewing we’ve done that saves lives, and that is really motivating! More at https://www.cnn.com/videos/us/2020/05/18/navajo-nation-covid-19-infection-rate-sidner-pkg-vpx.cnn.
Lisa and Zoe with their masks
Tired? Lonely? Bored? Angry? Afraid?
Read this e-mail and turn your despair into power for the good of us all. This is everybody’s business. For even more ways to help, visit https://uucs.org/welcome/help/.
“We should go forward, groping our way through the darkness, stumbling perhaps at times, and try to do what good lay in our power.” (Albert Camus, The Plague)
We have work to do—
Sunday, May 17 @ 1:00PM
Throughout this winter and spring, we entered into a Social Justice Discernment Process to study six projects we might choose to prioritize in the coming year. We have planned to select two of these projects, one local and one national or global, at our Annual Meeting this June.
Our third social justice dialogue, focusing on Being a Neighbor and Ecological Action, was postponed this March during the onset of the pandemic. We would like to reschedule that dialogue for Sunday, May 17 at 1:00pm via Zoom. We will send out Zoom credentials for that dialogue next week.
Please plan to join us. Although the pandemic has changed our discernment process schedule, our work has only gained in scale and momentum over the last two months. Join us for the dialogue on May 17 to think together about all we are doing and how we can step boldly into the future.
With awe and gratitude for who we are and what we are doing–
“The true healers…one doesn’t come across many of them, and anyhow it must be a hard vocation.”—Albert Camus, The Plague
How would you choose to live when faced with your mortality?
This is the question posed by Albert Camus in The Plague—the story of a city under quarantine during a time of pestilence, an analogy for the rise of Nazism and the response of the French Resistance during World War II. The problem he poses is not a simple one of satisfying our desires or achieving life goals, nor of reckless sacrifice and heroism. Camus’s concern is to be fully human—to be responsible & free in the ambiguity, uncertainty, and demands of our lives. His conviction is that, when we awaken to our mortality, we paradoxically come alive to push back the dehumanizing forces that would hasten our end. In the light of our mortality, we live.
“What’s needed is imagination…. We should go forward, groping our way through the darkness, stumbling perhaps at times, and try to do what good lay in our power.”
We are in a time of pandemic, and we are in a time of political domination—natural and human forces that each cause suffering, and that combined greatly compound that suffering. More US Americans have now died from COVID-19 than died in the Vietnam War; and as in that and all wars, those most marginalized suffer most greatly in this pandemic. We see this in our state, in our country, and around the world.
In the finitude of our lives, under the pressure of forces of such massive scale: how should we live?
– How do we stand most effectively against oppression?
– How do we build a more livable world for us all?
– What is our power—
what can we do that will make a real difference?
– Where do we find joy, in the light of our mortality and in the demands of our time?
“The tale he had to tell…could only be the record of what had had to be done, and what assuredly would have to be done again in the never ending fight against terror and its relentless onslaughts, …by all who, while unable to be saints but refusing to bow down to pestilences, strive their utmost to be healers.”
I would like to thank our minister, Rev. Scott Neely for the exceptional job that he has done with our Sunday Services as well as his work with our various Zoom group meetings. All of this work has been done over the past six weeks since we have been in a coronavirus lockdown. Scott has keep us well connected with his Sunday morning video services. Great Job Scott! If you can’t make the Sunday morning live broadcasts, you can always get the full service video on our website.
Your Board of Trustees have been busy and have approved the 2020-2021 Annual Budget beginning in July. Our Finance committee though were the ones who developed this budget, so thank you Finance for a job well done! I do want to point out though that your new Board may need to make more frequent changes then usual next year, depending on how long this coronavirus lockdown lasts. No budget could ever be made though without the generous giving from our congregants. This very successful fund drive was due to the great work from Brannon Carter our Stewardship Chair, and Linda Leible our President-Elect; their efforts and your generosity on our “Living Our Mission-Expanding Our Reach Generosity Giving Campaign raised $244,111 from only 122 pledging units. This was a record setting annual fund amount.
Thank You, Thank You Thank You!
The Mountain Retreat at the end of May has been postponed until September 2021. For the 30 people who already signed up and paid their camp fee; you can get a refund from The Mountain if you so desire. Most of our members that I am aware of have decided to just roll their paid enrollment amount toward next year event.
Now the good news; we received a generous donation for our Wilde Hall kitchen so construction can continue. Fred Stoll and Linda Leible are coordinators for this project. Due to needed funding to complete the Wilde Hall kitchen; we are opening up a kitchen fund donate button on our website. Please consider donating to it if you are able.
Lastly, we are considering moving our Sunday, June 7 Annual Meeting to a later date if we feel safe to hold this event with members in the sanctuary. We are working on the details and you will know the actual date within the next few weeks. At the time of this writing, chances of an in-person meeting seem slim. Stay safe and we truly appreciate your support during these trying times.
Peace & Love,
President, UUCS Board
In partnership with Alianza Spartanburg (previously the Hispanic Alliance) and the PASOs site in Spartanburg, UUCS established a fund to provide direct assistance to individuals and families who will not receive federal assistance through the CARES Act because of their immigration status—even though they pay taxes. Even if only one family member is out of status, no one in the family will receive funds—even children who are US citizens.
The outpouring of generosity from our congregation and from the wider community has been unbelievable. In only the last three weeks, we have raised almost $12,000 for this fund. Your leadership in establishing this fund has catalyzed the United Way to set up a comparable fund, which can appeal for support even more effectively to the wider community. We are glad to be working in partnership with them.
Thank you, thank you, thank you for your amazing generosity and leadership. A 4-person team of UUCS, Alianza Spartanburg, and PASOS members meets weekly to understand needs and make distributions from the fund.
With unanimous approval from the Social Justice Council, we will continue to Share the Plate on behalf of this cause in May. You may give to this fund here: https://uucs.org/share-the-plate-contribution/. All gifts go to direct assistance for immigrant families in Spartanburg County.
Compassion & Justice
And we can do even more. A bill in the US House of Representatives would correct this wrong and provide direct economic stimulus to anyone with a taxpayer ID number.
Let us join the work of justice with our generous compassion. Call U.S. Representative William Timmons – (864) 583-3264 or click here to complete contact form online – and demand that the CARE Act stimulus checks be sent to all families regardless of immigration status. Any family who has even just 1 household member without a Social Security Number is being denied these funds – even if they pay taxes. Ask Rep Timmons to support H.R. 6438 to allow funds to be distributed on the basis of taxpayer identification numbers to extend care to the most vulnerable and no less deserving individuals in our nation.
You are leading our community and our nation.
You are amazing—
The Grimké Sisters: A Mural at UUCS
In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment and women’s right to vote this year, the Spartanburg chapter of the League of Women Voters has commissioned a work of public art in honor of the Grimké sisters. Sarah and Angelina Grimké, originally from Charleston and annual visitors to a family farm on the border of Spartanburg County during their childhood summers, became leading abolitionists and suffragists in the 19th century. The League would like to create a mural in honor of the Grimkés and all who have fought for the freedoms we enjoy today.
And they would like for the mural to be at UUCS. The cost of the mural will be fully funded by the League, and it would be placed on our building facing Henry and Union Streets for maximum public viewing. Our Board has worked with the League’s leadership on design and placement, and have approved the mural in principle contingent on a comment period from our congregation.
Local artist and educator Nancy Corbin has designed the mural in honor of the Grimké sisters to represent all who fight for freedom together. The location would be the exterior of Wilde Hall, below our Sanctuary. New landscaping to provide better access and viewing of the site are part of the project.
The following three pictures show (1) the location, (2) the location with a sketch at scale superimposed, and (3) a watercolor sketch of the mural in full color:
On behalf of the League and the Board, I would like to ask for your comments on this project proposal. Please submit them by May 15 (prior to our next Board meeting on May 20). You may send these to our Board at email@example.com, which all of our Board members and minister will receive.
More information on the Grimké sisters, a summary of this request for comment, and links to the meditations on the Grimkés offered in our services in March 2019 may be found on this webpage: https://uucs.org/the-grimke-sisters-a-mural-at-uucs/
For my own part, I feel enormous pride that our congregation has been asked to display a lasting, public, prophetic tribute to these national leaders for freedom and justice.
With gratitude for who we are, and who we can be—