The Unitarian Society
East Brunswick, NJ
December 3, 2016
Let me begin in gratitude: for the universe, that conspired with fate, providence, and chaos that you might be part of this good company we are creating together tonight.
Gratitude for all who collaborated to make this event possible:
- our co-sponsors, Temple B’nai Tikvah, whose Rabbi, Robert Wolkoff, is here;
- Interfaith RISE coalition, sponsored by the Reformed Church of Highland Park. After the film you will hear from Carrie Dirks-Amadeo and Sylvia Hove, active members of this comprehensive organization serving refugees and immigrants in Central New Jersey.
Gratitude for our honored guests, members of the Islamic Center of East Brunswick, with whom we renew our long-standing relationship.
Gratitude for the many folks of this Unitarian Universalist congregation who worked to bring this event to fruition.
My name is Karen G. Johnston and I have the honor to serve this congregation as minister and to welcome you all here this evening.
I have a confession: at first, I was a mildly frustrated that we scheduled this screening a whole two-and-a-half months after the première on PBS. Sometimes, I can be impatient. It’s something I am working on.
I should have had faith; I should have trusted. For given our current national and world circumstances, it turns out that December 3 is exactly the right date, exactly the right chance, for us to gather, for us to get to know one another, and to conspire with one another to resist the hate rising in the land.
Towards that end, I invite you right now to turn to someone physically close whom you do not know and introduce yourself. If you are able to be so bold, offer your hand. Bolder still, look into the eyes of this person who was, until a few moments ago, a stranger, and is now, your neighbor, perhaps soon to be a friend, and in the eyes of the Universe, has always been your fellow kin.
On my own, I don’t have many strategies for how we are going to get through the dangerous times that are descending upon us. However, in conversation and connection with others, I have come across a few.
One is acting boldly on the deep necessity to know one another, to show up for one another, to rely on one another, to weave tighter the common fabric that has become so frayed.
Make no mistake: when your hands touched those of a stranger just now, it was an act of hope and an act of resistance. A small gesture, bridging an invisible divide, practice for the bigger gestures and bigger acts that will be asked of us, that are already being asked of us now.
[sadly, I left this part out when I actually gave this introduction, but I include it here because it’s such a powerful poem]
Let this modern translation (by Daniel Ladinsky) of words from the 14th century Persian poet Hafiz ring in your heart throughout our whole evening together:
[A Great Need]
Of a great need
We are holding hands
Not loving is a letting go.
The terrain around here
May we be so bold.