Thursday, June 26, 2014

My First Unitarian Universalist General Assembly Worship Service

My last name is Gardner, it's an English name from a plantation in Tennessee. At least that is what my Dad told me. But it's not Gardner blood that runs through me, it's the blood of the slaves they owned that is mine. Of one slave, who escaped to a reservation in Oklahoma. At least that is what my Dad told me. I wept today in worship at the UU General Assembly like I have never wept before. I wept for my ancestors who didn't make it, and for the ones who persevered, who escaped, who endured, for the ones whose land was stolen away and who watched -and fought- as genocide and torture was called nation building and progress. I even think I wept for the ones who lived within an economic system whose name I now carry. I had a hard time stopping the flow of tears and emotion that overcame me. Meg Riley and the rest of the worship committee put together an incredible service that intricately, delicately, and powerfully weaved together the complexity of African American identity, the historical legacy of this place we have gathered with its historical legacy of slave trade and racial justice and UU theology. Somehow grounded in the love of UU theology they delivered a message of hope, endurance, perseverance, and wisdom without sugar coating the past. And I had a hard time stopping the weeping, I realized I have  spent so much time so angry and infuriated...I have never truly stopped to feel or even acknowledge the sheer immensity of pure saddness that is there for my ancestors, my blood family, for what they went through, and even the strength it took to overcome that - to keep hoping, keep loving, keep living despite it all. To sing songs like "I know trouble's not gonna last always," to hold on to the promise of life that we are born into. Something broke open in my heart today, it is both terrifying and freeing.

 me (not weeping) but excited and celebrating with my double flame antennae which lots of people are jealous of!

     It is, in some ways, beyond words. But this much I know, I am where I am supposed to be with the people I am supposed to be with. Because despite it all, "we are the people who hope when it doesn't make sense," because we are bringing with us the wounds from the past, our imperfections, our personal shortcomings into the call for justice. We are stumbling together and we are constantly called back into love, and somehow, some way we keep going. Make no mistake about it, I will carry my anger to my grave about the cruelty of the world systems that put people before profits, especially when its my people and people who look like us that are denied the promise of a loving, abundant life. But I know too, now that I am sad. Somehow, someway something has shifted me from within and broken me open to something new. I don't know how it's going to change me, but I know I am glad I came. I am glad I wept. I am thankful for the tears. There is power in vulnerability that I am just coming to understand. Gardner that is my name.

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Minneapolis, MN, United States