Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Rev Nan on the bus back to Birmingham

This pilgrimage has been so full that it’s hindered me from posting a blog every day. So hopefully when you read Jim and Sam’s blog you will get a sense of what we did on other days. Also if you go to www.uua.org this legacy should be on the home page and you’ll find Gini Courter’s blog. Click on to that and you’ll read about many other places and experiences we’ve had. I want to write about Sunday and Monday while we were in Montgomery. When we arrived in Montgomery Sunday afternoon our bus drove us straight to the Alabama State capitol where the UU’s of Montgomery and others in the city were on the steps of the capital for a vigil remembering a gay many who had been brutally murdered almost 10 years ago and to support a hate-crime bill in the state of Alabama. A band was playing while the 40 of us got off the bus doubling the crowd. The first person we heard to speak was Paul, the minister of the UU congregation whom I know (Paul is the one who led me through a healing service based on a Quaker model where I in turn have led the Beaufort congregation). People were holding colorful rainbow flags and the mood was somber yet uplifting. Then Bill, our UUA president, was asked to speak. I stood very proud to be a Unitarian Universalist. When a woman minister gave the benediction she told of her experience of being asked to attend this vigil 8 years ago because no other clergy in town were willing to go. She told us of her fear in saying yes and then thankfully she came to her senses and realized she had no choice but to go and has been attending this vigil ever sense. I had the program in my hand but didn’t see what church this woman was representing. I walked up the steps to ask Paul and he said Presbyterian. I immediately went over to her and thanked her for her courage to be here. I also told her I used to be a Presbyterian minister but am now a UU. And she said something to the effect that ‘I figure if I don’t start speaking up about how we Presbyterians treat people who’s sexual orientation is different from what we’re used to, then I better start doing it now.’ And I said, ‘Yes you must, because it’s people like me, who used to be a Presbyterian minister, that you’ll continue to loose.’ We were not at the capital more than an hour and I found it to be the great next step from the past of Marion and Selma to the present of today in terms of standing up for the civil rights of all people. Monday we had the privilege of seeing the Rosa Parks Museum, which is an incredible, life like experience. You get a real sense of what she experienced the day she chose not to get up from her seat on the bus and move for a white person. From there we went to Martin Luther King, Jr. home, the parsonage of Dexter Ave. Baptist church. Our guide taking us through the home was a black woman who taught in Rhode Island for almost 30 years and came back home to Montgomery to retire. Without a doubt she is the most passionate person I’ve met on this pilgrimage. I silently wished I’d had her as a teacher at some time in my life. She speaks about how she never would have had the privilege of teaching if MLK had not done what he did on behalf of people like her. If you ever go to Montgomery you must go see the parsonage and ask for Shirley to be your guide. She walked us through the house ending the tour in the kitchen where at that kitchen table Dr. King sat in fear for his life and his family’s life. Yet after a prayer deep within his soul he heard the whisper of God telling him to stand up, stand up for your people and I will be with you. As Shirley told all of us that if you leave this house today, after hearing Dr. King’s experience, and your life is not changed then there’s something wrong with you. I thanked her for teaching me today.

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