This month we celebrated the 100 year anniversary of women’s suffrage. While this was a milestone, many African American’s rights were limited until the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Voting is a right not to be taken for granted. At this virtual service with Rev. Sue Browning we’ll explore the ways the history voting reminds us as Unitarian Universalists to assure everyone will be able to exercise their right to vote in 2020.
Find all our recorded services online here.
Sunday, August 30
“Voting as a Sacred Right”
Unitarian Universalist Fellowship at Easton
Spirit of Life
Welcome to the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship at Easton, a UU congregation on the Eastern shore of Maryland.
I am Reverend Sue Browning and am honored to serve this congregation.
We gather each week for renewal. We come to learn, and grow. And we come to lay it down – the challenges around us. We gather to find a slightly new spin on a nagging issue.
We come into the virtual door each Sunday ready to be changed somehow; and hopefully we are be transformed.
Today we’ll reflect on what it means to have a right to vote, and to what it takes to exercise that right. We raise our questions in the context of our faith – a faith whose principles lift up the democratic process.
If you have questions about Unitarian Universalism, or about our congregation, or about these principles I reference, please be in touch through email or phone. Our contact information is on the website.
Gratitude today to Liz Hausburg, new to the tech team who edited our service today. Gratitude to the many staff, members and friends who continue to sustain UUFE as a vibrant faith congregation where we live out our values, and care for one another, and together renew our souls.
We light our chalice this morning in honor of the many sources of renewal and out life, for the ways we learn and change when all voices are heard.
Covenant of Our Fellowship (In unison, please remain standing)
“At the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship at Easton, we seek to nurture spiritual and intellectual growth for all ages, and to be actively involved in community outreach and service. Cherishing diversity, and celebrating our oneness with all humanity, we covenant to support each other in the spirit of compassion, respect, and love.”
#21 – For the Beauty of the Earth
Teaching Kids About Voting
– Liz Hausburg
I invite us into a time of reflection, a time of prayer.
On Friday, UUA president Susan Frederick- Gray shared these words,
“Religious community is one of the containers to express our collective grief and to be strengthened by the knowledge that we are not alone. This experience of interdependence creates compassion and calls us to act from that place of love for the things we hold most deeply. It kindles in us the courage to confront systems of injustice and nurture new practices of justice and care.
We hold in our prayers Jacob Blake, who is paralyzed after being shot in the back by Kenosha police. We pray for his family, especially his children who witnessed this violence. We pray for the loved ones of those killed and injured in Kenosha, after a white nationalist shot into a crowd of protestors. We pray for movement leaders and those witnessing for Black Lives Matter. We pray for people in California, Iowa, Louisiana, and Arkansas trying to survive in the midst of unprecedented fires and storms. We pray for our children and their parents, caregivers, and teachers who are navigating unbelievable challenges, while, at the same time, they are teaching little ones and youth how to love and thrive.”
We hear these words from Rev. Susan and pause. Let’s take a moment and reflect on the those needing care and support
Joys and Sorrows
We build community by sharing our joys and sorrows each week. We ask that any joys or sorrows you would like to be included to be emailed to me and to the office by noon on Thursday.
We light the first candle for all we are holding in the middle of the pandemic. The losses are significant, and we hold those who have died and their loved ones in love. We hold in love all who are working to keep us safe. We hold in love to the many making decisions on next steps – leaders, families, communities.
Voting as a Sacred Right
Last week my news feed lit up with stories about woman’s suffrage. August 18, 2020 marked 100 years since the 19th amendment, which provided women a constitutional right to vote, was ratified. The 100-year anniversary is the day in 1920 that Tennessee took action, the 36th state to do so and with its vote the 36 states needed to ratify the change was complete.
The news this past week was filled with stories of early leaders – Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B Anthony, and those who wrote, in effect, a women’s bill or rights back in the 1840s. And these women were not the first to raise the issue. Others been pressing the for decades.
It had never been a smooth path. In her book new book, “Suffrage: Women’s Long Battle for the Vote” author Ellen Carol DuBois pulled from a pastoral letter in the early 19th century, sharing…’When a woman, “assumes the place and tone of a man as a public reformer…our care and protection of her seem unnecessary…she yields the power which God has given her for protection and her character becomes unnatural.”
These leaders faced opposition. This wasn’t how society expected women to be. And yet, these leaders raised the profile of women’s rights back before the Civil War; they developed the platform, and built early coalitions. There was debate whether voting should even be a goal for women’s rights. Was it too aggressive and not remotely possible?
Yet, early on it was clear that without the vote, other goals on matters of property, wages and safety would never be. To have an impact, women needed to have a vote; it was the strategic linchpin. And it would take generations, and failed initiatives, and interrupted momentum.
And there was drama. Based on reports of her pardon this month, an unsolicited pardon to be sure, we do know Susan Anthony did attempt a vote in 1872. To her own surprise, and frankly her disappointment, she managed to cast a vote in Rochester, NY. She had refused bail, and wanted to be jailed. She was tried and fined, with the fine she refused to pay suspended. She was incensed more was not done to prosecute her more rigorously. She had expected to be rejected in the first place and have a case for the Supreme Court. (100) She knew of ‘good trouble.’ Clearly, a pardon was far from her wish list.
These 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage put the spotlight on other parts of the path to suffrage.
There were men who helped, including Frederick Douglass. Some reliable, others not some much.
And there were critical African American voices for inclusion – Sojourner Truth, Francis Ellen Watkins Harper and others, whose tenacity was incredible, even as they were at times pushed into the shadows by determined, strategic, affluent white women moving toward a vision.
The news stories have reminded us of the critical roles of members of the queer community – in today’s terms the LGBTQ community – who saw that in order to live their lives authentically, woman needed right to vote.
The stories remind us of the many engaged in the long and messy movements, and the ways issues of equity intersected.
After the Civil War there were efforts to secure the vote for all, including African Americans. Not surprisingly tensions that arose when there was pressure to prioritize needs; these were times of conflict, and challenges to loyalty.
While the 15th amendment which prohibits the federal government and each state from denying a citizen the right to vote based on ‘race or color’ was ratified in 1870, we know a myriad of impediments cancelled this right for men and women of color.
Civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer words…“One night I went to the church. They had a mass meeting. And I went to the church and they talked about how is was our right, that we could register and vote. The were talking about we could vote out people we didn’t want in office, we thought that wasn’t right, that we could vote them out. That sounded interesting enough to me that I wanted to try it. I had never heard, until 1962, that black people could register to vote…What they asked for those to raise their hands who’d go down the to courthouse, …I raised mine. Had it up high as I could get it. I guess if I’d had any sense I’d have been a little scared, but what is the point of being scared? The only thing they could do to me was kill me and it seemed like they’d been trying to do that a little bit at a time since I could remember. (Sources of our Faith, p 27)
Securing women’s rights to vote was a long, long march and it hadn’t ended in 1920.
These 100-year stories are a reminders that change takes time.
Change to enfranchise others will be blocked over and over. Remember woman advocated for the change, but in the end, it was men who were in power who needed ratify an amendment.
One can guess power and money is at play, as are egos. Those with power often see there is no need for change.
Those with the power, often drag their feet. And getting to the right and moral answer takes literally an un-godly amount of time.
Our local newsfeeds this month also included the decision by the Talbot County Council to Confederate monument on the courthouse lawn – the Talbot Boys statue. This painful legacy to slavery and bigotry is to stay. This statue, erected in 1916, needs to come down, and the work to make this so endures.
Often those most directly disenfranchised are not heard, or believed. Even with allies, change takes an un-godly amount of time.
Our hope is in the vote. Not the only tool, but arguably the most powerful.
The potential of the vote is in the demand change; to elect leaders who match the values of the community.
In the early drafts on women’s rights – back in the 1800s – a provision was added to the demands, “that it is the duty of women of this country to secure themselves their sacred right to elective franchise.” (DuBois, 9)
Their sacred right.
What makes something sacred?
Sacred can be used in a religious sense. And we also can use the term to describe something of the highest value to be held in highest regard, and to be guarded as something of this high value. In this context we hear of an inherent right. Not something one needs to earn.
The right to vote is sacred in its inherent worth. Voting is worth sacrifice to protect.
We know others have made deep sacrifices for us to have this right. And we know the rights are suppressed for some, with barriers put in the path to voting. This is wrong.
Recently the Unitarian Universalists looked ahead to all of the justice issues before us and concluded working on voting – from the right to vote, to fair elections, to encouraging participation needed to be a focused effort. You may hear of ‘UU the Vote’ and efforts to put our faith in action. Check their website and if you want to learn more, let me know. Voting is a justice issue unto itself.
Working through the democratic process can be slow. Years of work; slow work. And candidate won’t be perfect, but hopefully can be trustworthy, and listen well, and share at least most of what you value. Yet when a change happens through a vote it has the power of collective agreement. Change can stick, or at least the potential is there.
In my view, voting is a sacred tool.
Our news feeds of late have been filled with back to back political conventions (collective sigh heard) as we lead toward the November 3, 2020 election.
Elections are about the the results, not the conventions, and the path to results is the vote.
Of all the risks and possibility before us, of course I hope we each vote. And that we have a plan to vote – a plan A, and a plan B, and that we are careful and committed regarding our personal vote.
My sense is we are called to more this year.
We are called to know the election process in our community backward and forward and to protect it. We are called to advocate for a process where all can participate, and especially to advocate for those who can most easily be disenfranchised.. And as the deadlines approach that we assure all eligible have a path to be counted.
Voting should not be taken for granted; it is our path to hope; our path to change.
May It Be So
A few reminders today.
First, be on the lookout for specifics on our virtual annual meeting which will be held September 20. The congregation will be asked to adopt a budget and vote on a slate of officers.
We remind folks that it is possible to through the Donate button on the website, or by mail. All contributions toward the ministries of the congregation are gratefully received.
And finally, the tradition of the congregation is to have our Ingathering Service the Sunday after Labor Day – this year this is September 13, and while our gathering will be virtual, we are planning a service – complete with Water Communion – that we hope all will attend! Details and a chance to participate will be explained by email early this week.
Closing Words/Extinguish Chalice
we go forth grateful for the ways we are sustained by democracy.
May we go forth as stewards of all we name as sacred.
Go in peace, go in love, go knowing love surrounds you wherever you may go.