Tend the Spark, Carry the Flame

A Pledge Drive Message From Your Minister

This past year I have been amazed by all we have had to contend with and I have been amazed by all the ways this congregation has adapted and shown up for each other and our wider community.  I still remember that first week in March when I scrambled to learn how to run a zoom meeting and the subsequent hours spent studying online worship in order to design a worship service that would meet people’s needs in an online format during a global pandemic.  Almost a year later, it’s remarkable that almost all of our normal pre-pandemic programs, groups, and classes are happening (mostly online, a few outside with masks and social distancing).  It’s remarkable that some things, like our Religious Education program, which has added new families and increased participation to 100% while engaging in innovative online and socially-distanced programming, are actually thriving more than ever.

When the pandemic started we were finishing up our pledge drive.  We always say that the pledge drive is about so much more than raising money but this year the truth of that sentiment became obvious in a new way as we used our pledge drive teams to organize phone calls to check in on members and supporting friends to see how people were coping and offer additional support where needed.  A dedicated team of volunteers has remained committed to that effort.  While in some ways it remains challenging to keep our community connected, in other ways we’ve been able to weave a tapestry of love and care in new ways that have helped us prioritize caring for our most isolated members and friends and deepening connections throughout our community.

And we haven’t just cared for UUCT members and friends.  At the outset of the pandemic, when it was most desperately needed, this congregation raised an unprecedented amount of money for The Kearney Center.  In addition to that, small groups have met, masked and socially-distanced on the verandah, continuing our commitment to Manna on Meridian and The Kearney Center by preparing donations for the food-insecure, the homeless, and the essential workers providing care to the homeless.

By the time George Floyd’s murder sparked popular uprisings for racial justice throughout our nation, you had already heard me speak from the pulpit about the disproportionate effect of the coronavirus for black and indigenous individuals and communites of color.  We were already offering the UUA’s anti-racism curriculum, Building the World We Dream About.  We already had a monthly BIPOC meeting so BIPOC members and friends had a haven for supporting each other.  And since those tragic events have lit a chalice flame of justice in our hearts we’ve deepened our commitments to anti-racism here at UUCT.  UUCT members and friends sent thousands of postcards to formerly disenfranchised voters across the country, with a particular focus on formerly disenfranchised voters of color, both leading up to the national election in November and the senate runoff in Georgia in January.  A monthly book discussion group was started that reads books by BIPOC authors.  As Unitarian Universalists we know that a memoir can be as sacred and as revelatory a text as anything in the Bible, the Quran, or the Vedas.  We’ve also started our own chapter of Allies for Racial Equity(ARE), ARE@UUCT, a group of white allies who use a non-hierarchical leadership methods to engage more deeply in deconstructing and dismantling racism in ourselves and our institutions (to quote the proposed 8th Principle) and work in partnership as allies with BIPOC at UUCT to help all of us at UUCT deepen our engagement with anti-racism.  As Unitarian Universalists we know that our personal growth and justice work are intimately connected, with each supporting the other.

These are just some of the ways we’ve journeyed together through this incredibly challenging year, tending the spark of resilience and mutual care within our congregation and carrying the flame of universal love and justice-making out into communities far beyond UUCT.  It’s been an incredibly difficult year and I know it’s still very difficult.  Even though there is hope on the horizon, we likely have another challenging year ahead of us.  In this coming year, we’re called to continue to tend the spark within this congregation and to carry the flame of our faith in service to the common good.  I know I’m not alone in feeling that there is no community of people I would rather journey with through such rough terrain.  As we begin our pledge drive on February 7th, may we give generously to this community so we can continue to tend the spark and carry the flame.