We are a Tribe Beyond Tribes
Sunday Service Report contributed by Nancy Klein
“In this era when old alliances are under strain, and our youth in so many of our nations and so many of our neighborhoods are hearing the old refrain of ‘blood and soil,’ we must remember that we are many and different but we are also one and the same,” affirmed Rev. Barbara Prose, at the EUU Spring Retreat Sunday Service in Dijon, France.“It is just as dangerous to forget we are one as it is to forget that we are diverse, because the light shines on the evil and the good, just as the rain falls on the just and the unjust.”
Prose, Executive Minister for All Souls Unitarian Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma, told an interesting story about 12-year-old George de Benneville, who later became a doctor and the first Universalist preacher in the U.S. One moral of his tale at sea was “how dangerous it is to forget that we are one and to ignore the light that shines in each and every one of us, no matter our culture, country, class, color or creed.”
Unity in Diversity
“We are sometimes, if not often, deeply unified underneath our diversity,” Prose said.“We discover this underlying unity only by daring to engage with people who are very, very different than we are. And when we do discover our shared values, despite our differences, we remember the fundamental unity of the human family, a whole community of people which includes not only the oppressed, but the oppressors, not only the marginalized, but the marginalizers, not only the liberals, but also the conservatives.”
Prose noted how scientists and mystics around the world all speak of this unity of existence, with mystics describing this as a spiritual journey to discover our interconnectedness with all that exists. And even though we can’t know if or when we will arrive at a complete theory of everything, we do know what ethic emerges out of a concept of an underlying unity of all creation. And that ethic, she said, is simple: “Whatever we do to others, we do to ourselves. And whatever we do to ourselves, we ultimately do to others and to the world.”
Religion of the Future
Later on, Prose told the story of a Lebanese woman she and her husband met on the train going from London to Paris to Dijon. The woman, named Murielle, had never heard of the Unitarian Universalist faith before. So Prose did her best to explain our faith to her.“It’s a religion for people from mixed backgrounds who want to honor the old traditions and embody new truths. It’s covenantal, not creedal. It’s relational. It’s a religion for people who don’t really like religion. ‘I see,’ Murielle said.‘It’s the religion of the future!’”
Going forward in the 21st Century, Prose reminded us to remember,“We are each different and the same… Knowing we are many and one, we can continue to embody the spiritual call of these times, and the promise of Unitarian Universalism, thinking freely and loving inclusively. An emerging tribe of people, a new tribe beyond tribes.”
Offertory and Music
The service collection went to La Maison Verte in Paris, an association devoted to the homeless, to immigrants and to other underprivileged people. They provide legal and medical advice, help find homes for people, teach parents how to speak French, help children with homework, provide mailboxes and even have a cinema club for blind and deaf people. La Maison Verte is also where the Paris Fellowship meets.
During the offertory, baritone Italo Marchini sang a beautiful rendition of the song, “You’ll Never Walk Alone” by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein. The choir anthem was “The Flame of Truth,” a traditional Irish tune with words by Cliff Reed. One verse especially moved me: “The flame of love is kindled, we open wide our hearts. That it may burn within us, fuel us to do our parts. Community needs building, a commonwealth of Earth. We ask for strength to build it, a new world come to birth.”
Also during the service, Judith Kohler performed Suite Francaise by Francis Poulenc, Alison Ham played Le Cygne from Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint-Saens on the flute and Albert Manders performed the Finale from the Arpeggione Sonata from Franz Schubert, also on the flute.
It was a beautiful service, both in words and in music.