First Unitarian Universalist
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1187 Franklin Street at Geary
San Francisco, CA 94109
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Rheiner Award 2010 Acceptance Remarks
by Bob Bacon
November 21, 2010
I want to thank Dolores for her kind words, and thank the Rheiner Award Committee for this honor. It is indeed humbling to think of all the prior recipients of this award, and the immense amount of good that they have done over the years.
The lesson we should take from them, and from Conard Rheiner, is that this church falls short if it is just a place to help us deal with the day-to-day events in our own lives, a place that can help us to feel good about ourselves. This church falls short if it is just a place where we can help our friends deal with the day-to-day events in their lives, a place where we can feel good about each other. This church falls short every time we talk about “community” and mean only the people who gather inside these walls.
This church fulfills its mission and its calling when it serves as a place where we can recharge our batteries and learn and be inspired, so that we can go out into the larger community outside these walls and do the hard work of justice-making. That hard work is the true work of religion, the true work of humanism, the true work of Unitarian Universalism – not just comforting the afflicted, but also afflicting the comfortable.
We walk in the very large footsteps of a man who was physically very small: Thomas Starr King. He and the other abolitionist orators thundered from the mountaintops about the evils of slavery. Thousands came to hear them speak, and thousands more read what they wrote.
But we also walk in the footsteps of another group of people. They weren’t up on the mountaintops; they were down in the river valleys. They didn’t speak to thousands; they worked in strict secrecy and anonymity, in the middle of the night: the passengers and conductors on the Underground Railroad. If you were to ask them, “But will slavery ever end?,” their answer might be something like this: “If only we can bring Ezekiel Wilson safely across to Canada before daybreak, then for Ezekiel Wilson, slavery will end tonight.”
And so it was they went about living their religion, far outside the walls of their churches. May we learn from their example, and from the example of Thomas Starr King, and Conard Rheiner, and our friends the Faithful Fools, and go outside these walls – go “beyond Sunday” – and do the real work of religion.
Thank you very much.
Bob's photo by Sonnie Willis