Continuing Conversations: UUCLV March 2022
The Rev. Gordon Clay Bailey
Theme for March 2022 - Renewing Faith
So, Welcome to a brave new world. Welcome to March 2022. We are in the midst of an amazing era. War, pandemic, political upheaval, success for some, failure for others, and lots of questions about life on this planet of ours. This month renewing our faith is the theme. Faith, your faith, my faith , do we still have faith. These and so many questions come to my mind. I hope they are percolating in yours?
Dear UUCLV and people far and wide let me state unequivocally that faith is alive and well in some quarters and going down to defeat in others. We are indeed in strange times. The pew research center and other groups that track these things are telling us the landscape of organized religion is changing and changing fast. In 1999 nearly 70 % of Americans said they belonged to a congregation. In 2020 that number was down to 47% and dropping fast.
So how can we here at UUCLV find our way? How do we here in the Vegas Valley deepen our faith? What will make us more relevant to our membership? What is required of us to create a congregation that is appealing to a broad array of people? What is the appropriate response for Unitarian Universalist as we discern our place in the midst of changing demographics, changing values, heck a changing world?
I already stated that this month's theme is renewing faith but it is so much more than that. March is women's history month and I must share some thoughts and facts with you.
Why celebrate women's history month? This is a no brainer!
This month has been observed throughout the United States since the 1980s. Women's History Month was born out of a feminist push for equal access to jobs and education—one of the main demands of the Strike for Equality march that filled New York City streets to capacity on August 26, 1970. Women have always been part of history and some of us are tired of his story taking up all of the space!
Why does the U.S. celebrate Women's History Month every March? The Education Task Force of the Sonoma County (California) Commission on the Status of Women planned and executed a “Women's History Week” celebration in 1978. The organizers selected the week of March 8 to correspond with International Women's Day. The decision was made to select March as the month and here we are.
So what should or could we do to help?
Every March, Women's History Month provides an opportunity to honor the generations of trailblazing women and girls who have built our Nation, shaped our progress, and strengthened our character as a nation, a state, a community and a congregation! Maybe we should hang pictures of women that have made a difference in our lives and world up in our sanctuary or other spaces? Maybe we should find a cause that supports women in the Vegas Valley to help? Maybe after service each Sunday in March we can share stories of women that have made our lives and the communities lives better?
Every year a theme is selected to celebrate and focus attention on during March. This year's official theme is “Break the Bias,” and the whole month is dedicated to honoring women, shining a light on their current societal contributions and celebrating the many important roles women have played throughout American history.
Women's History Month and renewing faith might not seem like a pair of ideas made in heaven but I am excited more about what happens here on earth so here is what came to mind.-
Why might people of faith around the world care about justice and equality for women and, in particular in relation to our first principle of inherent worth and dignity for all?
Two immediate answers spring to mind: first, half of these believers are women; the rest are their partners, husbands, fathers, brothers, sons and friends. Secondly (and regardless of the many difficulties women of faith have experienced historically within the structures of religion) because common sense asks us to: honoring women is a core belief for most major faith traditions. It is central to being UU. We renew and continue our faith tradition in so many ways because women have been leading the way for a long time now.
First and foremost, faith offers a vision for women.
For example, Christianity has always placed women in the forefront of faith. The bible characterizes women as strong, honest, perceptive and deserving of great honor. Mary the mother of Jesus Christ is the central female of the Christian tradition and she is highly empowered in the Gospel texts. Biblically speaking, Christian women share equally with men in the calling by God to ‘run the world’ (as Beyonce might say).
The Quran regards men and women as equals in the sight of God and for more than 14 centuries Islam has granted women, as it does men, fundamental rights to life, property, and opinion.
In traditional Judaism, the rights of women were greater than they were in the rest of Western civilization until the 20th century. According to Tracey R Rich of Judaism101, Jewish women had the right to buy, sell, and own property, and make their own contracts, rights which women in Western countries (including America) did not have until about 100 years ago. Moreover, these religious traditions see women as having their own distinct character and vocation (life purpose) which complements but is uniquely different from men.
From a faith perspective, women have certain characteristics and powers which they carry because they are female; they are expected to bring those gifts to the world in how they love, work and lead. Despite this, even within many religious traditions people still grapple with what it means for women to be truly empowered. Many particular interpretations of faith continue to attempt to restrict the rights of women in very significant ways.
It is clear that faith traditions – just like the rest of the world – have much more to do to make their professed esteem for women a lived reality.
This concern for women is relevant here because religious communities claim to profess a special care for the poor and the oppressed of the world. It is integral to the prophetic voice of religion to call for justice to be done ‘even to the least of these’.
Religious faith is often referred to as counter-cultural because it doesn’t measure the worth of a person in the same way as the secular world (which often sees worldly power, wealth and beauty as a measure of success). Looking at the world through the lens of faith requires us to defend the cause of the poor, the weak and those who are imprisoned physically, socially or economically. Given the reality of women’s experiences, those who suffer today are most often female. It is a moral necessity then, for those with faith, UU FAITH to respond to the cause of women.
Given these beliefs about both women and oppression; faith communities are in a great position to influence how we value, talk about and behave towards women worldwide. Faith communities represent 6-7 billion current and potential activists who can and should call for the rights of women to be recognized; together we/they have the power to create and sustain the kind of world where women can truly thrive.
In the words of the UU Women's Federation-
We are -Building covenantal relationships among Unitarian Universalist women that equip us all to be better co-conspirators and allies in the movement for collective liberation.
Let’s work together this month and always to support women and all people. Our congregation is a beacon. Let’s make sure our light is shining brightly!