This post was written by Rev. James Ismael Ford of the First Unitarian Church of Providence. (Credit: Jessica Duckett)
I’ve been told that a minister is supposed to provide a “non-anxious” presence. I can tell you that the run up to Sunday the 7th, I was anything but non-anxious. I can only say I was at one with my anxiety. We were trying to bring two denominational heads together to make public statements in favor of marriage equality in Rhode Island and in our country.
Both Rev. Peter Morales, president of the Unitarian Universalist Association, and Rev. Geoffrey Black, general minister of the United Church of Christ, are committed long time supporters of LGBTQ rights, so their willingness was never in doubt. But, they have many obligations and trying to get them here at the same time and as part of the run up to the senate taking its votes, well, that seemed almost impossible.
But, in a minor evidence of the existence of a deity, and one benevolent and supportive of equal rights for all people, not to mention a lot of work by a lot of people, it happened. At ten o’clock Rev. Black preached good news at Beneficent Congregational Church, and at ten thirty Rev. Morales spoke to the heart of LGBTQ rights as human rights and as a spiritual imperative at the First Unitarian Church of Providence.
As the service at First Unitarian ended, we had our ordinary coffee hour, but instead of winding down, while some people headed out, others started arriving from Unitarian Universalist and United Church of Christ congregations as their worship services ended, as well as non-churched people who had heard of these progressive ministers who were going to make a public statement about a critical civil rights issue for our times. Lt. Governor Elizabeth Roberts even made a brief appearance to thank Revs. Black and Morales for their support.
Revs. Ford, Black, Morales and others sing a hymn at the program. (Credit: Jessica Duckett)
By one o’clock our “Stand Up for Love” program kicked off with a rocking music led by Kate Katzberg, Mo Methot, and the First Unitarian band. At one thirty as Lynda Gulley took to the piano as Revs. Black and Morales as well as other local religious leaders came into the historic Meeting House to join with a crowd of about three hundred and fifty people. Gene Dyszlewski, the First Unitarian Church’s community minister for social justice, as well as leader of the religious coalition for marriage equality, invited greetings. Betsy Garland, president of the Rhode Island Council of Churches, and Donald Anderson, Executive Director, both made statements of welcome.
Rev. Black led off with a rousing call to human rights. And Rev. Morales brought it home with a call to action. Members of Rhode Islanders for Marriage were present to sign people up to volunteer.
We concluded the program with an old hymn, “We’ll Build a Land,” combing words from the prophets Amos and Isaiah. The refrain filled the room, “Come build a land where sisters and brothers, anointed by God, may then create peace: where justice shall roll down like waters, and peace like an ever flowing stream.”
We left filled with hope for a new dawn.
So, I’m still anxious. First, we have a vote in the state judiciary committee to get through, and then we have the vote at the state senate.
There’s much work to do.
But, I feel that hope, stirring.
And, I believe, in my heart, we shall achieve marriage equality this year.
Check out our video to see an excerpt of the program:
Rev. James Ishmael Ford is senior minister at the First Unitarian Church of Providence. He is a social justice activist, theologian, and Zen meditation teacher as well as a parish minister. His most recent book is “If You’re Lucky, Your Heart Will Break: Field Notes from a Zen Life.”