Annette Marquis (one of the leaders of our Mozaic Makers gathering) called a couple of weeks ago and asked me to share a little with you today. She indicated then that she was hoping for diversity in the three speakers selected. And I wondered -- what demographic am I representing? Then she mentioned my southern voice – and I knew. I am here to represent the Steel Magnolias among us. And I am happy to do so.
Indeed, I was born in Statesboro, Georgia in 1950. I’ll wait for you to do the math. I have lived there my entire life – except for brief periods of time away studying. So I grew up very much in the Jim Crow era. But, of course, I was in the privileged group. I drank from water fountains that were clean with refrigerated water and walked right into the front doors of the restaurants and entertainment spots in my town. My parents did not teach me to be a racist. They didn’t have to. Racism, sexism, xenophobia, and homophobia were pervasive in my environment and I learned it as easily as I learned to walk or talk. But at least I was born with a questioning and curious mind, and a love for reading. So gradually – with the help of books and the friendship of one of the African American schoolgirls who was the first to integrate my high school, I began to open up. It wasn't a sudden change. It was gradual. And it's still ongoing. My former classmates would say, “Bless her heart, she turned liberal.” Yes, indeed, hallelujah! – I did see the light, and have worked continuously with others to move our communities to a more just and peaceful place. But I NEEDED others in my efforts or I would have retreated after the first failure and perhaps returned to a closeted liberal existence. I found that community of support in Unitarian Universalism. Here was a place where I could work together with others to break down barriers that were separating and oppressing folks. Now when I joined the Unitarian Universalist congregation in Statesboro, I was told that the Baptists put me on their prayer list. That's okay -- I'll take their prayers. They finally gave up on me though. And I went on to become an evangelist for Unitarian Universalism in southeast Georgia.
Now there are many important things we do as Unitarian Universalists. And I relish all of these activities. But I believe none are as important as what we do in our journey to moves ourselves and our world to one in which diversity is celebrated, justice for all rolls like mighty rivers, and love is for everyone.
Several congregations came together here at Eno River this weekend to learn and grow in our understanding of how we can continue this work together more effectively. We have seen great things happen from our work in some areas – and in other areas we continue to struggle. You know we do! But we do not struggle in vain. I am 64 years old --- which is not that old, but old enough to see great changes in my lifetime. I know at one time I shared that I would probably not live to be in a position to officiate at a same-sex marriage in Georgia. But, you know what? I think I’m going to make it!
What else can we accomplish? I am fired up and ready to go!! And I hope ALL Y’all will make the journey. YES! I said I want ALL Y'ALL to (Sing) "Come and Go with me to that land where I'm bound -where I'm bound."