Sunday March 13, 2016: Firsts Aren’t the Only Thing

Prelude: Balm in Gilead by Nina Simone


History is a relentless master. It has no present, only the past rushing
into the future. To try to hold fast is to be swept aside. John F. Kennedy

Chalice Lighting:UU Heritage Chalice Lighting By Elizabeth M Strong

Our Unitarian heritage bids us light our chalice
In the name of freedom,
In the light of reason,
In actions of tolerance.
We gather in community to celebrate a heritage of freedom, reason, and tolerance.

Our Universalist heritage bids us light our chalice
In the name of faith,
In the light of hope,
In actions of love.
We gather in community to celebrate a heritage of faith, hope, and love.

Let us bring this Unitarian Universalist heritage into our world and our lives today.

Song: Over My Head

Over my head I hear music in the air
Over my head I hear music in the air
Over my head I hear music in the air
There must be a God somewhere.

Over my head I hear singing in the air
Over my head I hear singing in the air
Over my head I hear singing in the air
There must be a God somewhere.

Over my head I feel gladness in the air
Over my head I feel gladness in the air
Over my head I feel gladness in the air
There must be a God somewhere.

Rainbow Principles

Respect the importance of all beings.
Offer fair and kind treatment to all.
Yearn to learn throughout life.
Grow by exploring ideas and values together.
Believe in your ideas and act on them.
Insist on peace, freedom, and justice for all.
Value our interdependence with nature.

The Six Sources:

Unitarian Universalist congregations affirm and promote seven Principles, which we hold as strong values and moral guides. We live out these Principles within a “living tradition” of wisdom and spirituality, drawn from sources as diverse as science, poetry, scripture, and personal experience. These are the six sources our congregations affirm and promote:

  1. Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life;
  2. Words and deeds of prophetic women and men which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love;
  3. Wisdom from the world’s religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life;
  4. Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God’s love by loving our neighbors as ourselves;
  5. Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit;
  6. Spiritual teachings of Earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.

Story for All Ages: Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears by Verna Aardema with pictures by Leo and Diane Dillon

Offering and Response  (Unison)

For the gifts which we have received—and the gifts which we, ourselves, are—may we be truly grateful. Yet more than that, may we be committed to using these gifts to make a difference in the world: to increase love and justice; to decrease hatred and oppression; to expand beloved community; to share, and to keep sharing, as long as ever we can. Amen.

Reading: Totem Games: Guess who I am? By Yvonne Seon

Sometimes, I glimpse my totem
Staring hard at me
From distant, darkened doorways
Or the shadow of a tree.
I peer, too, but all I see
In the pulsing dark and gloom
Are laughing eyes, drawing me
To a spot where memory
Fades into void beyond.
“Guess who I am!” Totem cries,
While shifting shape before my eyes:
Lizard? Owl? Rabbit? Snake?
Perhaps forgotten family ties
Link me to each shape it tries.
Spider? Dog? Anteater? Stork?
Through ocean mist and fog it flies
To Guinea, Ghana, Benin, Kongo—
Looking to lands beyond.

So, we play our games of “Tag,”
“Hide and Seek,” and “Peek-a-boo!”
Totem often wins the match
By running faster than I do,
Hiding longer—doding, too;
But every now and then, I start,
To see a shape or find a clue
that leads me, breathless,
Racing to light beyond.

Sermon: Firsts Aren’t the Only Thing

I love history. I think it is really important. The Rev. Kathleen Rolenz said, “Throughout history, we have moved to the rhythms of mystery and wonder, prophecy, wisdom, teachings from ancient and modern sources, and nature herself.” I like this quote it encapsulates why we should study history. However, I have become increasingly angry at the fact that we assume to be a part of history a person has to be dead. I believe that we need to cover more than just the far away past. I believe that we need to talk of modern day stories as well. It is Women’s History month and I went to the UUA website and saw their Famous UU Women and I looked at it, but none of the 10 women they highlighted on the webpage were alive. I was saddened and wrote an email. After that I wanted to find a first and especially one since the UUA was founded in 1961. Interestingly enough, I was researching something completely different because of my Hermione tendencies and needed to know how old Dave Chappelle was. I found that his mother was a Unitarian Universalist Minister. This intrigued me so I looked into it more and I discovered that his mother was the first African American Female Minister in the UUA.  But there is more to this woman than just a first.

She was born in Washington, D.C., on December 20, 1937, Yvonne Seon graduated as salutatorian of her class at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Washington, D.C. When asked if she was a tomboy when she was young this was her response: (audio clip)

Seon received a B.A. with honors from Allegheny College in 1959. She attended the American University as a Woodrow Wilson Fellow and in 1960 earned her M.A. in political science. That same year, she met Patrice Lumumba, leader of the newly independent Congo, on his only visit to the United States. Yvonne was the daughter of an activist and worked hard to be an activist herself.  (insert second audio clip) The dynamic African leader offered Seon a job in his new government. Proficient in French, and with a keen interest in Africa, Seon accepted and served as secretary of the Inga Dam project for two years the highest Government position open to a non-citizen, equivalent to an Executive Director. The first American hired by the new government, she managed the Commission and helped assure uninterrupted recordings of technical data needed for dam construction.

Returning from Africa, Dr. Seon was hired through the Minority Affairs Office of the Department of State as Foreign Affairs Officer in the Office of International Conferences. In that capacity, she was appointed by President Lyndon Johnson as Secretary of the U.S. Delegation to the 14th General Assembly of UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization), meeting in Paris. Seon was the first African-American and only the second woman to hold this office on a major U.S. delegation. UNESCO was founded for the purpose of building intercultural understanding: through protection of heritage and support for cultural diversity. UNESCO created the idea of World Heritage to protect sites of outstanding universal value. Pursuing scientific cooperation: such as early warning systems for tsunamis or trans-boundary water management agreements, to strengthen ties between nations and societies. Protecting freedom of expression: an essential condition for democracy, development and human dignity. These are important to our values as UUs. As a young woman she worked hard for the rights of all people, liberty, and democracy. She at this point in her life what some people refer to as “UU but they just don’t know it yet”.

In 1966, Seon attended the First African Festival of the Arts held in Dakar, Senegal. While in school at Union Graduate School, Seon became the first director of the Bolinga Black Cultural Resource Center at Wright State University. She returned to Washington, D.C., in 1972 to work for Congressman Howard Diggs. She became one of the first contributors to Africare, an American-based aid organization to Africa. By 1977, Seon was the first woman to serve on Africare’s board of directors, and in 2002 she became its first vice chairwoman.

Seon’s career as an educator coincided with her marriage and move to the Dayton, OH area. She was hired at Wilberforce University as Director of Student Life Programs and Instructor of French. She also taught Lingala, a Congo language, at Central State University. The interest of her colleagues in better understanding America’s African cultural heritage led her to enter the Union Institute working with her professors to structure what may have been the first Ph.D. program in Black Studies, in 1974. Her doctoral work led to the articulation of a Black Education Program at Wilberforce University and to the realization of the Bolinga Black Cultural Resources Center at Wright State University in Dayton, OH. As the Center’s founding Director, she worked with students to create a model program. She was also responsible for adding into the curriculum courses on the Black woman and on the literature of Black writers of French expression.

A “Call” to ministry at the death of her grandmother led Seon to Howard University Divinity School, where she earned a M.Div. degree in 1981. That year, Seon became the first African American woman to enter Unitarian Universalist Parish Ministry when she was ordained by the Reverend David Eaton at All Soul’s Unitarian Church in Washington, DC. Later, she founded on Capitol Hill the first “intentionally diverse new start congregation” in the denomination, and was chosen by her peers as President of Capitol Hill Group Ministries from 1986-1988.

Seon currently works as an associate professor of history at Prince George’s Community College in Largo, Maryland, and resides in Cheverly, Maryland.  (Side Note from Cricket: It is really hard to write a UU History Sermon that doesn’t sound like a lecture)

Rev. Seon has a lot of firsts. That’s really wonderful. Firsts are great like first steps and first words, but there is so much more to life than that. There is more to history than that. There is more to being a UU than just recognizing achievements. We need to celebrate the spirituality of people as well as their accomplishments. We need to use their accomplishments to help us with our own. Rev. Seon said this “Some of you have heard me say, “Don’t take Jesus away from me!” You may have thought this strange coming from a Unitarian Universalist minister. But, when I say this, I don’t mean Jesus, a Being whose perfection removes him from most of us in this realm. I mean Jesus, the human person, like me; capable of divine inspiration, insight and response, like me; Jesus, responsible, like me for creating change, here, now! In liberation theology, Jesus bears the cross as a powerful symbol that we each have a share in bearing the crosses of life, and that we all have the capacity to transcend the pain of our crosses to achieve a higher life of meaning. ‘Must Jesus bear the cross alone, and all the world go free?’ No, there’s a cross for everyone, and there’s a cross for you and for me!” We are all capable of being inspired. We are all capable of changing the world. We are all capable of firsts. More importantly, we are all capable of casting stones into the pond and creating ripples.

Song: This Little Light of Mine

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

Ev’rywhere I go, I’m gonna let it shine,
Ev’rywhere I go, I’m gonna let it shine,
Ev’rywhere I go, I’m gonna let it shine,
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

Building up a world, I’m gonna let it shine,
Building up a world, I’m gonna let it shine,
Building up a world, I’m gonna let it shine,
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

Everything I do, I’m gonna let it shine,
Everything I do, I’m gonna let it shine,
Everything I do, I’m gonna let it shine,
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

Joys and Sorrows

If you woke this morning with a sorrow so heavy that you need the help of this community to carry it;
or if you woke with a joy so great that it simply must be shared, now is the time for you to speak.


For the joys and sorrows that haven’t been spoken, but which remain in the silent sanctuaries of our hearts.

These joys and griefs, spoken and unspoken, weave us together in the fabric of community.

Silent Meditation


Song: Go Now In Peace (3 times)

Go now in peace, go now in peace
May our love and care surround you
Everywhere, everywhere, you may go

Extinguishing the Chalice: Through our Temporary Lives by Carl G Seaburg

Through our temporary lives the great currents of history run.
Let us keep the channels open and free so not to obstruct purposes greater than our own.
Let us keep our minds set upon the high goals that here bind us into one sharing fellowship of loving hearts.


Postlude: Blessed Be by Heather Jinmaku


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