Sunday, September 5, 2021

Renewal and Rebirth

 

The title for the August 22nd message that I wrote back in July for the August Newsletter was “Renewal and Rebirth:  After the Pandemic.”  Of course, at the time, we really thought that this would be “after the Pandemic.”  But someone failed to send a memo to Miss Delta.  And she’s come roaring in, taking advantage of regions with high vaccine resistors, and bringing all our post pandemic messages, celebrations, and now our in-person services to a halt.

So, I deleted the “after the pandemic part.”  This message is simply entitled, “Renewal and Rebirth.”

Has anyone ever asked you, “Are you born again?”  What has been your response? Mine has changed through the years.  I walked down the aisle of the Baptist church during a revival when I was nine years old, shook the pastor’s hand, told him I was ready to be saved and born again, and had the experience of being dunked under the water and brought back up as a representation of my rebirth.  As an adult, I was more likely to question “what in the world people meant by that” – and to question my own self as to whether I could give a positive response to that question.  Now as a Unitarian Universalist, I respond with a joyful YES, I’ve been born again, ….and again, and again, and again.  I am still Jane – but I’m not the same person I was at 9, or 29, or even 59.  Sometimes the changes have been gradual, and sometimes they have been through some enlightenment I received through my reading or dreaming or by the grace of lived experiences, including losing loved ones and welcoming new life.   And along the way, my faith has been subdued, and renewed, realigned, and refined.  I imagine that many of you have had similar experiences.

Now we know that we don’t have the same bodies we had when we were children or younger adults.  Did you know that the body's cells largely replace themselves every 7 to 10 years? In other words, old cells mostly die and are replaced by new ones during this time span. The cell renewal process happens more quickly in certain parts of the body, but head-to-toe rejuvenation can take up to a decade or so.

You may wonder why if we have this renewal, some of us are getting old.  Well, we’re all getting old if we live long enough – it’s just that some of us are ahead in that game.  But that cell renewal slows down as you get older.  That renewal button doesn’t get pushed as often.  And I’ve got some places in my body that I think have forgotten how to renew. 

I haven’t found that to be the case for my psyche, though.  The person I am continues to change.  And how does that happen?  Our body changes are affected by what we eat.  When I was a child, I used to love reading the poems in my Childcraft book.  One of my favorites was the one you heard earlier in the service by Poet Walter de la Mare about Miss T.  The lines at the beginning and end remind us that “Whatever Miss T eats, turns into Miss T.” 

 And whatever Jane eats turns into Jane – and makes Jane a Healthy Jane or an Unhealthy Jane.

 I think the same is true of our psyches and souls.  What we take in, stimulates a new model of ourselves.  We are renewed – and some may say reborn. 

 I’ve shared with you all before that my old high school classmates sometimes ask me what happened to me – to make me so different (and some have even said weird) – and I just say, “I read.”  

 I’ve wondered recently how our experiences with this pandemic have affected who we are.  Are you different in any way that you were before?

 I asked my Facebook friends to help me with my sermon by responding to that question and got quite an array of responses.  I’ll read some excerpts of some of the responses to you. And I’d like for you to see if some of these reflect your own changes in who you have become– or not.

 One Said:

Spending so much time at home has been trying, but it's been a chance to go into a safe cocoon and do a lot of healing like a caterpillar morphing gradually into a butterfly. It has been a lot of becoming.

 Another wrote:

It's been a liminal space for me - a time of reconsidering and evaluating and preparing (and hanging out with the fur babies). I'm getting ready to walk into the classroom next week with no mask mandate and with no vaccine requirement for students (or faculty/staff) and I'm trying to do this without it being from a place of fear. I AM different, though. I have learned more about personal boundaries - when to set them, when to take them down; I have become more centered; I have become more observant (I think); and I've also realized how much time I waste doing some things when I could be doing more productive things (Ohhh, FB..... lol).

 Another response was:

I’m Less extroverted. I’m less in shape. My concentration and attention span are both greatly reduced.

And here’s one more that’s more positive:

he pandemic reaffirmed the connectedness of all people. I now feel more responsibility in being a good citizen.

Someone who had a tough battle with COVID responded:

Well before I had Covid-19 with Pneumonia, I was going through the stages of life, get up, go to work, pay rent and go back to sleep. But now I see life a little bit better. I no longer think that life is short. I think of it as an adventure, and just because I'm not where I want to be yet, I’m at a better place then I was before. I always told myself that the best years of my life are coming soon and yes, they are. But like the song goes "You know you have to go through hell before you get to heaven." And that is because you appreciate the rewards that you are given.

Another shared what they had learned:

The pandemic has taught me the importance of being "the change." If I want to live in a less chaotic and harsh world, I need to focus on showing kindness and empathy to all.

Another learner said:

I learned to cook so many new things! I changed my diet and lost weight and have been staying at home with my kids. My spiritual practice has been to make a home and to learn to be patient as I manage my second son's early intervention therapies.

Here’s another honest reaction:

I’ve lost much of my belief in people innately caring for one another. The selfish responses to protecting others by wearing masks, getting vaccinated or even simply distancing has made a strong impact on how I view the community and country.

One of our members shared:

I wonder if my parents would have been able move out of their home of 40 years were it not for the gripping impact of the pandemic on the economy. The lowered interest rates on loans seemed to be an economic impetus for the community of folks edging to make the move to the next chapter in their lives.

 Another shared:

There is no more "normal" in my life. I'm so thrilled that I made it through one more e admitted:

I'm pissed a lot of the time. Does that count? It's not what I think of as good sermon content, but there it is.  (This comment got more likes than any others)

 My colleague David Messner wrote:

I see beauty in the smallest places, kindness is now the main touchstone of my practice. My sense of joy and power of creativity have just opened up!

      Then replied -- No not really, I am cranky, achy, and exhausted.

 A 55-year-old said:

I am more in touch with the possibility of my mortality. Hearing and knowing of others my age or younger losing their lives because of the ugly attack of covid on their body is terrifying…. This heightened awareness of immortality has caused me a great deal of anxiety and increased depression. So, for me, the pandemic has caused this 55-year-old human a great deal of personal turmoil.

 Another shared:

I am so very tired from the anxiety and isolation…

Children in daycare or school are getting sick, that means they return home. Parents will lose work. There is zero financial back up. I feel the weight and anxiety of the people doing the right thing crushing my bones. And I feel for our medical system.

 And finally – one person summed up what some others were implying.

I’ve Lost faith in humanity. I’m Angry A LOT.

These mixed messages – some brutally honest about their more negative outlooks – are not what I wanted to preach about when I chose the topic of Renewal and Rebirth.  I wanted sunshine and rainbows – not storm clouds and tornados.  But here we are.  And these experiences have affected us and our psyches and souls. 

Maybe that’s a good thing.  In order for birth to take place, there’s usually labor and pain.  As one of my respondents shared, “You might have to go through hell to appreciate heaven.”  But I do think we have to look for the heaven – for the paradise – in our lives, even in difficult times, and work together to bring that more loving, peaceful, healthier world to others.  That’s one reason to come to worship services, to be with others in community who are also working for that beloved community.

When I chose the topic of Renewal and Rebirth – I did not just want to look at our personal journeys, I thought that our “after the pandemic” time might be a great time to think of how we might work to renew our congregation – rebirth it – not just bring it back to the way it was before the pandemic, but to bring back something better because of the pandemic.  And I still have that hope for us, even as we’ve had to move back to online only services.  We don’t have to be back in our building to push our renew buttons for this congregation.  How can we labor now for the birth of something even better?

COVID-19 has highlighted the interdependence of all people and the natural world. The pandemic's disruption presents an opportunity to rebuild a congregation, a community, indeed, a world in which the whole of society is considered in what we do – not just our tribe or family.  Our seventh principle lifts this up.  We say that we affirm and support Respect for the Interdependent Web of All Existence of Which We Are a Part. 

This pandemic has highlighted that we can’t just do this by singing songs and lighting candles.  I believe we have to have a more radical response.  A Radical Love.  If Unitarian Universalists can’t do this – then I fear for the world.  We must renew our own spirits and the spirit of this congregation – and we may have to do it from a distance from one another, but we can’t wait till we can all gather in the same building. 

Because of the effects of this pandemic and others that will follow – and climate change which already is devastating many places, foreign and domestic terrorism, and the resulting physical and mental health crises that are a result of all these possibilities, we must renew ourselves and encourage one another.

One way we can do this is by recognizing all these crises, while also being intentional about looking for the joy, the beauty, and the love all around us.  It is there.  It is healing.  And just as we must pay attention to the problems, for our own health and that of our congregation, the community, and the world, we must also pay great attention to the goodness, the connections, the love in the world. 

I encourage you to think of three people you will reach out to today and express your appreciation and love for them.  It matters.  It pushes their renewal buttons and yours too.  And we could all use a little renewal. 

There will be other ideas and possibilities we can explore as we go forward.  But just for today – let’s connect, care, and share.  The butterfly will come out of the cocoon, the rainbow will appear after the storm, and we will shout Hallelujah with each renewal and rebirth, again, and again, again.

May it be so!

 

Sunday, August 1, 2021

The 8th Principle (Sermon Script)

 

Today, I’m sharing with you about the endorsement and encouragement

from Black Lives UU (aka BLUU) and DRUUM which is an anacronym for

Diverse & Revolutionary UU Multicultural Ministries –

their endorsement and encouragement for UU congregations

to adopt the 8th Principle.  And I’m hoping both the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Statesboro and the Unitarian Universalists of Coastal Georgia

will vote on this at our Annual Meetings and move forward positively

along with the growing list of well over 100 congregations, including

our neighbor congregation in Savannah

who have answered this call.

 

Unless you are new to us, you all know

of my personal commitment and passion regarding antiracism.

And sometimes, I feel that some of you feel that I may be placing

too much emphasis on this topic.

So, at times, I’ve felt the need to back away a little or not be quite so passionate.  But I’m not going to promise to be that person today.

Yes, I’m using “the Freedom of the Pulpit” that Unitarian Universalists value to share with you today.

I suppose my own background – growing up in an overtly racist culture

in southeast Ga in the 50’s and 60’s and trying to dismantle all of the “stuff” that I’ve inherited through the years makes me a little more attuned to the need.

 

 

Some of you have pointed out that our congregations

have always been a part of this struggle.

Both the Statesboro and Brunswick congregations were marching

in the MLK parades long before other majority white congregations joined in – well, in reality – I’m not sure they have joined in yet.

 

And we have members in our congregations who are active in the NAACP

and in groups like Beloved Community in Statesboro

and the Abbott Institute in Brunswick.

And many of you have personally been doing this work – I know – for a long time.  But most of us white folks have addressed this in almost a paternalistic manner

of wanting to HELP Black, Indigenous, and People of Color Communities

(which some now refer to as BIPOC)

to have the same voting rights, educational opportunities and more

that we have had.  And that’s not a bad thing.

That’s really a lot about what the Civil Rights Movement was all about.

But you see, we removed what we thought were some of the obvious barriers –

and we still have not made the progress that we would have hoped to make.

That’s because we worked more on those barriers –

than we did on ourselves, and our institutions and the powerful systems

embedded with white supremacy that we weren’t even aware existed.

Because we see overt racist behaviors all around us,

for years we felt that we as Unitarian Universalists were the good guys –

we didn’t have those kinds of people waving Confederate flags among us!

Now we had warnings that we weren’t so perfect all along the way.

In her talk in Statesboro on MLK Sunday, Stephanie Spencer shared her remembrances of attending General Assembly in Charlotte many years ago

when folks were asked to come in period antebellum costume.

She and others wondered if they were supposed to come in rags and chains.

And we’ve had other wake up calls.

But the biggest in recent years was when we were called on to really examine

our own hiring practices within the Association.

And some of the letters and emails sent back and forth

from some of our highest officials in the association

and even in the UU Ministerial Association –

made us realize that we needed to really work on ourselves

if we expect to be able to do the work in our communities.

For the last 7 years, a small and dedicated group of Unitarian Universalists,

led by Paula Cole Jones and Bruce Pollack-Johnson, has promoted the 8th principle, the text of which I read to you earlier. I offer you the text again:

 

We covenant to affirm and promote journeying toward spiritual wholeness

by working to build a diverse, multicultural Beloved Community

by our actions, that accountably dismantle racism and other oppressions

in ourselves and in our institutions.

Now some have shared that they agree with the basic principles behind this but have other problems with it.  And as UUs, it’s hard for us to come to full agreement on almost anything – even the color of the carpet on our floors.

But that’s why we lift up our 5th Principle and vote.

Now, it doesn’t have to be a love it or leave vote.

I’ve been doing some homework about how folks come to consensus on matters –

And even the Quakers don’t think everyone is going to be enthusiastic about the carpet color or other more pressing matters.

Most folks who use a consensus model have various possibilities for acceptance.

Here is one that I found on the internet –

and I’ve asked Beth Sutton to paste it in the chat box.

 

1st option –  I can say an unqualified "yes" to the decision. I am satisfied that the decision is an expression of the wisdom of the group.

2nd. I find the decision perfectly acceptable.

3rd  Though I’m not especially enthusiastic about it. I can live with the decision.

4rth.  I do not fully agree with the decision and need to register my view about it. However, I am willing to support the decision because I trust the wisdom of the group.

Now as UU’s we lift up democracy and vote – but I hope when we do vote, that all of us can vote for the adoption with at least one of these levels of consensus.

 

One thing some folks have voiced concern about is the wording.

Rev. Sarah Lentz makes these comments regarding the wording:

As always, we are UUs after all, the text will likely be word smithed as this proposed principle makes its way through our UUA process.

BUT the sentiments are really what matter. What this principle says is:

 

1st - Spiritual wholeness is predicated on living in a world of Beloved Community,

2nd - Beloved Community will only be created through actively working to dismantle racism and oppression, and

3rd - We must be accountable in that work for it to succeed.

Those sentiments are what we are asking you to endorse

whether or not you think it needs wordsmithing.

That desire, in itself, is part of our problem as Unitarian Universalists –

which evolved itself in a strong culture of white supremacy.

Now please know that I’m not saying that you or me or any other person here

is a white supremacist.  I’m saying that we live in America. –

 

A country whose original sin of racism and white supremacy

was built into our culture, into the implicit biases we’ve inherited,

and into our faith communities – of all persuasions and ethnicities.

Of course, all of this has become increasingly evident in much of the backlash

that occurred after we elected our first black president –

an event that many of us celebrated as having finally removed those barriers.

What has arisen since then is the growth of domestic terrorism, racialized hate groups, increased anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim, anti-Asian, anti-almost everybody because politicians and even preachers have stoked up the fears

of those who feel that their power is being displaced

by folks who don’t look like them.

And the blatant acts of the police and others who have been videotaped

have called many of us to “hit the streets in protest” even in a deadly pandemic.

If you are not a little more woke now than you were a few years ago,

you’ve been doing what MLK referred to as “sleeping through the revolution.”

 

Recently, I’ve written three Letters to the Editor.

The first was to try to provide some explanation of Critical Race Theory,

so that politicians couldn’t use that academic framework

as a Boogie Man to rile up the far right against efforts by educators

to share more of the truths of our history

and have students think critically about these events.

 

After the first letter was shared in Statesboro and Savannah

(and yes, I sent this piece to Brunswick,

but it was too long for their letters and they wouldn’t consider doing it

as an opinion piece as I requested), - anyway – after that letter was published,

the Statesboro Herald published another letter

signed by five or six citizens criticizing mine and indicating

that there was another side to be considered.

I attempted to graciously respond to that letter,

got another critique, and responded one last time.  Hopefully.

Now of course, the Herald feels the need to be fair and hear all sides.

As Trump said,” there are good people on both sides.”

Well, they may be good – but they are wrong.

To quote Rev. Sarah Lentz again:

It also bears saying that conviction and might do not make right.

One can believe they are right all they want,

but some things are just actually, factually wrong;

and some things are just morally wrong.

She says - I am, in truth, a believer in a certain degree of moral relativism,

but that doesn’t mean everything, and anything is equal and okay.

Some things just are wrong.

Opinion isn’t all that matters; reality and truth still matter.

And they matter more than ever when forces of division, chaos, and hatred

work tirelessly to manipulate our information and our opinions

(and here Rev. Sarah speaks very directly)

.

 

If any of us ever doubted the racism of our shared system,

I hope that those doubts have now faded and we can all acknowledge that

America is a racist country, with systems and institutions

that prop up white supremacist culture.

And all of us participate in that culture.

If we are not actively opposing the forces of oppression and injustice, however we are able, then we are complicit. (End quote)

 

Will passing the adoption of another principle make our congregations better?

Not necessarily – But this will call on us to acknowledge that these sentiments

are important enough for us to lift up with our most important shared values.

Those sentiments are  spiritual wholeness, the Beloved Community,

the need to dismantle racism and other oppressions, and the need for accountability for our actions – so it’s not something we just “say” – it’s something that we “do.”

I believe that BLUU and DRUUMM and Stephanie Spencer are right –

“It is TIME.”

And when we come to that understanding of the beloved community as so eloquently shared by Maya Angelou - When we come to it
We, this people, on this wayward, floating body
Created on this earth, of this earth
Have the power to fashion for this earth
A climate where every person
Can live freely without sanctimonious piety
Without crippling fear….

When we come to it…. But only …. if we come to it.

May it be so!

Monday, June 21, 2021

Metamorphosis

 I’ve been considering metamorphosis this morning. No, not the Franz Kafka novella that we read in our literature classes.  I try NOT to think about that!  But real biological metamorphosis that many species go through.   More specifically I’ve been thinking of moths and butterflies and the wonderful process involved in their transformation from their larva state, commonly known as caterpillars.

I found these stages of the moth’s life cycle to provide a good lesson for us as our congregation begins our next stage of development. The quotes and pictures are from an article at this link:  https://www.pestwiki.com/moth-life-cycle/

The very first stage of the life cycle of a moth is the embryonic stage. This is the stage where the embryo develops inside of the egg. I envision this as the part of our history where we were just beginning, meeting in houses or other temporary places, trying to find out who we were  and what we were going to be. 

The second stage is the larva stage (commonly referred to as a caterpillar).  “When the caterpillar first hatches, before it molts and sheds, it is said to be in its first instar. It continues to go through this process as it grows.”  I envision this as what has been occurring in our congregation since we hatched out of temporary housing and became more visible and active in the community.

The third stage is the pupa stage.  “A caterpillar has the ability to spin a type of silk made out of proteins which it produces. A caterpillar spins this silk into a protective shell called the cocoon, inside of which the transformation process will occur. The purpose of the cocoon is to offer protection for the vulnerable larva while it transforms, plus it keeps everything contained.” Some think of the organism as resting during this period.  But it is not resting.  It is in a cocoon so that it can be protected as it works to transform.  I feel like this pandemic and our pulling into our shells for protection has been a time that our congregation has found new ways of being together and new ways to serve one another.  We were not growing bigger, but we were transforming.

Stage four is the adult moth or the imaginal stage!  An adult moth is technically called an “imago,” therefore making this stage of its life the imaginal stage. And here is something important to remember: “It takes quite a while for the adult moth to emerge from the cocoon, as at this time it is soft, weak, and quite fragile. Getting out of that cocoon is a difficult process. When the moth first emerges from the cocoon, it will have a severely bloated abdomen and shriveled wings, rendering it unable to fly for the first few hours of its adult life.”  Wow!  I think this is important for us to remember as we emerge from our pandemic life.  We will need to be patient with one another and know that not everyone will be ready to fly!  It will take some time and planning.  We also may be worried that we seem to be weaker than before the metamorphosis process.  But this is natural.  It takes some time for the transformation.  Indeed, we may even be smaller than that big caterpillar.  But, folks, if we do this right, we can fly!  May it be so!


 


Wednesday, June 2, 2021

The Teacher and Preacher in me Agree


In addition to being a Unitarian Universalist minister, I’m an educator, having retired from a long tenure at Georgia Southern as a Professor and former Department Chair for Curriculum, Foundations, and Reading.  In writing this letter, I’m drawing my background from both of those careers.  I am very concerned about the proclamations by many leaders regarding banning the teaching of “critical race theory” (CRT) as well as “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” (DEI) in our schools.  One high ranking state official weighed in before the Cherokee County ban with a letter to the state board of Education calling CRT a “dangerous ideology,” and encouraged them to consider banning any curriculum related to it.  This shows either a deep misunderstanding of Critical Race Theory, or a REAL attempt to keep students from using the highly valued “critical thinking skills” when thinking about “Race” or “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.”  Why would we want to discourage critical thinking about anything?

Here are some things I’d like your readers to consider when they hear about this subject.

1st:  CRT is not a curriculum.  It’s a theory.  It is complex and has evolved.  There is no simple clear definition.  It began about 40 years ago as a framework for academics to use when looking at race and racism.  I was introduced to it by my colleagues in education who had done research using this framework.  And, in fact, I realized that much of my work was connected to it as well, though I did not have the words or expertise to be able to articulate that before doing more extensive reading.  A relatively simple explanation was provided by Donna Lowry on a recent GPB podcast.  She states CRT supports an understanding that “race issues are embedded in all aspects of society, legal systems, policies.”  It also acknowledges “the legacy of slavery, the legacy of segregation on Black Americans and other people of color continue to permeate the social fabric of this nation.”  

2nd:  If my fellow white boomers and others are honest with ourselves, there are a lot of things that were “whitewashed” for us as we were growing up in the Southeast.  Like Ty Seidule, author of Robert E. Lee and Me, we were taught a version of truth about the “war between the states” and slavery that highlighted the “lost cause” mythology.  And if we had any privileges at all, we were taught that it was solely due to hard work, that everyone had an equal opportunity for success.  This, my friends, was not so, and still is not so.  After speaking along with members of the NAACP as well as many progressive white folks about the need to move away from a very biased tracking procedure in the early 90’s, a former classmate said to me, “Jane, you were brought up right here with the rest of us and still live here.  What in the world happened to you?”  I responded, “I read.”  I wish I had also said, “I learned to think critically.”  In effect, critical race theory is simply thinking critically about racism.  If we want all our young people to be successful in the 21st century, we need for them to learn critical thinking skills and certainly, to apply those skills in thinking about issues of oppression. 

3rd:  Utilizing critical race theory is the right and ethical answer to many of the problems we face today as we attempt to adapt to a changing world.  And this is where I wear my ministerial hat.  My calling as a minister is to be a voice in southeast Georgia sharing (with a deeply southern accent) the need for us to repent.  That’s right – repent.  Recognize that many of us have followed others into a world view where we do not recognize the structures that systematically oppress many folks.  We have been blinded by our own previous failures in education and by our own unwillingness to open our minds and hearts to a new way of thinking that is more inclusive and equitable for all people.  But perhaps, we can one day sing the words of that old hymn with new meaning, “I once was blind, but now I see.”  Yes, that amazing grace is available for us to all be better people, to think more critically, and love more deeply.  And then after we repent, we can move into the world and work for peace, liberty, and justice for all!  May it be so!

Thank you for this opportunity to share some of my thoughts on these issues with my fellow southerners.  I know that many may disagree with me.  I’m not asking for “a fight.”  I’m asking that we listen to one another.  Thanks for listening to me by reading this letter. I too, am listening and hoping we can build some bridges between our divisions.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Sustaining the Biodiversity of our Blue Boat Home

 


On May 5, I was privileged to do something I had never done before in my 70 plus years on this beautiful planet.  I went on a birding expedition. Greg and I were among other UUs who had purchased this opportunity in a fundraising campaign before the pandemic close-down in Spring of 2020. Of course, the event had to be postponed.  And actually, I’d forgotten all about it  But, of course, Sally Revoile, an avid birder herself and the church member offering the experience, had not.  So she rescheduled after we all were vaccinated and felt safe to get outside together for a shorebird watching experience.   Sally had arranged for Dr. Abby Sterling, a shorebird biologist to share information with us as we walked along the shore with our binoculars, pointing out sightings of not only birds – but other creatures as well.  I even found out that I could save a life that day – and I did – of a horseshoe crab that was beached on her back – but still living.  Abby showed us how we could gently pick them up and put them back in the water.  If I had known that this experience was to be sermon fodder, I would have taken notes.  But then everything that may happen in a minister’s life is sermon fodder – so be aware when you invite me to something – you may hear about it from the pulpit. 

Because I did not take notes and am unfamiliar with the various species, I asked Sally to share with me what species she experienced that morning.  Here is her list:

Killdeer

Great Blue Heron

Red Knots

Sanderlings

Ruddy Turnstones

Semipalmated plovers

Wilson’s plover - female

Dunlins

Willet

Laughing gulls

Least tern

Whimbrel

 

That little piece of beach had lots of diversity that morning. 

And, though I didn’t take notes, I do have something called the internet that I could use to go to the Manumet foundation’s site – that Abby told us about – and remind myself of things she shared with us. 

Our section of the coast is studded with barrier islands and highly dynamic inlets and estuaries that support more than 300,000 shorebirds annually. The unique curved coastline of the Georgia Bight results in large changes of water depth between low tide and high tide every day. This intertidal zone of extensive salt marshes, expansive sand and mud flats, and undisturbed areas of beach creates huge areas of potential food resources that are exposed by the receding tide.

 

Abby explained to us how our coastline is a major stopping off place for birds that migrate all the way from the artic to South America.  During periods of fall and spring migrations, Canadian and Alaskan nesting shorebirds such as the Short-billed Dowitcher, Red Knot, Semipalmated Plover, and Black-bellied Plover use our islands to rest and replenish themselves on the rich, abundant foods. The Georgia Bight is equally important for shorebirds that spend the winter here including the Great Lakes breeding population of the Piping Plover, and the American Oystercatcher. Breeding birds such as Wilson’s Plovers, and American Oystercatchers also rely on the barrier islands, shell rakes and offshore sand bars along the Georgia Bight.

 

Sadly, many of the species that rely on this important landscape are exhibiting population declines.  And that is why it’s so important for us to protect this habitat.

 

Did you know that yesterday, May 22, was the International Day for Biological Diversity, a day proclaimed by the United Nations to raise awareness about the threats to Earth’s rich biological communities. It is a time to reflect on the importance of stability in the web of life and the risks we face when a species is lost to extinction. I received an email about ten days ago  from a board member of the UU Ministry for the Earth asking UU ministers to consider honoring the biodiversity of our Web of Life on Sunday, May 23 (today).   I had already selected “Blue Boat Home” as our special music and theme for today – and thought – wow, that’s a remarkable coincidence – that I’m asked to focus on this earth and the web of life on the Sunday when I had planned to do so anyway.  Now some would say that it’s not just a coincidence.  Hmmmmm.  I’m open to that!

The email encouraging our acknowledgement of this day goes on to say:

For those of us who feel a deep spiritual kinship with the millions of species who share our Earthly home, the idea that extinction is a natural and inevitable part of evolution can be difficult to acknowledge. Though we know intellectually that life on Earth has endured a series of mass extinction events, including the Cretaceous extinction 66 million years ago that allowed mammals like us to evolve and flourish, the perishing of a species has a finality that can evoke the pain of grief. Reading about the extinction of the Passenger Pigeon in the early twentieth century whose flocks once darkened the sky or seeing the images of emaciated polar bears threatened by the disappearance of sea ice due to climate change can bring us to tears and fill our hearts with anguish. The biologist Edward O. Wilson suggests we human beings possess an innate “biophilia” – a love of life – that makes us feel a connection to the wondrous diversity of life on Earth, so it is only natural that we should feel such sorrow.

But the mass extinction event we are witnessing now was not caused by massive volcanic activity or the unfortunate collision with a meteorite. Human-caused climate change, habitat destruction, and simple indifference and wastefulness has decimated animal and plant populations and accelerated the rate of extinction far beyond natural levels. Familiar species, and species we never got to know, are disappearing forever far too soon, leaving us with a biologically and spiritually impoverished world.

And though I’m sometimes a little cynical about those ads on TV with the sad music showing those Polar Bears on those icebergs and such – I realize that the Polar Bear is just the poster child for the need to save all endangered species – because we are drawn to them and their beauty – and perhaps  they aren’t seen as dangerous to us because they eat fish. 

What we don’t see with the sad music is the disappearance of many species that may hold the cures for diseases that kill us.  I’m going to share my screen to show you a page from the National Wildlife Federation which makes this a little clearer with some examples.

SHARE PDF

 

Previous mass extinctions on our planet were caused by Natural phenomena like the meteor that hit the earth.  This time it’s caused by us.  And this time, we are not powerless. We can do something about it if we have the will. Let us grieve as we must, but then let us take action to preserve and protect the biodiversity that remains. Billions of our fellow creatures are counting on us.

What can we do? Too much for one sermon to share – but here’s a nice summary of six possibilities offered by Yale Biodiversity website:


1. Support local farms.

Regularly buying from small local farmers at stands or markets helps to keep dollars in the local economy and supports agricultural efforts to conserve biodiversity.

 

2. Save the bees! 

Bees are important to preserving biodiversity – and they are increasingly under attack from varroa mites. You can help save them by planting nectar-producing wildflowers in your backyard, or even building bee boxes for local bees to call home.

 

3. Plant local flowers, fruits and vegetables.

Research the flora, fruits and veggies native to your area, and plant a variety in your backyard or a hanging garden. To aid in this effort, support local nurseries that specialize in native species. Nurseries can be great sources of information about plant maintenance and care.

 

4. Take shorter showers!

Biodiversity depends on the abundance of local fresh water. Taking five-minute showers and turning the water off while washing your hands, doing the dishes, or brushing your teeth are all easy ways to conserve water.

 

5. Respect local habitats.

Plants growing in the parks and nature preserves near you often play an important role in preserving the local ecosystem. When you’re outdoors, protect local biodiversity by sticking to the walking path or hiking trail. Help your children and pets to do the same!

 

6.Know the source!

Check the products you buy and the companies you support to ensure that your buying habits are not contributing to destruction of habitat elsewhere. Look for labels such as FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) or Rainforest Alliance Certified.  Both organizations are committed not only to the conservation of the Earth’s resources, but also to advocating for the human rights of the native peoples who inhabit the land many products are sourced from. 

 

I’ll end with these words from the song “We are the Boat” by Pete Seeger and Lorie Wyatt

 

We are the boat, we are the sea,
I sail in you, you sail in me.

The stream sings it to the river,
The river sings it to the sea.
The sea sings it to the boat
That carries you and me.

 

The boat we are sailing in
Was built by many hands,
And the sea we are sailing on,
It touches every land.

So with our hopes we set the sails
And face the winds once more.
And with our hearts we chart
The waters never sailed before.

 

We are the boat. We are the sea.

I sail in you. You sail in me.

 

Amen – and Blessed be to Our Blue Boat Home.