Tuesday, June 28, 2011

My General Assembly Testimony

Introduction: A couple of days before I was to arrived in Charlotte for some ministerial training, I received a special “late request” from Annette Marquis, our district executive. She and other district executives in the Southland Region were scheduled to do a program on Friday afternoon entitled, “Turn the World Around -- the South can Lead Us!” And she said that since they need to “liven it up some” they were asking a few others to share a song or story or something. I told her I would share my “testimony” – with a humorous bend to it. If you came to my sermon on laughter, you’ll recognize some of this.

I was born in Statesboro, Georgia in 1950. (Go ahead – do the math.) And like many of you – I was born with a questioning mind. Now that could sometimes be problematic for a girl back then in the South – but question I did. I remember when I was 5 or 6, standing in the line at the Dairy Queen with my dad, waiting to get a cone. I asked (in the language of the day),“Daddy, why are all of the white people in our line and all of the colored people in the other line?”

Daddy explained it this way, “Well, Jane – we are white – so we stand in this line to get vanilla ice cream. And the colored folks stand in the other line to get chocolate ice cream.” Of course, I immediately told him that I wanted chocolate. And he said, “No, you are white, so you get vanilla. That’s just the way it is and you have to accept it." Well, I didn’t realize that vanilla was the only flavor served at Dairy Queen. (That was even in the days before dipped cones.) But his unusual answer stuck with me. And it has served as a metaphor for what happened in my life. Indeed, I TRIED to just accept some things that didn’t make sense to me – because that was “the way it is.”

But I still couldn’t help questioning some things. When I was 11 0r 12, I became dissatisfied with the responses to my questions given by my Baptist Sunday School teachers. So I decided to take matters into my own hands and read the whole Bible for myself. (Okay – I skimmed over the “begats.”) And a lot of what I had been taught about the Bible just didn’t jive with what all I was reading. Plus – while the Bible has some really good stories – there’s some strange stuff in there! And that idea of liberal interpretation and biblical authority just didn’t fit into my heretical brain.

However, I closeted my doubts and disbeliefs enough to get along okay then -- and later—when in my 20’s and 30’s—enough so I wasn’t too far out of line as a deacon’s wife. But I kept reading (all kinds of materials) and had this alternative religious life that was going on in the “holy of holies” in our home –behind the locked bathroom door. There I kept my contraband reading materials in that most sacred of places – hidden in the drawer under the feminine sanitary supplies. I did not hear about Unitarian Universalism till I was in my 40’s – and I heard about you folks from a TV program on a cable channel and thought, “WOW – there are others out there!” So I ordered some UU materials –hoping they would come in a plain brown wrapper. In any case, I kept those with my other contraband reading materials, in the holy of holies – glad to have that study time alone, but longing to be with others.

Long story short though --- through a series of fortunate events in my late 40’s; I finally had the freedom to be me. And I became a Unitarian Universalist!! Hallelujah!

Of course, some of my relatives were worried about me – and one asked, "But are UU's saved? To which I responded, "We are not LOST - we're exploring." Of course, that’s a UU joke – and I’ve found that there can be a lot of truth found in these jokes. And in fact, they may be a good way of evangelizing .

We could put an ad in the paper to help folks find out if they are UUs…kind of like the guy – Jeff Foxworthy, who helped folks understand whether or not they were red-necks. For example,
If you are unsure about the gender of God,
You might be a Unitarian Universalist.
If you begin your prayers with "To whom it may concern,"
You might be a Unitarian Universalist.
If you gave up pot in the 70's because no one could guarantee it was organic,
You might be a Unitarian Universalist.
If your teens rebel by becoming more conservative,
You might be a Unitarian Universalist.
If you get Newt Gingrich confused with the Grinch who Stole Christmas,
You might be a Unitarian Universalist.
If you've ever been in an argument
over whether or not breast milk is vegan,
You might be a Unitarian Universalist.
AND -If your children think the holy trinity is "Reduce, reuse, and recycle."
You might be a Unitarian Universalist.

Yes, our children get a different view of things than those in more conservative religions. An older neighbor, trying to be helpful, said to a little UU girl, "I know you're sad, but right now your kitty cat is with Jesus."

To which the child replied, "What would Jesus want with a dead cat?"

Well, I don’t know what Jesus might want with a dead cat – but I do know that my friend Jesus said that we should not hide our lights under a bush, we should let them shine.

And for UUs in the South – (and you Yankees too) – that means we need to come on out – and reach out to others who are perhaps hiding behind locked bathroom doors – they are there folks – and invite them into our circle of loving light – and together we will SHINE!

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