News – February 4, 2022
Dear Members and Friends,
This Sunday is the first weekend of Black History month. Our theme for worship for the next four weeks is “Reimagining Care.” Each week, in celebration of Black History month, we will be featuring music and readings from the African American, African, and global African diasporic traditions.
I will begin this month with a sermon offering a deep dive into our theme “Reimagining Care.” Rev. Scott will be preaching the following Sunday with a sermon calling us to reimagine how we care for the planet. The third Sunday of the month we’ll be celebrating the life and legacy of Malcolm X with a sermon titled “Missing Malcolm in Michigan.” Malcolm and I share the same hometown and in my sermon I’ll be reflecting on how the Lansing area has essentially erased his presence. Finally, we will be closing out the month with a sermon requested by the 2021 auction winner on “self-help books.”
Next month, we will be having a special guest in the pulpit. On March 13th, the Rev. Dr. Wilda Gafney will be offering our sermon. She is the Right Rev. Sam B. Hulsey Professor of Hebrew Bible at Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth, Texas and the author of Womanist Midrash: A Reintroduction to Women of the Torah and of the Throne and The Peoples’ Bible and The Peoples’ Companion to the Bible. She will be leading a workshop on the 12th as well. We hope that you’ll be attending what I am sure will be some very insightful and spiritually uplifting events!
In other news, this month we’ll be holding our annual auction. It will be online again and there will be many exciting offerings! I am going to offer a dinner or two as well as the opportunity to bid on a sermon topic. Please consider donating an item or an experience to the auction if you can. I hope you’ll bid as well! It is an important event that does a lot to build our community!
Finally, I wanted to address a subject that a few of you have raised with me over the last month. There has been some question about why we continue to offer two services even though, since the start of the Omicron spike, the attendance at the first service has fluctuated between 25 and 35 and the sanctuary can feel somewhat empty. There are a few different reasons why we continue to offer two services. The most important one is that our sanctuary can only fit 100 people with COVID safety measures in place. In October, November, and December, prior to the spike, we were getting as many as 120 people between the two services. If we had cut back to one service we would have to turn some of these people away. A second reason why we are sticking with two services is that our online congregation seems to largely prefer the 9:30 a.m. worship. During a typical 9:30 a.m. service about 70 people join us online. These include some of our longest-time and most-dedicated members. Finally, two services also gives us room to grow as we emerge, as I know we will, from the pandemic. It might be hard to believe at times because we are never in the same place but our Sunday morning participation has been increasing steadily throughout the pandemic. Most Sundays we now have 280 people (children and adults) engaging in our church. We anticipate that in the coming months many of those who have been with us mostly online will start to come to in-person programs. And we want to make certain that there is room for them when they do!
Prior to the pandemic I used to close my monthly minister’s columns with a bit of poetry. I thought that I should get back into that habit. So, in honor of Black History month, and in homage and appreciation of jazz, hip-hop, gospel, house, and all the power and beauty that’s the African American musical tradition, here’s a fragment from Keorapetse Kgositsile’s “For Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers”:
But the drumhead rolled my name:
How you sound is
who you are
backing back to root
roosting at the meeting place
the time that has always been here
This month we start a regular feature letting you know what Rev. Scott and I are planning for the upcoming month.
Last month, I was on study leave for most of the month, finishing work on a book manuscript about religion and populism in the United States. This month I will be in the pulpit for the first, third, and fourth Sundays of the month and supporting Rev. Scott when he leads worship on the 13th. I will also be attending the Board retreat on the 19th.
Rev. Scott will be guest preaching at the Bay Area UU Church this upcoming Sunday and will be back in the First Church pulpit the following Sunday. On February 18 he and Conrad will be attending a film screening and benefit for the Abilene Pride Alliance and Big Country AIDS Resources in west Texas.