This Sunday is the anniversary of the École Polytechnique massacre. We will remember the lives that were lost, and contemplate how to prevent future such tragedies by committing to making our shared values real in the world for everyone, not just ourselves.
Service Coordinator: Marian Siemens
Share your own candle of caring on future Sundays by emailing email@example.com before 9am Sunday morning. Be sure to let us know if you do not wish to have your candle shared with Our Caring Community Email Group.
I Can’t Keep Quiet
December 6, 2020
“I write for those women who do not speak, for those who do not have a voice because they were so terrified, because we are taught to respect fear more than ourselves. We’ve been taught that silence would save us, but it won’t.” — Audre Lorde
Hymn of the Month
43 The Morning, Noiseless
by Daniel Faria
by Mahatma Gandhi
Love Is The Spirit, words by James Vila Blake (adapted); music by P.J. Buchan
“Stories We Tell Ourselves,” Rob Malo
Candles of Caring
Spirit of Life, help us to sense that beneath us is the strength we need to keep us grounded. Help us to feel that behind us is the protection we need to feel safe facing our fears. Help us to know that before us lies the beauty we seek to feel astounded. Help us become aware of the vastness of our sky and of our spirit, and help us to know that within our hearts lies the love we need to complete the circle of connection in our lives. May we use all of our gifts to bring Love into this hurting world; this world which we so value, which we cherish.
Share the Plate Testimonial
Jim Thiessen, Sleep in Heavenly Peace
For December, as part of our Share the Plate program, our Social Justice Team has chosen the Winnipeg chapter of Sleep in Heavenly Peace as our community partner. They’re a volunteer organization that builds beds for kids who are sleeping on the floor. Please visit their website to learn more.
Our online-only format is a morally sound response by our community to the current pandemic on our planet. This also means that we are emphasizing remote giving during our offering this morning:
- Donations can now be sent via e-transfer/Interac to firstname.lastname@example.org; in the note, you MUST include your name and if your donation is for the Sunday offering, your pledge, or our capital campaign.
- You may always mail cheques to the church!
- We are also using Canada Helps to receive online donations. Go to their website to donate in this way.
Voice Still and Small, First UU Winnipeg Choir
the Reverend Meghann Robern (transcript below)
Rev. Meghann referenced the “Pyramid of Hate” in her sermon. The graphic and an explanation for how to use it can be found on page nineteen of this booklet created by the Anti-Defamation League: https://www.uft.org/sites/default/files/attachments/uft-dasa-booklet-may-2020.pdf
163 For the Earth Forever Turning
Carry the Flame sung by the First UU Winnipeg Choir
Transition to Connecting & Conversation Time
Gratitude for our staff and our lay leaders who made this service happen:
- Leaders: Rev. Meghann Robern, Rob Malo
- Coordinator: Marian Siemens, Sunday Services Team
- Zoom Tech Host: Colleen Millikin, Tech Team
- Zoom Chat Moderator: Marjorie Doyle, Tech Team
- Candles of Caring Host: Esmat Elhami, Pastoral Care Team
- Songleader Videos: PJ Buchan, Music Director and the FUUW Choir; Paul Rodermond, accompanist; Josh Robern, editor
(generated from Zoom’s automated closed captioning)
I am tired. I am so tired. I have struggled for weeks with this sermon because I am so tired, and I am angry. And it is a very thin line between the good, healthy, processed anger that fuels the drive for justice and action, and the anger that remains unprocessed that lashes out in inappropriate and unhealthy ways. And believe me emotions are not gendered.
You trust me with this pulpit space, and so I seek to hold that trust carefully and gently every time I speak to you. You also trust me as your minister to bring my whole self, my authentic self to speak with you. Not at you, especially on matters of such importance. So, I will not hold back from sharing that as a middle-aged woman, I am tired and angry. I am tired and I am angry, and I am white. I am temporarily able bodied. I am solidly middle class. And when you add in the economic privilege of my parents, I am very much upper class. So, if I am tired and angry. Imagine how exhausted and furious the women are who do not have those privileges.
Our centering thought this morning is from a woman, an honest writer, author, essayist, the fabulous black woman Audre Lorde. “I write for those women who do not speak, for those who do not have a voice because they were so terrified. Because we are taught to respect fear, more than ourselves. We have been taught that silence would save us. But it will not.”
And I want to be clear today. Yes. The big, huge incidents of violence against women that make the news are part of why I and other women feel this way. They are also one of the only times that public opinion is overwhelmingly in favor of liberation for women in favor of feminism. What makes me tired is how all of the little things that get ignored or glossed over or dismissed, the little everyday things that were taught over and over again are just a joke or didn’t matter, or – “Why are you getting so upset?”
Those are in fact the things that build up into the incidents that make the news when everyone is suddenly an unequivocal feminist. I am going to share with you something called the pyramid of hate. This image is from the anti-defamation league.
The behaviors at the bottom of the pyramid, are the things that pass in everyday life. Stereotyping, belittling jokes, non-inclusive language, insensitive remarks, the things that we just allow people to get away with. Because somehow, we have convinced ourselves that they do not lead to the next things on the pyramid when in fact they do.
Every little thing that happens down here creates the foundation for everything above it. Bullying, ridicule, name calling, dehumanization that then builds into discrimination, at every level. Then that in turn enables and allows people to accept the violence, the things that make the news until finally you get to genocide. This does not just apply to sexism. This is about ethnicity and race and, in fact, even religion. But I cannot emphasize enough that it starts down here at the things that we allow to just slip by because we do not want to rock the boat, we don’t want to make a fuss.
We do not want to be the one to cause a stink or a stir. And women do not want to have to be the one, always, always speaking up, because then that feeds into the “women are emotional”, “women cannot handle it” yada, yada, yada, because at this level our allies disappear.
This level down here of bias, micro aggression is often a term for that lower level on the pyramid of bias. Micro aggressions are often described as death by 1000 cuts.
The things that are said to you that are the little passing things. But the more they happen over the course of a day, the more debilitating they are and at the individual level. What is often lost is that micro aggressions are very harmful or devastating on the individual level, and also at the community level, because every micro aggression, that happens in the world that goes unaddressed, that goes unremarked, that does not get called out, teaches everybody else that it’s acceptable.
It teaches everybody else that those jokes at that bottom pyramid are okay, that it is normal, that it is acceptable. Everyone else in the room is then taught that they can say jokes like that too. And everybody that those jokes target now know that nobody else in that room is a safe person to be around.
Silence can be an amazing tool for contemplation. And for presence and for peace of mind and for integrating your whole body into a being that listens. And silence can also be complicity with injustice. Whenever we allow these things to pass without confronting them, we are teaching everybody else in the space that we are not going to speak up for them, nor are we going to defend them. We are enabling the behavior that rises up the pyramid to the violence that we claim to disown. Restorative justice always seeks to center the victims – always.
I do not want to give Marc and his violence any more spotlight. But I do wonder about the water he swam in during his life. What we know about how his father was an unrepentant misogynist, and how that way of looking at the world stayed with Marc, even after his father abandoned him when he was a child, I wonder about how those misogynist messages, the subtle, not actually funny jokes and digs at women that are pervasive and overwhelming in everyday life. The things that we so often just say, “Oh, it does not matter.” I wonder how all of that amplified his own idea of the story. What he told himself to rationalize his choices and his beliefs.
I wonder how the water he swam in of patriarchy and misogyny overrode any positive message that he should have learned from having a working single mother in his life, showing him how strong and capable women are. It should not have been just up to her. She should have been surrounded by people who were willing to name it. To claim it. “You cannot treat women this way, you cannot talk about them this way, you cannot think of them like this.” How often were the misogynistic patriarchal jokes allowed to rest in Marc’s head?
I also think about all of the men that Marc separated from the women and put out of the room. I think about how scared they must have been, I think about how when we are in the moment when our life, when our body is at stake, that that’s the point where it’s come too far. It’s very easy after the fact for people to say, “Oh, those men should have done something but there was a man with a gun in the room. ”
When I think about this I think about when the Occupy protests were happening in the United States and I was attending a class in a seminar and I had just found out that I was pregnant with a baby that medical science could not explain and told me should not exist.
And the bus I was on got caught in the protests and was grounded.
And I had a choice to either go out and join the protest, which was experiencing gassing and rubber bullets and all sorts of physical harm or stay on the bus, where I was safe.
I hope I have expressed to you all over the years that I have a commitment to justice and showing up, and I will be honest with you, I stayed on that bus.
We cannot fault anybody for decisions made in the moment when your life, your entire life is threatened. And so, I asked, what do we do before the gunman is in the room?
How do we get off the bus before the need for the protest has occurred?
How do we stop it before it gets to that point?
If everybody had worked beforehand to break down the micro aggressions and the bigotry and racism in the culture, what if we had stopped it before the gun got into his hand and he got in the room?
That is what it means to be an ally.
I want to share some lines from my colleague the Reverend Mary Edes, it is in a larger piece that she calls Unitarian Universalist confession, which I know is causing some of you to raise your hackles right now. I would ask you to just listen and receive.
“We are quick to proclaim our faith, but slow to live the teachings of that faith as it has been handed down to us across every generation from prophets, preachers, and sages, scientists, historians, and poets, great thinkers of every age from ordinary people who would have us understand what it is to be and what it is to love the neighbor.
We are quick to ignore or smooth over broken places among us too fearful to work for peace and healing.
We are quick to share our knowledge but slow to temper that knowledge with the love and wisdom that leads us always closer to the truth.
In small and large ways, we are overwhelmed by all we cannot do.”
I am often overwhelmed by all that I cannot do. And yet, over and over again being part of this community, I am reminded of what we can do together in partnership.
To give you an example of what breaking it down before it happens: when I was in seminary, I was required to take a class called systematic theology and one of the things that you do in that class is you go through all the current schools of theological thought, one of which is feminist theology. The professor teaching it is a man.
And on the day we were covering feminist theology, everybody walked into the class. And he said, “Okay, everyone who is not a woman, including me, is going to sit down and be quiet for the first half of class”, which was an hour and a half. “You are going to sit, you’re going to be quiet and we are going to listen to all the people who aren’t men in the room, talk about feminist theology.”
So here is somebody in a position of power, in a position of authority, making it clear to everybody else in the room that now is the time to center the other perspective, the other voices, and to listen. The expert, the one who supposedly is supposed to be teaching us the material has said, “well actually the women are the ones who are going to teach you about feminist theology.”
And so many of my male classmates came out of that class, absolutely shocked at things that they had never heard. They had never heard about how women had been treated in ministry, about how they had been treated in their congregations. Because no women in their lives had ever felt safe enough to share it with them.
When this congregation was in search, the search committee put together a packet of information for potential ministers to look at one of the pages was the history of the congregation. The very first sentence of the page on the congregation’s history was when this congregation was founded in the late 1800s.
You could not be a member of this congregation, the original Icelandic congregation, if you did not affirm a woman’s right to vote. That was the very first thing that this congregation wanted potential ministers to know about its history. You better believe that caught my eye. I am the seventh minister who was a woman in a row in this congregation counting settled and interims. That is a very impressive statistic! Going all the way back to its founding, the women in this congregation, the lay leaders have been amazing champions of women’s rights, it is in our DNA.
I could spend hours, sharing with you stories that my colleagues have experienced in their own congregations that love them and appreciate them and have called them and yet still treat them with incredible sexism, I have lost count of the number of my colleagues who constantly get asked, “Did you write that sermon yourself”?
Yeah, one of the most powerful moments for me was when (I’m actually going to call you out, Steve). So, Steve Lennon who is on our worship team, had read an article in the local newspaper about misogyny and patriarchy and the struggles of women and came to me and said, “I’ve written a thing about this that I would like to share with the congregation”.
And I read it – it was Steve telling the people of our congregation, telling the people in our community that men need to be more willing to speak up. That men need to be more willing to break down these things and not let these things pass in that lower base of the pyramid. And beloveds, when I read it, I teared up. Not just because Steve is an excellent writer, which he is. But it was such a relief. It was a sense of, I do not have to always be the one speaking up as a woman. I do not always have to be the one fighting the fight and calling people in. Here is somebody who gets it and who is making the effort and using their privilege to be an ally.
And that is just one example like Dr. Clayton, like Steve, how, how are we using our awareness. And I want to say we are talking about women specifically but for all of us, it applies to places where we are privileged, and others are not.
Right. How can we who are white, make sure that we are speaking up and calling out racism and bias against ethnicity, how can those of us who are temporarily able bodied be doing the same for our disabled members and friends. Each of us is privileged in some way. The ways that we break down the gender binaries and assumptions also spread out to our beloveds who are trans and nonbinary, and those of us who are breaking down assumptions about gender appearance and gender identity. I do not shave my head anymore but for years it was definitely an experiment around how people saw women who shave their heads.
What I’m hoping for, for the next 30 years that and asks of us is that we take the moments we take the little pieces of power that we have and use it to make sure that we don’t have to have future visuals that we don’t have to have future moments where we are mourning and writing songs that we remember from the past, to help us make the smaller decisions in our everyday interacting. That when something niggles at us in a conversation or a meeting we say, Hey, I love you and I recognize that you’re a person and also let’s talk about how maybe that was not a nice thing to say.
These things can be done with love and with caring. And that is how we prevent them from becoming the violent crimes that create huge wounds in our communities.
Going back to the words of my colleague, the Reverend Mary Edes,”for all the times we fail to affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person. When we do not affirm and promote the goal of a world community with peace, liberty and justice for all. When we live as though interdependence were a personal choice, and not a fact of our existence. We ask forgiveness of one another.”
And we vow to begin again. In this, and every moment. It is hard out there. All of us, slip up sometimes, all of us are so tired in that one moment we do not want to have the discussion. It has happened to me more than once.
But I know a lot of congregations. I know a lot of Unitarian Universalist congregations. And I cannot think of a better congregation to be doing this work with, than you all. We can do this together.
May it be so because we make it so, by loving each other, supporting each other, and remembering that we are all connected.
And that sometimes we have to speak up for somebody else because they’re so tired from fighting the battle that they don’t have anything left to fight it themselves.
May it be so.