I told my church this week that I would be leaving them and leaving Utah at the end of this coming June. It wasn’t an easy decision to make, but it is a good one for me and for my family. Although it might take awhile for them to realize it, I think it will also be good for the church that I will have served for seven years.
My reasons for leaving are many. I miss my friends and family in California. I also want to live in a state where my marriage is not only legal, but where our rights as a family are respected not only by the laws of the state and nation, but also by most of the elected officials, and by the vast majority of the citizens. Even if court cases eventually bring marriage quality to Utah, it is still going to be a hostile environment for years to come. I am just tired of it. Having had a taste of real equality in California, to stay here would feel to me like choosing to remain in chains.
I am also tired of the increasingly bad air, the crazy gun laws, the lack of sex education in the schools, the suicide rates, the meth and prescription drug addiction, the teen pregnancies, the domestic violence, the crooked politicians, the rampant child abuse, and the callousness of a governor who refuses to expand medicaid. People are dying and he and most of the legislature just don’t seem to care. Frankly, things only seem to get worse every time the Utah legislature actually passes any laws. California has some of these same problems of course, but the state government there tries to work on them in ways that make at least some sense to me. They wouldn’t raise the speed limit to 80 miles per hour without at least considering the environmental impact.
Then there is the weather. Spring and fall are the only seasons that I really enjoy here. Summers are too hot and dry, and winters are too cold and too polluted.
It is hard to minister to a church and to the wider community unless you love them and are also happy to be with them where they live. I deeply love the members of the church. I also love much of the wider community and am thrilled that environmental activism is increasing in the state. I am proud of Utah’s GLBT community and awesome organizations like CORC, OUTreach Ogden, Equality Utah, Peaceful Uprising, Utah Mom’s for Clean Air, and the ACLU. Organizations like Mormons for Equality and Ordain Women also bring hope for change. I wish I could take all these good folks to California with me. Then the only thing I would continue to miss about Utah is the glow of the setting sun on the mountains. That is true beauty, it really is. The Pacific Ocean also has its charms, however.
The Unitarian Universalist Church of Ogden is an awesome congregation. They deserve a minister who will truly be happy in Utah. I was happy here for a long time, but things have changed. Maybe I am just getting older. The congregation is very easy to love, so whoever follows me will certainly love them as well.
I am so proud of the work we have done together. The Unitarian Universalist Church of Ogden has made a positive difference in so many people’s lives. We have helped change the wider community as well. The work of the church will go on without me; of that I have no doubt. The people and the good work they do will always be in my heart. Namaste.
Click (here) for the sermon where I told these good people that I would be leaving them.
Video of sermon (here)
Call to worship (here)
Quoting MLK: “From every mountainside, let freedom ring. When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”
Ah, the dream of freedom. The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. had a lot of dreams. He spoke of one of them in his most famous speech given during the march on Washington so many years ago. That dream was about racial equality. He was, however, a man of many other dreams, some that came to him in his sleep but many more that came to him from his work with people.
The selection Kaya recited was about peace. It upset people when he started speaking against the war in Viet Nam. “Why can’t he just stick to civil rights?” they said. King also spoke about economic inequality which got even more people upset.
Talking about the Poor People’s Campaign, he said,
“We are coming to demand that the government address itself to the problem of poverty. We read one day,
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” But if a man doesn’t have a job or an income, he has neither life nor liberty nor the possibility for the pursuit of happiness.”
King would have loved the occupy movement and he would be appalled at the ever increasing income inequality that we have not only here in America, but in the world.
Martin Luther King had dreams. He was an inspirational leader; there is no doubt about that. He was also a minister and like all ministers, much of his inspiration came from his congregation. He also happened to have a really big congregation, one that included just about everyone in this country. He preached love not hate and reached out to his enemies as well as to his friends.
Sometimes his congregation pushed him to do things he was reluctant to do.
One example was in Birmingham. This is a story told by Kate Rhode. Things were not going well there. People were afraid of the sheriff who was named Bull Conner. He was scary. King was having a hard time recruiting people who were willing to protest. One night, he asked, “Who will demonstrate with me tomorrow in a brave attempt to end segregation? Who will risk going to jail for the cause?”
No one answered his call and he tried again, “The struggle will be long,” he said.
“We must stand up for our rights as human beings. Who will demonstrate with me, and if necessary, be ready to go to jail for it?”
There was a pause, and then a whole group of people stood up. Someone gasped. All the people who stood up were children.
(Children and youth please stand if you are willing to work for justice)
The adults told them to sit down but they didn’t.
Martin Luther King thanked the children and told them he appreciated the offer but that he couldn’t ask them to go to jail. They still wouldn’t sit down. They wanted to help.
That night, Dr. King talked with a close group of friends about the events of the day. “What are we going to do?” he asked. “The only volunteers we got were children. We can’t have a protest with children!” Everyone nodded, except Jim Bevel. “Wait a minute,” said Jim. “If they want to do it, I say bring on the children.”
“But they are too young!” the others said. Then Jim asked, “Are they too young to go to segregated schools?”
“Then they are not too young to want their freedom.”
That night, they decided that any child old enough to join a church was old enough to march.
The children heard about the decision and told their friends. When the time came for the march, a thousand children, teenagers, and college students gathered.
The sheriff arrested them and put them in jail. The next day even more kids showed up—some of their parents and relatives too, and even more the next day and the next day. Soon lots of adults joined in. Finally, a thousand children were locked up together in a “children’s jail.” And there was no more room for anyone else.
Sheriff Connor had done awful things to try and get protesters to turn back. He had turned big police dogs loose and allowed them to bite people. He had turned on fire hoses that were so strong the force of the water could strip the bark off of trees. He had ordered the firefighters to point the hoses at the children and push them down the street. People all over the country and all over the world saw the pictures of the dogs, the fire hoses, and the children, and they were furious.
The white people of Birmingham began to worry. All over the world people were saying bad things about their city. Even worse, everyone was afraid to go downtown to shop because of the dogs and hoses. So they decided they had to change things. A short time later, the black people and white people of Birmingham made a pact to desegregate the city and let everyone go to the same places.
Today when people tell this story, many talk about Martin Luther King, Jr. We should also remember the thousands of brave children and teenagers whose courage helped to defeat Bull Connor and end segregation in Birmingham and the rest of the United States.(The Children’s Crusade by Kate Rhode, in What if Nobody Forgave? and Other Stories, edited by Colleen McDonald (Boston: Skinner House, 2003).
Martin Luther King did not do it alone.
A minister never does anything alone.
Those of you, who are members of this congregation and also on our church email list, got a message from me last Thursday night.
In that message I said that I have decided that I will be leaving Utah and moving back to my home in California at the end of this coming June. It wasn’t an easy decision for me to make, but it is the right one for my family and for myself. By the end of June, I will have served as your minister for seven years. They have clearly been some of the best years of my life, and it will be very hard in so many ways to leave you.
So why am I leaving? There are a lot of reasons, some fairly obvious and others less so. When you first called me, I promised you five years and it has been seven. I will be 64 in February and it is time to slow down and think about retirement.
Also, as almost all of you know, Anne and I got married last July in California, even though we delayed our wedding until we could celebrate it on our anniversary. That made a huge difference to me.
I had never expected to be able to legally marry the love of my life, but when the Supreme Court ruled against DOMA last June it suddenly became real. We could be married by both God and by our country, at least in some states. In fact that was how the minister who conducted our ceremony pronounced us married, “By God and by Country.” It was really hard coming back to Utah and no longer having our relationship recognized. We’d had a taste of freedom and equality.
You know what I mean; everyone here also got a taste for 18 days in late December and early January.
It was then I began thinking seriously about leaving at the end of June. We also miss our kids and the good friends we have in California. It won’t surprise you that I also miss the weather and the much better air quality.
All those reasons are important, but there is another one, that at least makes it easier for me to leave. UUCO is doing great! You have strong lay leadership that knows how to do church. After the end of year appeal results, we are in at least decent shape financially. You are an awesome church and I know you will continue to do wonderful and amazing things.
And you know what else? I am no Martin Luther King. You will easily find someone who will lead you just as well if not better. Remember, that a congregation creates the ministry and mission of the church. The minister is simply a guide who tries to keep everything on track.
Next Sunday, your board president, Doris Lang, will talk with you about what happens next. Basically, you will hire an interim minister who will serve you for a year while you search for a more permanent settled minister. It is a well-established process within our denomination and it will go very smoothly.
Some of you have asked me what I will be doing after I leave. I won’t look for another settled ministry. I will see if I can find an interim position for a year or two, or possibly something part-time. If nothing else, I will write and do guest preaching, and there will no doubt be some type of social justice work that I will feel the need to do.
OK. Now you know that I will be leaving at the end of June. But it is still January, and we have quite a number of months, almost 6, a half of a year, until we have to actually say goodbye. Let’s just keep doing what we have been doing. I know I will treasure the rest of our time together. I hope we use it both wisely and well.
I will end with another King quote:
“And I submit that nothing will be done until people of goodwill put their bodies and their souls in motion. And it will be the kind of soul force brought into being as a result of this confrontation that I believe will make the difference.”
The Unitarian Universalist Church of Ogden knows about that kind of soul force. You know about the power of love. You know about dreams. Keep dreaming and make those dreams real.
Amen and Namaste.
It is kind of hard not to fall on the floor laughing when you read Utah’s latest arguments against marriage equality. (See NY times article.) Utah is promoting gender diversity? Since when? Are there suddenly going to be more women in state government? How about in the LDS priesthood? No, that would impact on the patriarchy. They just want gender diversity in marriage and nowhere else where it might actually make a difference.
I think diversity is in general a good thing. At my church we try to include both men and women in positions of leadership. We also try to include people of differing sexual orientations and ages . It is always good to have input from singles and couples, parents and non-parents, people who are abled bodied and people living with a variety of disabilities, immigrants and the native born, the financially comfortable and the struggling. Bouncing ideas off of people with different life experiences usually leads to better, more thoughtful decisions on an institutional level. I wish Utah would begin doing that, but I am not holding my breath.
No, they just want to mandate “gender diversity” in the very personal institution of marriage and the family. They also seem to think that one’s gender defines everything about them, that men always parent one way and women a completely different way. Don’t they know any families where the woman works and the man stays home with the kids? Hmm. Maybe not. They should talk to some of those folks too.
Do they also really think all same gender couples have identical parenting styles? My wife and I both identify as female, but if you asked our now adult children if our parenting styles were exactly the same, they would laugh at you. (Click here to read our daughter’s toast at our recent wedding.)
There have been a number of reputable studies of children raised in same gender households (Click here for a report of a recent one). While it is not scientific, our three children are all outstanding young adults. We are very proud of them. They are well educated, employed, and trying to help make our world a better place. I am more than a little tired of a state that clearly does not really value children, despite its pretensions of being family-friendly, disparaging my family and my kids. (Read my post on Utah’s “Gold Standard”)
For the Utah Attorney General to maintain that Utah believes in gender diversity is just a lie if it isn’t a joke. Maybe if they did, we wouldn’t be having this discussions at all. Institutions that do have real gender diversity tend to be much more accepting of LGBT people. (see my post on the ordination of women and GLBT acceptance.)
Utah is a state dominated by a very patriarchal church. By gender diversity they can only mean that they want to maintain rigid sex roles where the men “bring home the bacon” and the women stay home barefoot and pregnant, obeying their husbands in all things. That is the ideal family to them I guess. They should then be just as concerned about the heterosexual marriages that try and function as equal partnerships. Maybe that will be their next step. Be afraid. Be very afraid if they win.
It would be funny if it weren’t so heartbreaking.
By Rebecca Novak
Hi Everyone. So not many daughters get the opportunity give a wedding toast for their parents. It’s kind of an unusual situation. It’s like, “when I first met Anne and Theresa…I was in the womb. I remember when they were just two young lovebirds, the vague sound of their voices coming through to my amniotic sac.”
I also can’t ruminate on their future together. It’s like “spoiler alert,” 39 years later.. things are pretty good. You still get nervous when the other person drives. You are still in love. You have 3 kids.. and they turned out awesome.
So, I don’t get to do the typical wedding toast. But, instead I do have this really remarkable opportunity to celebrate my moms’ relationship. I want to talk about what I’ve learned from my witty, opinionated mothers.
Especially with all of the news and debate about marriage equality today, I’ve had lots of time to think about my moms and the impact they have had on me. Am I all screwed up because I have lesbian moms? Am I confused about who I am? Do I wish I had a dad?
I’ve had to answer those questions a lot. And the answer is no.
My mothers are parents who chose to be together, in spite of real obstacles. These are parents who pushed their children to always be who we are, no matter what other people think. Parents who taught us to advocate for our rights and for the rights of others. Parents who taught us to love who we love, no matter what.
They have taught me so much, but because today is a wedding, I want to talk in particular about I’ve learned from my mothers about love.
Their relationship is pretty amazing. 39 years! And I’m in a very good position to talk about their relationship and commitment to one another. I’ve had a front seat.
(Mom & Mama.. you look worried. You should be. Your kids see it all.)
Some of you might know that last summer, I hiked the John Muir Trail. It’s a backcountry trail that runs 218 miles from Yosemite, over 8 mountain passes to Mt. Whitney, all in the backcountry. This is something I would never have considered if not for the wonderful summers my mothers spent taking the three of us camping in Yosemite, in Yellowstone, in Glacier national parks. Thank you.
One of the things I was thinking about as I was hiking, was my moms. I had called them from an outpost a week into the hike, and they told me that they had been officially married in California. And I was so upset that they did it without me and without any guests, so I’m glad we’re all here today.
It’s good I had my moms to think about because while the trail was beautiful, actually hiking it was also the hardest thing I have ever done. My backpack was too heavy, it weighed 45 pounds. I had to clamber up these endless 10 mile inclines, up thousands of ft in elevation, to get to each peak. And then I had to do it all over again. Those climbs were absolutely horrible.
But then, I’d get to the top. And the top was unfailingly the most beautiful place I’d ever been, each peak more breathtaking than the last. There were turquoise alpine lakes, wildflowers, snowcapped peaks, the whole world spread out below your feet.
And I realized, this is what I know about love. And I learned it from my moms. It is hard sometimes. It can be horrible. There are endless switchbacks and sometimes you don’t know if they’ll end, you’re not sure if you’ll make it to the top.
But you keep working at it, you put your head down and put one foot in front of the other and you make it to the top. And at the top is the most beautiful place you’ve ever been.
And then you do it all over again.
And, mommy and mama, you’ve been through a lot together. You’ve climbed a lot of long uphills, and I’ve watched you put the work into many of them. You have reached so many glorious peaks. Thank you for your perseverance and your honesty, your commitment and your love. You’ve taught me that the things that matter, like love, take work.
I want to toast you both — to the mountains you have yet to climb, the peaks you have yet to reach. Congratulations, and here’s to 39 more years.
While many in this country are shivering in the coldest of storms, a polar vortex bringing travel to a halt, we are driving back to Utah from a state where the sun still shines. I spent the last three weeks in California, the golden state where I was born, the one that in my heart will always be my home. What a trip, what a journey, and what a swirling of emotions, the last few weeks have been. With more than a hundred friends and family members, on January 3rd we exchanged our wedding vows and danced late into the night. Our joy was even deeper thinking that when we got back to Utah our marriage would also be recognized.
The smoggy hateful skies had parted there and the light of love was shining brightly. We felt the excitement from afar. We imagined all the weddings I would have done outside the courthouse, and seeing in person the tears of gladness falling down the cheeks of lovers old and young. But there would be time to celebrate, we thought. Time to officiate at more weddings. It seemed that justice had finally come.
Then, just as our car was almost packed, justice was so quickly snatched away. The vortex of hate blanketed Utah again.
When the court case on Utah’s Amendment 3 was first pending, and the state began to make its case, I wrote a poem called Rage
A few lines were:
“Shall I burn
Down your temples
And set fire to your lies?”
I feel some of that same rage today. I also feel disappointed that we missed the celebrations, and will return only to share the grief and the pain. I also know, as Unitarian minister Theodore Parker said, that the arc of the universe bends toward justice. I hate that the arc is such a long one. Parker worked to end slavery but racism still thrives more than a hundred years later. I also know that love, in the end, is so much stronger than hate. I know that faith can be greater than fear. I do know that the snow will eventually melt and the sun will shine again. In the meantime, we will just have to keep each other warm.
What I have learned about love is this: it doesn’t come easy. It isn’t a happily ever after riding into the sunset with a prince or princess by your side. Soul mates aren’t magic mirrors reflecting back how you want to see yourself or them. Reach through the mirror, pay attention to the cracks. They are how the love – and light gets in. Leonard Cohen taught me a lot with that line. You aren’t royalty either, just a frog like other frogs. Life is the swamp can be lovely though. It is not necessary to sing every song in tune or dance in time with a perfect rhythm.
Marriage means so much more if you have been engaged for decades. I know this from experience. Because engagement is the thing, one of them, that makes a marriage, a partnership, work. Be real and honest and yourself. Listen carefully. Pay attention. Hold your lover’s hand, but don’t hold them back, and try to catch them when they fall. You will stumble too. Stay engaged even after you are married. I think that might be the key. If there is one. If it isn’t all just luck. In any case be grateful. If someone really loves you, it is a miracle
It can be awkward, if your family does not approve. Time can heal that. Not always, but often enough that it is worth some effort.
It can be hurtful if your church won’t bless your love or even calls it sinful. If that is true, then find another church. God hangs out in a lot of different places and the real God – not someone’s mirror image – just loves love, even more than the color purple, (another book that taught me a lot.)
It can be wonderful if the people where you live support you, if they recognize your family. If they vote for it or if their legislature approves it, that really rocks. A judge deciding in your favor is pretty cool too. Take what you can get, but it is OK to ask for more. Love, like justice, does not come easy, but with enough grace, with enough effort, it comes.
It has felt very strange to be out of the state while history is being made in Utah. I would have loved running down to the Weber County Courthouse to help officiate the long awaited weddings that took place there yesterday. Someone asked me on Facebook if I would have been first in line if I were there. My answer was, of course: “No, I am already married and marriage is forever.” Yes, I know, people can get divorced, but they will still have been married – forever. It is amazing to me that some of my friends have been married to each other multiple times, in different countries and in different states. I don’t think it is considered bigamy if you keep marrying the same person over and over again, but it does seem odd to me. It nothing else, it is a lot of anniversaries to remember.
My life partner (now wife) and I have only two anniversaries. One is July 12. We were legally wed on July 12, 2013 in San Rafael, CA. The other is January 3. We began our relationship as a couple on Jan. 3, 1975. Since then, we have owned 3 different homes, lived in three different states, had three biological children, and cared for three foster children. We will have a big wedding ceremony and reception on January 3, 2014, also in San Rafael. We will exchange vows and rings, cut a cake, toss bouquets, and dance to a DJ’s music. The minister who is officiating is the Reverend Janie Sparr, the first minister we met as a couple and one of the most courageous and loving people I know. She has been working within the Presbyterian Church for decades, trying to promote love and acceptance for all.
I followed her into the ministry, but as a Unitarian Universalist minister, not a Presbyterian. Unitarian Universalists have a very long history of support for equality for LGBT people, so the work I have done in that area has largely been in the wider community.
If we had been in Utah this week, rather than in California preparing for that big wedding ceremony of ours, we would have been been at a Utah courthouse. I would have signed a lot of marriage licenses and we both would have cheered all the newlyweds. Love is sweet. It is worth celebrating. If we hadn’t done the legal thing in California last July, we would have been in the line to be married as well.
But marriage is forever and that fact is recognized and understood here in California. In Utah that is still not true as the governor there is fighting to have all those sweet marriages declared null and void. He calls it chaos. Utah County continues to defy the court order and is refusing to issue marriage licenses to same gender couples. That is chaos, I suppose, but it is a chosen chaos. I do understand that much of Utah is in shock at the court’s decision. I am in shock too. Who could have imagined before this week that Utah would have marriage equality before a state like Oregon? Who could have imagined that this would happen in a state where people can be fired or evicted simply because to their sexual orientation or gender identity?
Utah never took any steps down that so-called “slippery slope,” but this week, more than a few hang gliders were able to fly free, catching the updraft of a brand new day. Hand in hand, their marriages, too, will be forever. Blessed Be.
I am flying back to CA today to be with my wife, spend the holidays with our children, and get ready for our January wedding. We had a friend perform a legal marriage for us there in July. Then we came back to Utah and were unrelated, our relationship not recognized by our state. This afternoon, when I arrive in the Bay Area, or maybe even as I fly over the Sierras, we will be married again. We will soon have a big wedding ceremony and reception, and our relationship will be blessed by a fabulous minister and affirmed by 100+ family and friends. Afterward, we will drive back to Utah. Once we cross the boarder into Nevada, we will again be legal strangers. It is not fun living in a so-called “family values” state that doesn’t recognize our commitment to each other. After 39 years together, our lives are completely entwined. “Families are forever” is an LDS slogan that refers to eternal marriage or marriages in the afterlife. Mormon men can have more than one wife once they get to heaven. I’d be just fine having my one marriage recognized in this world, all the time, wherever I might be and wherever I might travel.
Maybe the Supremes will sing again.
Ah, Utah, your mountains are beautiful but your politics are truly bizarre.
In arguing the current challenge to amendment 3 which bans same sex marriage, the state attorneys said case law requires that the judge use a rational-basis standard to determine if Utah’s law promotes a legitimate government interest in supporting responsible procreation and the “gold standard” of two biological parents for child rearing, which they said was the primary purpose behind the ban on same-sex marriages.
Gold standard? Utah is a state that says it values families and children. It also has terribly underfunded and poorly performing schools and one of the highest suicide rates in the country for teens and young adults. I won’t even talk about STD’s and teenage pregnancies, porn addiction rates, drug addiction rates, or the high profile and horrible cases of child abuse and neglect that keep surfacing.
Is the gold standard really about straight couples marrying very young and having lots of kids? The LDS culture here encourages that. Families with eight or even ten children are not uncommon. Women are defined by being mothers and more is clearly seen as better. That doesn’t seem like “responsible procreation” to me. Almost every week, a young child is run over in their driveway and killed , often by a relative. Unsupervised children find the family guns and shoot each other or themselves. Realistically, no one can watch ten kids and keep them safe, not these days. No one can really care for ten children and do justice to the difficult job of being a parent.
If Utah families are the gold standard for raising children, it is a pretty tarnished one.
Responsible procreation is having children that you really want. It is having the resources and abilities to be able to care for them so that they can grow up to be healthy, happy, responsible people who will contribute something positive to the world.
Same gender couples who have decided to have children are much more likely than straight couples to have given parenting a lot of thought before they create a family. It also takes a lot of effort and expense for a gay couple to have a child, most commonly through artificial insemination, surrogacy, or adoption. Accidental pregnancies just don’t happen. Home studies are also required for adoption. The gay parents I know are, in fact, some of the best around. I also know some awesome single parents as well as straight couples who have adopted children. Kids in those families suffer not because of their family structure but because people tell them their family is somehow not “real” or “not as good .”
The state attorneys and those they represent should take a long hike in those lovely mountains. They can look for gold, but they just might see a rainbow instead.
We could then adopt a rainbow standard of children being raised by a parent or parents who will love and care for them.
It’s been a long
As it came
No vows just hope
That love would win
As the years passed
One day to another
Was it a surprise
To still be standing
Side by side
Now’s the time
It’s been too long
Be my bride
For love, my dear,
Has finally won.