Sunday, September 11, 2011

What Did Your Church Do This Sunday?

We are going through the greatest economic disaster in most of our lifetimes, one that is taking a huge human toll all around us.  Was it appropriate last Sunday (Labor Day) to reflect on issues like the value of work, the history of the Labor movement, the massive injustices in the distribution of income and wealth in our country, the pain in the lives of so many of our fellow citizens, and what our response should be?

This Sunday is one of those Round Number anniversaries of September 11, 2001.  One of our cultural rituals on these special anniversaries is to pause  and take stock of where we have been.  The 9/11 attacks provide a host of spiritual, moral, and social issues on which we could reflect.

In the midst of the Great Recession, and a Sunday that falls exactly 10 years after the attacks of 9/11, you might think that the choice of sermon topics was compelling, even obligatory.  What did UU churches choose to celebrate or commemorate on the first two Sundays of September, 2011? 

While two thirds of our Bay Area churches had in-gatherings and Water Communion, less than half commemorated either Labor Day or September 11th.  Out of 20 churches, only three addressed  both.

What world do Unitarian Universalists live in and what do they hold important?

Yes, we have friends and neighbors who have lost jobs and lost homes, but the Great Recession hasn't fallen as hard on us as on most Americans.  Most UUs have college degrees.  As of August 2011, 76% of those with a college degree were in the labor force, compared to 60% of those with a high school degree.  And the college educated are mostly finding jobs:  their unemployment rate was 4.3% versus 9.6% for those with a high school education.  This is Somebody Else's recession.

Our usual religious language is completely inadequate to the task of confronting 9/11.  The Seven Principles don't say anything about suffering, sin, evil, or a moral framework to judge good and bad responses to 9/11.  Most of our congregations have few members in the military, police, or firefighters.   We don't see the face of those who bear the burden of our government's decisions in responding to 9/11.

So we once again look inward after taking the summer off from religion?  The past two Sundays offered the opportunity to give witness to important moral issues of the day and, perhaps more importantly,  to minister to those to who come to us seeking comfort .  What would a visitor think we are about?


  1. >less than half commemorated either Labor Day or September 11th

    How can you tell?

    If I wanted to know the answer to this question (interesting one), I'd look at all the upcoming-service descriptions. I'd probably miss ours (Palo Alto's), because our service on worker justice was eight days before Labor Day, not one.

  2. What do we do about the "injustices in the distribution of income and wealth"? And now that I think about it, that phrase is double-edged. I think you mean injustice as the prophets did, but my daughter would go to Ayn Rand. (Got any good rebuttals?) - Vivian