I wrote a nice post today. I used all the right words, I made all the platitudes, I sent my apologies, used all the neutral PC language and posted it. I didn’t link it to facebook because I wanted to get feedback before I let it go public. As the evening went on, I became more and more unhappy with the post. In fact, when I reread the post there was only one line that I thought was appropriate.
“The attack on the worshipers at the Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) violates every principle of Unitarian Universalism.”
The problem is I don’t know what else to say. I want to apologize for the media that worked to call this anything but what it was, I want to apologize for the politicians turning this into a side show, I want to apologize for all the white people who don’t see white privilege… and most of all I want to apologize for the system that I live in that make racially based acts of terror and violence against human beings okay. But apologies are easy, and they just don’t seem appropriate, at least they don’t change anything.
We send our love to Emmanuel AME Church…
The Annual Meeting of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Jackson shall be held on March 29, 2015 at 12:30 pm in the Sanctuary. At this meeting, the voting members of the congregation shall conduct the business of the Church, including:
- Consideration of New Bylaws (see below)
- Electing Officers and Committee/Council Members
- Adopting a Budget for the year and/or transitional period.
- Transacting other business as properly presented.
The Nominations Committee will present a slate of officers for the Board and Committee/Council. Additional nominations will be taken from the floor.
All members and friends are welcome to attend and to participate in any discussions of the items described above; however, only voting members will have an opportunity to vote. Please note, voting members must be present to participate as our Bylaws do not allow voting by proxy.
The following Bylaws, drafted and edited by the Bylaws Taskforce, have been approved by the Board for consideration of adoption by the voting membership of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Jackson.
THE UNITARIAN UNIVERSALIST CHURCH OF JACKSON ● BYLAWS
ARTICLE I: NAME and AFFILIATION
Section 1. Name: The name of this religious community shall be the Unitarian Universalist Church of Jackson (UUCJ), which was originally founded as a fellowship on September 7, 1951.
Section 2. Affiliation: The UUCJ shall be a member in good standing of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations (UUA) and the associated Region and District.
ARTICLE II: PURPOSES, MISSION, and VISION
Section 1. Purposes: The UUCJ shall devote its resources to and exercise its corporate powers for religious, educational, and humanitarian purposes. The purpose of the UUCJ is to serve the needs of its members and community, to promote the health of our and other affiliated congregations, and to extend and strengthen Unitarian Universalism and its principles.
Section 2. Mission: The UUCJ is a welcoming liberal religious community dedicated to exploring our beliefs, living our values, and changing our world.
Section 3. Vision: The UUCJ has a vision of free, just, and compassionate communities that respect diversity among people and our environment, cultivate reason and meaning through progressive fellowship, and nurture families and neighborhoods in our city, state, and world.
ARTICLE III: PRINCIPLES, INCLUSION, and FREEDOM OF BELIEF
Section 1. Principles: The UUCJ covenants to affirm and promote the principles of the UUA and the living tradition we share drawing from many sources.
Section 2. Inclusion: The UUCJ welcomes, affirms, and promotes the inclusion and full participation of persons in all of its activities and endeavors without regard to race, color, ability, age, sex, affectional or sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin, or socioeconomic status.
Section 3. Freedom of Belief: The UUCJ supports individual religious, ethical, intellectual, and emotional expression and growth in an atmosphere of tolerance and respect. Nothing herein shall be deemed to infringe upon the individual freedom of belief inherent in the Unitarian Universalist tradition or to be used as a creedal test.
ARTICLE IV: MEMBERSHIP
Section 1. Eligibility for Membership: Any person who expresses sympathy with the purposes, mission, and vision of the UUCJ may become a member in good standing by (a) completing a membership process, including a Stepping Stones, Coming of Age, or Transfer process, (b) demonstrating an understanding of these Bylaws, (c) abiding by the UUCJ Behavioral Covenant, (c) supporting the UUCJ with an annual contribution of Time-Talent-Treasure, and (d) signing the Membership Book. Members in good standing will have all the duties and privileges of membership including the privilege of voting in congregational meetings and serving in member-only leadership positions.
Section 2. Categories of Membership: The description of membership categories shall be as follows:
- Active Membership: An Active Member is a member in good standing who has fulfilled all of the eligibility requirements and who is eligible to vote in congregational meetings.
- Stepping Stones Membership: A Stepping Stones Member is any person who has expressed sympathy with the purposes, mission, and vision of the UUCJ and is in the process of fulfilling the eligibility requirements for Active Membership through the Stepping Stones process.
- YUUth Membership: A YUUth Member is any person less than the age of majority who has expressed sympathy with the purposes, mission, and vision of the UUCJ and is in the process of fulfilling the eligibility requirements for Active Membership through the Coming of Age process.
- Honorary Membership: An Honorary Member is any person who has previously been an Active Member and who by reason of age, infirmity, or distance is unable to maintain Active Membership but wishes to retain formal affiliation with the UUCJ. Honorary Members are not considered in the calculation for establishing quorum for any Biannual or Special Meeting nor are they eligible to vote in any Biannual or Special Meeting. Honorary Members do retain other privileges of membership, including access to shared resources and ceremonial rites.
The requirements for each membership category shall be specified in the Policies and Procedures Manual of the UUCJ.
Section 3: Discontinuation of Membership: A member may be removed from membership according to procedures specified in the Policies and Procedures Manual of the UUCJ in cases of (a) death; (b) inactivity; (c) request by the member; or (d) a vote for removal by the Board of Trustees for violation of the UUCJ Behavioral Covenant.
ARTICLE V: MEETINGS
Section 1: Congregational Meetings: The UUCJ shall have regular congregational meetings to conduct business properly presented before it and to discuss matters of interest
- Biannual Meetings: The UUCJ shall hold two biannual meetings of the membership at a time and place as the Board of Trustees shall designate. At the Spring Biannual meeting, the congregation shall (a) elect officers for the Board of Trustees and members of teams or taskforces requiring election and (b) other business including any proposed Bylaws revisions. At the Fall Biannual meeting, the congregation shall (a) adopt a proposed budget for the ensuing fiscal year and (b) other business including congregational votes on matters to be presented at the UUA General Assembly.
- Special Meetings: Special Congregational Meetings may be called by the Board of Trustees at its discretion or upon written petition of ten percent (10%) of the members in good standing. The business to be transacted at such special meeting shall be specified in the written petition, if applicable, and the notice of the meeting provided to members in good standing at least fourteen (14) days prior to the meeting. Any business not included in the notice may be discussed but not voted on during a special meeting.
- Town Hall Meetings: Town Hall Meetings may be called by the Board of Trustees at its discretion to discuss matters of interest to the congregation and to report on congregational activities. No business shall be transacted during a Town Hall Meeting.
Section 2: Quorum for Congregational Meetings: A quorum of 30% of the Active Members in good standing must be established for a Biannual or Special Meeting.
Section 3: Voting for Congregational Meetings: All votes shall be approved or disapproved by a simple majority of votes cast, except for votes taken relating to the calling of a Minister as described in these Bylaws. No member may vote by absentee ballot, by proxy, or by attorney.
ARTICLE VI: BOARD OF TRUSTEES
Section 1: Responsibilities and Powers: The Board of Trustees (Board) shall conduct the business affairs of the UUCJ and, subject to these Bylaws, carry out actions necessary for the effective operation of the UUCJ as specified in the Policies and Procedures Manual of the UUCJ. All records of the Officers and Trustees of the Board created in the commission of their duties shall be the property of UUCJ.
Section 2: Composition of the Board: The Board shall consist of five officers-a President, President-Elect, Past President, Secretary, and Treasurer-and two Trustees who must all be members in good standing. All Ministers shall serve as ex-officio members of the Board.
- President: The President shall preside at all congregational and Board meetings and shall represent the UUCJ on appropriate occasions. The President shall be an ex-officio member of all ministry teams except those limited to non-Board members.
- President-Elect: The President-Elect shall assume the duties of the President in the absence of or at the request of the President and shall serve as the Co-Chair of the Ministry Council.
- Past President: The Past President shall serve to maintain continuity across the years and is responsible for Leadership Development.
- Treasurer: The Treasurer shall maintain the permanent financial records of UUCJ, including a record of all assets, including money and property, and expenditures, and prepare financial reports for the UUCJ.
- Secretary: The Secretary shall maintain all non-financial records of UUCJ, including the records for all business and meetings, the church calendar, and the official list of members in good standing. The Secretary also informs the congregation of all meetings and decision made by the Board.
- Trustees: Two Trustees shall serve as liaisons to the Board for members and friends of the congregation as well as assigned Ministry Teams and affiliated groups.
Section 3: Term Length and Limits of the Board: The President-Elect, President, and Past President shall serve for a one-year term per position (in a rotation for a total of three years). The Treasurer, Secretary, and Trustees each serve for a two-year term. In odd numbered years, a President-Elect, Treasurer, and first Trustee shall be elected. In even numbered years, a President-Elect, Secretary, and second Trustee shall be elected.
A person may serve for a maximum of two consecutive terms as Treasurer, Secretary, or Trustee. A person who has served as President-Elect/President/Past President must have at least one year lapse before being eligible to serve again as the President-Elect. A person may serve in any positions on the Board for a maximum total of six consecutive years.
Section 4: Vacancies: If a vacancy on the Board, a Ministry Team, a Council, or a Taskforce occurs due to resignation, death, or inability to serve, the President, with affirmation of the Board, shall appoint a person to serve until the next Biannual Meeting, if scheduled within ninety days, or a Special Meeting called to fill the vacancy. If the President resigns, dies, or is unable to serve, the President-Elect shall assume the duties of the President and, with affirmation of the Board, appoint a person to serve as President-Elect until the next Biannual Meeting, if scheduled within ninety days, or a Special Meeting called to fill the vacancy.
Section 5: Removal from Office: A Officer or Trustee may be removed from the Board by a 2/3rds vote of all other Board members for the following reasons:
- Missing three consecutive meetings without just cause;
- Gross misconduct or abuse of office;
- Failing to maintain status as a member in good standing; or
- Inability or failing to fulfill responsibilities of the Board and/or the elected position.
Section 6: Meetings: The Board shall meet at a regularly scheduled time and place at least six times per year. In addition, a special Board meeting may be called by the President or two other Officers/Trustees. A quorum, consisting of a simple majority of the Officers/Trustees of the Board, must be present for the Board to transact business. All Board meetings are open to members and friends, except when called into Executive Session to discuss topics requiring confidentiality, such as discussions of salaries, contributions, or violations of the Behavioral Covenant. Ministers serving as ex-officio members on the Board shall participate in Executive Sessions except during discussions of the salary, tenure, or conduct of ministers.
ARTICLE VII: MINISTRY COUNCIL, MINISTRY TEAMS, ADVISORY COUNCILS, TASKFORCES, and AFFILIATED GROUPS
Section 1: Ministry Council: The Ministry Council shall plan and organize the ministries of the UUCJ and, subject to these Bylaws, carry out actions necessary for the effective operation of the UUCJ as specified in the Policies and Procedures Manual of the UUCJ. The Ministry Council shall be co-chaired by the President-Elect and the Minister of UUCJ. The Ministry Council shall be comprised of all of the (co-)leaders of the Ministry Teams. The Ministry Council will meet at least four times annually to plan and schedule the ministries of UUCJ.
Section 2: Ministry Teams: Ministry Teams are the active groups in which members and friends join to support and fulfill the mission of the UUCJ. Ministry Teams are established by the Board and set in the UUCJ Policy and Procedures Manual describing the authority and responsibilities of each Team. Ministry Team (co-)leaders shall be appointed by the Board and assigned responsibility for leading Team meetings, ensuring collective decision-making, and approving expenditures according to the approved budget. Ministry Team membership shall be open to all members and friends of the UUCJ. Members and friends may select a Ministry Team on which to serve a one-year term as part of their annual Time-Talent-Treasure pledge. A person may serve on a Ministry Team for an unlimited number of terms unless removed or temporarily suspended by a majority vote of the Board for gross misconduct or abuse of office, failing to abide by the UUCJ Behavioral Covenant, or an inability or failing to fulfill the responsibilities of the Ministry Team.
Ministry Teams include the following:
- Welcoming Community Team: This Team is responsible for greeting guests, hospitality, welcoming new members and friends, social activities, and remembrance of members;
- Exploring Beliefs Team: This Team is responsible for lifespan religious education, affinity groups, and Sunday programs.
- Living Our Values Team: This Team is responsible for caring for members and friends in need, promoting responsible and open communication in our congregation, ethical practices in our congregation, and ecological stewardship of our facilities and grounds.
- Changing Our World Team: This Team is responsible for promoting social justice in our world, organizing social action events for members and friends, and collaborating in interfaith and allied action.
Each Ministry Team must report its activities, expenditures, and needs to the Board at least once per quarter and in preparation of the Biannual Meetings.
Section 3: Advisory Councils: Advisory Councils may be formed by the Board with elected or appointed members to promote the healthy functioning of the UUCJ, including the following:
- CALM Council: The CALM Council shall consist of at least three members in good standing who are not Officers/Trustees of the Board. The CALM Council members shall be elected annually by the congregation at the Spring Biannual Meeting. The purpose of the CALM Council is to support a healthy and safe church community by providing guidance in situations involving interpersonal conflict between members, friends, and/or groups and allegations of violations of the UUCJ Behavioral Covenant. The responsibilities and procedures of the CALM Council shall be set in the UUCJ Policy and Procedures Manual.
- Leadership Development Council: The Leadership Development Council shall consist of the Past President and three members in good standing who are not Officers/Trustees of the Board. The Leadership Development Council members shall be elected for staggered three-year terms, with a new member elected each year, by the congregation at the Spring Biannual Meeting. The Past President shall be the chair of the Leadership Development Council. The purpose of the Leadership Development Council is to support the development of quality leadership within the UUCJ and to provide a slate of candidates to fill all elected positions in accordance with these Bylaws and the UUCJ Policies and Procedures Manual. The responsibilities and procedures of the Leadership Development Council shall be set in the UUCJ Policy and Procedures Manual.
- Ministerial Relations Council: The Ministerial Relations Council shall consist of three members in good standing who are not Officers/Trustees of the Board. Two Ministerial Relations Council members shall be appointed by the President, with the affirmation of the Board, for rotating two-year terms, and one Ministerial Relations Council member shall be appointed by the Minister annually. The purpose of the Ministerial Relations Council is to recognize and nurture the needs of the minister and to maintain a channel of communication between the minister and the congregation. The Ministerial Relations Council shall conduct an annual evaluation of the minister-congregation relationship for promoting the mission and ministry of the UUCJ. In addition the Ministerial Relations Council shall conduct an annual review of the minister’s job description, contract terms, and covenant with the minister and recommend revisions as needed, including appropriate compensation, to the Board. The responsibilities and procedures of the Ministerial Relations Council shall be set in the UUCJ Policy and Procedures Manual.
- Personnel Council: The Personnel Council shall be comprised of the Officers of the Board. The purpose of the Personnel Council is to hire, terminate, and provide direct supervision and accountability for any professional and support staff. The Personnel Council shall be responsible for developing and revising (a) a description of the duties and responsibilities and (b) the contract terms, including appropriate compensation, for each staff position. In addition, the Personnel Council shall regularly evaluate the performance of each staff person. The responsibilities and procedures of the Personnel Council shall be set in the UUCJ Policy and Procedures Manual.
Each Council must report its activities, expenditures, and needs to the Board at least once per quarter and in preparation of the Biannual Meetings.
Section 4: Taskforce: The Board may form an ad hoc Taskforce, as needed, to undertake specific tasks for a limited time period. The Taskforce will be dissolved as soon as the assigned tasks have been completed successfully or until dissolved by the Board. Each Taskforce must report its activities, expenditures, and needs to the Board at least once per quarter and in preparation of the Biannual Meetings. A final report of the Taskforce should be presented to the Board within thirty days of dissolution of the Taskforce.
Section 5: Affiliated Groups: The UUCJ welcomes affiliated groups who abide by the Principles and Policies of the UUA and the UUCJ. The procedures for becoming an affiliated group shall be set in the UUCJ Policy and Procedures Manual. The Board may dissolve the relationship between the UUCJ and an affiliated group for good cause.
ARTICLE VIII: MINISTERS
Section 1: Ministers: The UUCJ holds the right to ordain, install, commission, or contract with a Minister(s), in accordance with UUA guidelines. The duties, other conditions of employment, and compensation of the Minister(s) shall be as prescribed by the Board, agreed to by the Minister(s) in writing, and approved by the congregation. The contract shall specify responsibilities and privileges of the Minister, compensation, and accountability of the Minister to the Congregation.
The Minister(s) shall serve as the religious and spiritual leader(s) of the UUCJ in keeping with the purpose, principles, mission, and vision of the UUCJ. The Minister(s) shall be guaranteed freedom of the pulpit. The Minister(s) shall serve as an ex officio and non-voting member of the Board and as the Co-Chair, with the President-Elect, of the Ministries Council.
Section 2: Types of Ministry: The UUCJ may select professional or lay ministry using one or more of the following methods:
- Settled Minister: A Settled Minister may be installed upon a recommendation of a Ministerial Search Committee appointed by the Board and an affirmative vote by a secret ballot of two-thirds of the members in good standing present during a Biannual or Special Meeting called for this purpose. A Settled Minister may hold an indefinite tenure unless terminated
- Consulting Minister: A Consulting Minister may be contracted with on an annual basis according to UUA guidelines upon a recommendation of a Ministerial Search Committee appointed by the Board and an affirmative vote by a majority of the members in good standing present during a Biannual or Special Meeting called for this purpose. The Consulting Minister shall serve the congregation for specified consulting purposes, with terms and conditions specified in a written contract and approved by a majority vote of the Board. Renewal of a contract with a Consulting Minister shall require (a) review and, as needed, revision of the contract in negotiation with the Board and Ministerial Relations Council, (b) approval by the Board, and (c) affirmation by the congregation at the next Biannual Meeting.
- Lay Minister: A Lay Minister may be contracted with on an annual basis upon a recommendation of a Ministerial Search Committee appointed by the Board and an affirmative vote by a majority of the members in good standing present during a Biannual or Special Meeting called for this purpose. The Lay Minister shall serve the congregation according to terms and conditions specified in a written contract approved by a majority vote of the Board. Renewal of a contract with a Lay Minister shall require (a) review and, as needed, revision of the contract in negotiation with the Board and Ministerial Relations Council, (b) approval by the Board, and (c) affirmation by the congregation at the next Biannual Meeting.
Section 3: Termination of a Minister’s Service: The services of a Minister may be terminated under the following conditions: (a) the Minister gives three months written notice to the Secretary of the congregation or (b) the Minister is dismissed by a congregation vote of written ballot of two-thirds of the members in good standing present during a Biannual or Special Meeting called for that purpose.
In the event the congregation votes to terminate the services of a minister, the congregation shall provide termination compensation as specified in the contract, and the Board shall have the discretion to discontinue all or any portion of the duties required of the Minister.
ARTICLE IX: FINANCIAL ADMINISTRATION
Section 1: Fiscal Year: The fiscal year of the UUCJ shall be from January 1st to December 31st of each year.
Section 2: Board Review: The Board has a fiduciary responsibility to oversee the finances of the UUCJ. The financial records of the UUCJ must be kept on paper or electronic records that are accessible for inspection at any time by the Board. The Board shall ensure (a) timely processing of donations and pledges, (b) regular reviews of statements of assets and expenses provided by the Treasurer at scheduled meetings, and (c) annual reviews the financial records by an Officer/Trustee of the Board other than the Treasurer. The President, with affirmation from the Board, may call for an audit of the financial records at any time.
Section 3: Official Signatures: If required, only Officers of the Board … may sign and attest deeds, mortgages, contracts, and other documents to which the UUCJ is a party.
Section 4: Special Donations: Special monetary donations will be allocated to a special fund set aside for the purpose for which the monies were collected or donated. Special nonmonetary donations given for any specific purpose, shall be put to use at the discretion of the Board with strong consideration to the wishes of the donor or person being honored and/or any surviving family member.
Section 5: Professional and Support Staff: The Board at its discretion may hire professional and support staff to meet the needs of the UUCJ provided the congregation approves funds for the position. All non-ministerial staff shall be under the responsibility of the Personnel Council. …
ARTICLE X: DISPOSITION OF CHURCH PROPERTY
In the case of the dissolution of this church or its failure to maintain affiliation with the UUA, or its successors, all its property, real or personal, subject to all legal claims upon it, shall vest in the UUA or its successor, for the benefit of a future Unitarian Universalist Church or fellowship in this vicinity or for the furthering of Unitarian Universalism in some other way. Except as otherwise provided for in these Bylaws, real or personal property may only be sold or otherwise disposed of by a two-thirds vote of a congregational meeting called for that purpose. Property may not be disposed of in anticipation of dissolution or disaffiliation.
ARTICLE XI: PARLIAMENTARY AUTHORITY
The UUCJ shall conduct meetings in accordance with the Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised except in instances where these rules are in conflict with these Bylaws.
ARTICLE XII: BY LAW REVIEW AND AMENDMENT
These Bylaws shall be reviewed biannually by the Board. The Board recommend or may appoint a Taskforce to recommend amendments to the congregation. These Bylaws may be amended at any Biannual or Special Congregational Meeting by a two-thirds vote provided the proposed changes shall have been issued to all members in good standing at least thirty days in advance of the meeting.
Adopted by the Congregation
March 29, 1964
Amended by the Congregation
April 2, 1978 ● July 16, 1978
March 24, 1986
March 24, 1991 ● July 14, 1991 ● March 21, 1999 ● June 27, 1999
January 16, 2000 ● June 24, 2001 ● March 7, 2004 ● March 30, 2008
Akhilanda, so broken she cannot hold fear—
crocodile-rider, brave balancer who stays steady
even as the beast snaps and whirls, drawing
prey underwater faster than undertow.
Teach us the lessons of the center that cannot hold,
of long nights spent on the floor in the dark,
of the change that spurs growth, of the sacred
wounding that leaves us fractured, faceted:
whirling and luminous with inner light.
Deirdra Harris Glover, 2015
I’m passing this along as it gives thought to whom visited this historic Jesus and provides a light touch as well. Magic folks who might be gay—and for what reason? HA! How cute. The Rev. Dr. Nancy Wilson, who wrote the book quoted in this article was my mentor in ministry and my greatest ally. She is now the moderator the Metropolitan Community Churches, of which denomination I am ordained. In the 80s, she and I founded an organization that reached out to the LGBT community who were poor, street or prison bound, or in extreme need of a message of hope in Los Angeles CA. (Jim Becker)
The Magi—A Different Perspective
Yesterday was Epiphany, the celebration of a star leading the Magi (wise outsiders) to the place where they could worship Jesus and offer their gifts. As I observed in yesterday’s Liberating Word, the gifts of “outsiders” haven’t always been recognized and welcomed by “insiders.”
Historically, the white majority has had a hard time recognizing the gifts people of color offer. Americans whose families have been in this country only a generation or two seem to resent the possibility that new immigrants come bearing many gifts that our nation needs.
Traditional manger scenes show the baby Jesus surrounded by Joseph, Mary, shepherds, and Magi, but scholars tell us the Magi probably didn’t arrive until sometime after Christmas. The word “magi” is from where we get the word “magic.” These visitors from the East were priests, astrologers, seers, and healers. They were the workers of mystery, high ranking officials in the royal court of Persia. Despite the popular Christmas carol, they probably were not “kings,” but served much the same role as shamans did for Native Americans.
Rev. Nancy Wilson, in her book Our Tribe, suggests that the magi were likely eunuchs. In that day, of course, many eunuchs were slaves who had been castrated by their captors. However, slaves seldom rose to such high positions. Jesus taught that there were people who were “born eunuchs.” Since being born sterile is a rare birth defect, it is possible Jesus was talking about lesbian and gay people who do not marry and reproduce, at least not like most of the population. One reason Rev. Wilson suggests that these Magi were probably gay is because, well, although they were in a hurry to see the One born to be the messiah, they still took time to shop before leaving.
Although we cannot prove the magi were gay, there are some indications that this is possible, while there is no evidence that they were heterosexual. Think of the implications if we had been taught the story this way when we were kids. Not only were people of color among the first to worship Jesus, but the lesbian and gay community was represented there, too. Far from being excluded from the realm of God, “outsiders” were included from the beginning. Far from being interlopers begging for the leftovers from the table of the church, they were there long before there even was a church.
If we could first read the story this way, maybe we could change the way we write the stories of who has gifts to offer today.
Blessings, Rev. Michael Piazza, The Center for Progressive Renewal
Like many others, I tend to use my Twitter and Facebook feed as a central news gathering system. I am connected to many news programs, articles, and posts that will reach me quicker than any evening news program. One of the first posts I read tonight after going out with my family said simply, “No Indictment.” The post had no punctuation and emoticons to tell me the feelings behind the statement, It was simply a statement. I am left only to read into his text my own understanding. His statement was simple, and it said everything I needed it to. I already knew the background, I had heard the perspectives of many men and women I trust. I had listened to the lamenting, I just needed the information, and it was given in two words.
Afterward I began looking for news articles, I cued up the speech given by Barak Obama, and I read Revered Peter Morales’s press release, but there was something else I needed to do, something I still need to do. I need to understand the emptiness I felt in those two words, “No Indictment.”
In this situation I thought of John Donn’s Poem, “No Man is an Island.”
No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
well as any manner of thy friends or of thine
own were; any man’s death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.
I thought of this poem after reading a sarcastic comment from a man who easily wrote off the life of a human being. We are such a splintered society that we don’t see how much we need each other. We can’t imagine why anyone would disagree with us, and we know only what we see through our own eyes. I wonder often if they think when they throw out words like thug and criminal, that this is a child with a mother, who carried him for nine months, fed him every few hours, and raised him, and she will live the rest of her life without him.
It is easy to own the words of Cain and ask, am I my brother’s keeper?
In fact we are our brother’s keeper. We are responsible for each other, for each life and death. We are responsible for women who are brutalized, young men and boys shot dead because they were the wrong color, the millions all over the world who will die from lack of food and sanitation.
Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind.
This line is echoed in our Unitarian Universalist principles, stating that we are all part of a greater web and we will respect that web. Sadly it is so easy to judge the actions of people we can’t understand and it is so easy to write off lives of people our hands have never touched. It is easy to explain away grief instead of embracing it.
It is the feeling I have before I begin a long and hard day of work. I see the mountain before me, and feel the shame of my past weighing me down.
The emptiness is my shame hidden through years of privilege and immaturity. But now I know that I am my brother’s keeper, and I am tired of losing brothers.