8/30/20 The Once and Future Church by Rev. Eric Meter

Welcome: Welcome one and all to the Olympia Brown Unitarian Universalist Church in Racine, WI. I’m Rev. Eric Meter, the congregation’s interim minister. I’m thrilled to be with all of you on this beautiful late August morning.

In troubled, challenging days like these, we gather together for reassurance, so that our courage may be renewed, our worn convictions restored. We are more when we are together: stronger, wiser, more resilient and able.

Because of this OBUUC, as the congregation is known, is a vibrant congregation. For further information, please see our website… obuuc.org.


Prelude: Over My Head by Lynn Orlando



Chalice Lighting:
We light our chalice this morning to these words by Alice Blair Wesley:

We pledge to walk together
in the ways of truth and affection,
as best we know them now
or may learn them in days to come,
that we and our children may be fulfilled
and that we may speak to the world
in words and actions
of peace and goodwill.



Gesture of Friendship



Search Committee Announcement
I want to remind you of the upcoming Congregational Survey and stress the importance of filling out this survey. This survey will lay the Foundation for other information gathering we will be doing in the near future to have available for any prospective ministers to see.

It is your chance to give us your input and have your voice be heard on what is important to you.
The survey will take about 15 to 20 minutes to complete. There will be a few essay questions and mostly fill in the blank questions.

The survey will be sent to you as a link in an email I encourage you to open it right away and fill it out. The deadline for filling out the survey is Monday, September 21st. It only gives you 2 weeks to complete the survey in the hopes it doesn’t get lost in your emails.

Again, I want to stress that this is a one of the most important ways we have to gather information and get your input.
Hymn: There is More Love Somewhere, sung by Stuart Bard



Time for All Ages:  Swimmy by Leo Lionni


Children’s Blessing
We are
We are blessed
We are blessed by being
We are blessed by being here
We are blessed by being here together.


Reading:  words by Sean Parker Dennison

The sixth [Unitarian Universalist] Principle seems extravagant in its hopefulness and improbable in its prospects. So much has happened since the Principles were adopted in 1961 and revised in 1985. Can we continue to say that we want “world community”? “Peace, liberty and justice for all?”

There is no guarantee that we will succeed, but I can assure you that we will improve ourselves and improve the world by trying.

When I began my ministry, I was not so optimistic. In fact, I was fearful of social justice work. I was born in 1965, right between the assassinations of Kennedy and King. I remember the Watergate hearings preempting Sesame Street. By the time I was aware enough to pay attention, the great social movements of our times were over, many of the heroes of these movements were dead or disgraced, and we’d become a narcissistic society, with an increasing emphasis on self-help and self- actualization.

During my internship year, the topic for our district minister’s retreat was social justice. As the retreat grew near, I realized I was not looking forward to it. During the social hour, a colleague asked if I was as excited about the program as he was. Much to the surprise of us both, I answered honestly that I was not looking forward to it at all. This led to a long discussion. I recited for him the reasons I was feeling cynical.

As I peeled through the layers of my resistance, I found at the core a sadly simple fear. “I’m young,” I said. “Unlike you, I’ve never seen a social movement succeed. You stopped the war. You marched for civil rights. You’ve seen the government change policy and people change the culture. To me, those are only stories – and most of the stories end in defeat. I wonder, ‘Why bother?’”

To his credit, my colleague was patient and listened to my fears and excuses. Then he looked me right in the eye and said, “Sean, we didn’t march because we thought we would succeed. We marched because it was the right thing to do.” In that moment, all my excuses crumpled. I knew what he said was true. The people in the streets were not simply “idealistic hippies,” as I’d been taught to believe. They weren’t simply foolish optimists. No, they were people driven to the streets by conscience and conviction. They had to march because they knew what was right and they could not stay silent in the face of war, oppression, and injustice. They were living their principles, and they were living our Principles. And I was – and am – called to do the same.

Our congregations are schools for the spirit where we face a broken world and know we can help heal it, and we don’t have to do it alone.


Reflection:  The Once and Future Church, by Rev. Eric Meter

What a week this has been.

We’ve learned some new names since last Sunday evening:

Jacob Blake                              (severely injured by KPD Officer Sheskey)

Rusten Sheskey                        (KPD shooter)

Kyle Rittenhouse                      (teenage Illinois shooter)

Anthony Huber                        (killed by Rittenhouse)

Joseph Rosenbaum                 (killed by Rittenhouse)

Gauge Grosskreutz ( gross-koitz)   (shot by Rittenhouse)

I have to say, I was deeply moved by this morning’s opinion piece about Kenosha in the Racine Journal Times.

And, of course, there have also been:

  • Hurricane Laura striking the Louisiana coast before working its way north
  • Wildfires raging again throughout California
  • The shooting last night in Portland, Oregon
  • The Covid-19 pandemic continues, with increases among many college populations now that many campuses have opened for the fall term
  • And, amid all of this, the RNC looked like a television mini-series produced in the style of Leni Riefenstahl


There are times when I find it hard to put words to paper in any way that makes sense, let alone be worth reading.

In those times it feels like I’ve been cursed by, or perhaps gently reminded of, a lyric from one of my favorite Bruce Springsteen songs, Jungleland, when he sings, “And the poets down here don’t write nothing at all. They just stand back and let it all be.”

Now I’m not much of a poet; I’ve tried.

As a religious professional, what I know is that times of worship are vital shared experiences in the ongoing life of faith communities. And they can be seen as points within ongoing conversations.

It is with that in mind that I address you today.

My intention for this morning was to talk about the Olympia Brown UU Church in Racine. Of course, the title gives that away: The Once and Future Church, a title inspired by T.H. White’s classic retelling of the King Arthur legend, The Once and Future King.

It may sound a bit grandiose, but looking back in time and then attempting to look forward to the role this congregation will play in years to come is exactly what I want to invite you to do over the coming months.

So, The Once and Future Church it is.

And in some ways, what better time to do so than in a time of challenge, when soul searching is most called for?


And last, there is the message of a true poet, in this case Deena Metzger, calling me forward:

There are those who are trying to set fire to the world.

We are in danger.

There is only time to work slowly.

There is no time not to love.


Now she’s not saying, and I am certainly not saying, that those who are trying to set fire to the world are those whose voice of protest became one of destruction in Kenosha early last week.

In downtown there yesterday, I saw firsthand the burned out used car lot directly behind our sister congregation, the Bradford Community Church.

No, those burned out shells of former rides are a testament to pent up rage.

Back in California a man named Jesse taught me an important lesson. He was in prison for crimes he certainly did commit. And he taught me something that stays with me. “You white guys, you only pay attention to black men like me when we speak with violence. You don’t listen when we have anything else to say.”

I kept quiet after hearing that before saying the only thing you can say with any integrity at times like that, “I’m sorry. You’re right. I’ll try to do better in the future.”

No, Metzger is talking about those who sow discord and fear for short term profit, without regard for anyone but their own small circles of family and cronies. They often appear before a backdrop of great pomp and circumstance.

There are those who are trying to set fire to the world.

We are in danger.

There is only time to work slowly.

There is no time not to love.


I love that.

There is only time to work slowly.

There is no time not to love.


This last week I took part in a five-day video conference denominational training for clergy doing ministry in transitional settings. It was as good as a semester in seminary.

Late in the week we were reminded of a story that came out of the All Souls Unitarian Church in Washington DC.

In the time when de-segregation was a hot topic of debate and consternation, their minister, James Luther Adams, asked as seemingly simple question over and over again, What is the purpose of this congregation?

Finally, an exasperated church elder who had not been in favor of taking a stand that seemed risky answered, “Dammit. It’s to get hold of people like me and change us.”

Clergy delight in this little story. Please let me know if you have a different response.


But to the question, What is the purpose of this the Olympia Brown Unitarian Universalist Church?

I’ll tell you this, I’ve never known a church of your size produce so many civic leaders. It’s as if OBUUC is a foundry for local civic leadership.

A mayor and two county supervisors? Well done.

But what I can’t quite see are the planning meetings and the committees that worked so hard to produce this result.

No, this can’t have been part of some master plan, with goal setting and newsprint sheets filled with bullet pointed strategies.

Instead, this is what happens when a congregation takes its core values seriously and supports one another in the slow, challenging work of living them out.

I hope you can take this in, and take justifiable pride in it.

Like I said before, Well Done.

And then, because nothing that is alive stays static, the question before you remains. What’s Next?

Between now and next June, my job with you is to help you prepare and be ready for calling your next settled minister. As you heard earlier from Mike, your search committee is off to a great start, and you’ve chosen a great team for that work.

Yet underneath the survey and all the discernment to come are these three questions:

Who are we?

Who is our neighbor?

What are we being called to do?


One of the things I needed to be reminded of this last week was that while we are living in a socially distanced time because of Covid-19, we need to be imagining what it will be like when those restrictions are eased.

I’ve certainly given a great deal of thought to how and when we might begin to come back together in person, but I hadn’t been thinking far enough ahead.

Another question for us is

What is this pandemic teaching us

about who we need to be as a faith community

in relation to the wider society in which we live?

There is only time to work slowly.

There is no time not to love.


These are the questions before you. I look forward to helping you find, and begin to live out, your answers to them. Amen.





Closing Song:   We Are a Gentle, Angry People, by Holly Near


Benediction:   words by Boris Novak, as translated by Mia Dintinjana

Between two words,
choose the quieter one.
Between word and silence
choose listening.
Between two books
choose the dustier one.
Between the earth and the sky,
choose the bird.
Between two animals
choose the one who needs you more.
Between two children,
choose both.
Between the lesser and the bigger evil,
choose neither.
Between hope and despair,
choose hope:
it will be harder to bear.

This morning’s chalice is extinguished, but our connections and faith remain.


Postlude: Solace by Scott Joplin, performed by Lynn Orlando