The Fierce Urgency of Now

Many of you reading this will have recently heard the news that the remaining viable candidate for the Republican nominee for President is the same one who said a few months ago that he was “calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States;” and, the same one who about a year ago said, “When Mexico sends its people, it’s not sending its best.  They’re bringing drugs.  They’re bringing crime.  They’re rapists.”

My daughter, whose birth father was Mexican, somehow got word of that second quote, and has repeatedly tried to understand what exactly it means, and what it means about her, and her potential future in her own country.  There are countless other children – Mexican/American, Muslim, African American, girls – who are hearing these words, and worse.  Children, and their families are hearing these words, and worse from the candidate, and from his supporters – and are trying to understand, trying to make sense of their place, and our place in this country, on this earth, together.  All of us are trying to understand, trying to know what to do.

For the past few months I’ve been participating in a small group with other UU ministers across the country (we meet virtually by way of video-chat) to explore the theological grounding for our witness for social change.  Last week, much of conversation centered around the question of urgency, and the idea that this moment is like no others, that it is a “turning point” in all of history, that things are finally going to break open, and break free.  We read together these words from Thomas Merton:

Thomas Merton Quote

Many of my colleagues lamented the reality that they had been present for more than one of these so-called “turning points” in history, and no longer had much faith that there was any such thing.

I tend to agree, but not because I am pessimistic, nihilistic, or even apocalyptic about the present, or the future.  I agree, because I just don’t think the world works in a single narrative arc, presenting itself as if at one moment for all-the-justice-for-all, take it or leave it.  Human life – let alone the interdependent web of all of life – is multi-vocal, multivalent, and multi-site.  By which I mean – there’s so much going on here, it would be foolish to imagine that somehow we could make any such claim as “we are living in the greatest revolution in history.”  Maybe we are, maybe we aren’t.

All we can really say for sure is what the moment requires of us, which begins by paying attention – waking up.  Martin Luther King Jr. used the phrase at the March on Washington, that we must recognize “the fierce urgency of now.”  I like this phrase because it doesn’t imagine that this “now”is more urgent than any others, but rather, that it holds unique opportunities, that it has a unique claim to us and our lives inviting us – fiercely, urgently – to respond.  And it invites us to imagine that equally, so will every other “now” we will encounter throughout our lives, and across life itself.

Friends, we are moving into the final few weeks of the interim period at Foothills.  And as we do, we are reaching the final culmination of our shared discernment around our congregation’s response to the “fierce urgency of now,” as embodied in the work of our Mission Task Force.   Please be sure to attend one of the Mission Round Table Discussions at 10:10, starting this Sunday May 8th, and running also May 15th and May 22nd.  And please also fill out the survey.

Many hours and much conversation has gone into this process, all in the hopes that it will help us act with clarity and conviction – rooted in our values and religious tradition, bolstered by the promises of our covenant – in response to the world as it is today, our lives as they are now.

This Sunday marks “Mother’s Day,” which has been turned into a sentimental holiday appreciating moms.  I’m all for appreciating moms! But actually, the roots of this holiday came from Unitarian Julia Ward Howe’s call for all mothers to work together to end war and violence.  It was a call to respond to the fierce urgency of now – as mothers, working together out of a fierce love for their children, and their children’s children, and…

Given what our children are hearing today, the time is ripe to reclaim this original intent.  We can never tell if this will be the “greatest revolution in history,” we can only act in response to the moment as it is, keep waking up, keep working together, fiercely, and with love.

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About Rev. Gretchen Haley

Gretchen Haley serves as the Senior Minister of the Foothills Unitarian Church in Fort Collins, CO. She's relentlessly curious about most things, especially the big stuff of theology, the beauty of creation and poetry, the magic of collaboration, and the great joy and often-great-depth of popular (and less popular) television and music. She and her partner of 17 years, Carri, have 2 children, Gracie (10) and Josef (8).
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