Reflections of the ministers and senior staff.


Reflections of the ministers and senior staff.
3 minutes reading time (622 words)

Justice, Equity & Go Now In Peace

Justice, Equity & Go Now In Peace

This February our monthly Soul Matters theme is Justice & Equity. You’ll hear about it in Sunday sermons, small group ministry discussions, in the Religious Exploration classes for our children, and also in a Soulful Home packet for our families as parents and caregivers serve as the primary religious educators for their children.

While justice and equity are never too far from my thoughts and considerations, I find it compelling to reflect closely upon topics like this over a sustained period through a prism that contains multiple views. Though tempting, the purpose of exploring justice, equity, and other topics together is not meant for the accumulation of information. The goal is to explore and reflect upon what we’ve learned and then expand this process beyond the mere acquisition of knowledge to bring our learning into practice within our lives.

We might not initially experience our learning and exploration with heart-centered meaning. But we can challenge ourselves to notice when we might use what we’ve learned as an opportunity to address specific situations that arise.

I and others on staff -- specifically our Music Director Wendy Looker and the other ministers, have become aware of an opportunity to put our exploration and learning about justice and equity into practice as we address an issue of injustice that we, the good people of ERUUF that we all are, have been unconsciously complicit in.

We’ve learned that “Go Now In Peace,” hymn #413 in our gray hymnal, and the beloved song that we sing to our children as they depart the sanctuary for their classes on Sunday mornings, has been sung in a manner that hasn’t complied with the explicit wishes of the songwriter, Natalie Sleeth, a well-known American composer of choral music and hymns.

When the editors of our gray hymnal originally sought permission from Natalie to print her composition (written in 1976), they requested to change the lyric from “may the love of God surround you" to "may the spirit of love surround you."

Sleeth granted permission to include her hymn, but only with her original lyric, "may the love of God surround you." To sing the phrase “spirit of love” rather than "love of God" may be more comfortable and inclusive of our pluralistic faith community, but it does not comply with Ms. Sleeth’s wishes.

And though she is no longer alive, her family and heirs still retain ownership of her copyright and, we are now clearly aware that the Unitarian Universalist editors of the hymnal agreed to comply with her wishes through the inclusion of her hymn. While many of our UU congregations have chosen to sing a different song altogether, others have knowingly ignored Ms. Seeth’s request and gone against her wishes.

It is easy to spot injustices that are pronounced and clearly damaging. It is sometimes less easy to see the injustices that are unfair, unethical, or micro-aggressions. But like a steady drop of water that can wear down rock, I believe these smaller injustices eventually wear us down too and often create harm that we might not see. Perhaps we can easily justify taking or using what is not ours out of a seemingly harmless sentimentality.  But is it truly harmless? Or as I discussed with our children a week ago, is it fair?

In the coming weeks, we will try new songs on for size as we lovingly sing our children to their RE classes. Wendy and I will also offer more about this during a service in a couple of weeks, as I am away this coming Sunday.

Though it can be hard to let a beloved song go, there is also joy to be found in creating a new tradition together.

Palms together,
Rev. Jacqueline

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