Monday, June 8, 2020

A Parking Lot Vigil for George Floyd

The Faith Leaders of McHenry County which began meeting via Zoom to help coordinate responses to the Coronavirus pandemic and lock down has now stepped up to organize  a memorial for George Floyd this evening, June 8 at 7 pm Central Daylight Time.  Faith communities around this county in the northwestern Chicago metropolitan area will gather on their own grounds for George Floyd Parking Lot Vigils.  Their call said:
Join the Faith Leaders of McHenry County as we strive for something new challenging racism for peace and justice. We are coming together for 8 minutes of silence as we remember George Floyd and honor his family for a joint memorial in the parking lots of Houses of Worship across the county. Bring your own candle and join in the solidarity of the silence in your car or around your vehicle in your faith community’s parking lot. 
McHenry County residents should check with your own congregations to see if they are hosting one of these vigils.

The Tree of Life Unitarian Universalist Congregation, 5603 West Bull Valley Road in McHenry is proud to be participating in this interfaith effort.  Safe social distancing will be observed and participants are asked to wear masks and bring candles or other lights.  Mosquito spray and repellent are seriously advised.  The church building will be closed so please use a rest room before coming to the service
Our brief service will include an gathering call, a confession of white privilege as Unitarian Universalists, special music by Cassandra Vohs-Demann and Billy Seger, saying a litany of the names of victims of police and white violence, 8 minutes of silence—the time George Floyd was under a Minneapolis police officer’s knee, and a parting meditation written by the Reverend Lynn Unger. 
The service will be made available for viewing on Zoom.  Please check the Tree of Life web page for log-in info. 
Here are some elements of our vigil service tonight which will be facilitated and led by our Social Justice Team Chair, Patrick Murfin.

Confessing White Privilege
As Unitarian Universalists we have sometimes been smug in claiming racial enlightenment.  We point proudly to some of our abolitionist forbearers like Theodore Parker and Ralph Waldo Emerson forgetting that many of them were ostracized by members in the pews and other minister for being radical.  We forget that the wealth that made Boston the cradle of our liberal religion was based in the triangular slave trade and that Harvard where generations of Unitarian ministers trained was built on slavery.  We deny that slavery firebrand John C. Calhoun was also a Unitarian. 
We celebrate those who risked their lives in the Reconstruction South to work with Freedmen but we forget that Unitarians would not recognize or support Black congregations that were inspired by that work.  We forget that the illustrious editor Richard Lloyd Jones and founder of the Tulsa Unitarian Society used his newspaper to signal the attack on the black community that became known as the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921.  We don’t admit that some congregations, including First Unitarian in Chicago, had by-laws barring African Americans from membership into the early ‘60’s
We celebrate our denomination’s support of the Civil Rights Movement and our martyrs Rev. James Reeb and Viola Liuzzo  but are ashamed to admit that the newly formed Unitarian Universalist Association betrayed promised support for Black Unitarian action causing almost all Black members to leave the denomination,  
We boast about actions of many of our ministers and the Standing for Love and Love Resists campaigns, but are often afraid to put ourselves or our own congregations at risk.
And we continue to struggle with admitting we are the beneficiaries of white privilege without a “yes but” or a “not me.”  We have modeled white fragility which has made honest conversations with African Americans and other People of Color difficult and sometimes impossible.
We are called now to the difficult work of wrestling with that so that we can move forward as full and trustable allies in the Black Lives Movement.  We are called to put our bodies and our fortunes on the line.  We are called to reject imaging ourselves as white saviors and let us be led by those whose lives are endangered every day by systematic racism.
—Patrick Murfin

Say Their Names—A Call and Response Litany

Say his name!
            George Floyd
Say her name!
            Breonna Taylor
Say his name!
            Ahmaud Arbery
Say his name!
            Manuel Ellis
Say his name!
            Botham Jean
Say his name!
            Philando Castile
Say his name!
            Samuel Dubose
Say his name!
            Laquan McDonald
Say his name!
            Walter Scott
Say her name!
            Sandra Bland
Say his name!
            Tamir Rice
Say his name!
            Michael Brown
Say his name!
            Eric Gardner
Say his name!
            Jordan Davis
Say his name!
            Travon Martin
They all have names!
            They all have names!

Rev. Lynn Unger.

Concluding Words—Breathe by Rev. Lynn Unger

Written in 2014 after the police murder of Eric Gardner in New York City but still eerily apt at this moment.


Breathe, said the wind

How can I breathe at a time like this,
when the air is full of the smoke
of burning tires, burning lives?

Just breathe, the wind insisted.

Easy for you to say, if the weight of
injustice is not wrapped around your throat,
cutting off all air.

I need you to breathe,

I need you to breathe.

Don’t tell me to be calm
when there are so many reasons
to be angry, so much cause for despair!

I didn’t say to be calm, said the wind,
I said to breathe.

We’re going to need a lot of air
to make this hurricane together.

—Rev. Lynn Ungar

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