Our Ministry Begins When We Leave This Place (We CAN do More)
Rev. Donald E. Robinson

2013 Berry Street Essay (Response)
Delivered at the 193rd Ministerial Conference
June 19, 2013, Louisville, KY

Humbling Experience

Good afternoon. I want to thank the individual that offered my name to the committee. I thank the committee for choosing me to speak here this afternoon. I find this a humbling experience. Hopefully, I will say something that will aid the denomination as a religious institution and be beneficial to us all.

With regard to the Berry Street meetings, William Ellery Channing stated "Liberal and catholic views of Christianity needed a bond of union, a means of intercourse, and an opportunity of conference.” It was Channing’s view that the objective was not simply the advancement of peculiar views, but the general diffusion of practical religion and the spirit of Christianity.[1] In my attempt to align what I am speaking about here today with the history of the Berry Street Lectures, the word "practical”[2] and the spirit of Christianity struck deep cords within me. I have concluded that Dr. Channing wanted the liberal churches to become more actively engaged with their communities and our country ─ and that our creed needs to be lived as well as preached.


With this backdrop in mind, I will be talking about practical ways to live out the Christian message to love our neighbor. I will be sharing with you today my experiences and practical recommendations on how to re-focus our Unitarian Universalist (UU) ministry to fortify, support, and improve how we approach and serve vulnerable youth and communities experiencing crisis. I believe that our objectives in helping communities and people of need must be focused, based on long-term commitments, doggedly determined, and implemented with respect and dignity toward those we seek to assist.

Today I will share with you some of my personal journeys in becoming a Unitarian Universalist (UU), a UU community minister, and the development of my vocation as evidenced by the founding of Beacon House Community Ministry, Inc. This is of importance because it explains why I see such an urgency to address the problems faced by vulnerable communities, why we must forge a unified approach to address these challenges, and how my experiences may provide a template for others to build their Beacon House.

My presentation will continue with the urgency of action (why it is now!), when our ministry begins, and why we have an obligation to do more. I will then tell you about my "more” called Beacon House Community Ministry, Inc. My specific experiences and insights with Beacon House may serve to help you in developing your community ministry projects. Lastly, I will present some background information on the urban ministry experience and how our UU congregations can help people to develop their missions, their vocations ─ the prophetic imperative (beyond the church walls).

Sources for Commitment: My Personal Journey

My youthful experiences taught me the highs and the lows of being vulnerable and at the mercy of circumstances. I learned survival, caring and the necessity to help others. Unconsciously, I was learning the core values that would eventually form the basis of my religious beliefs. Consciously, however, I didn’t think any organized religion was for me.

I began my life in the West Virginia coal fields of the late 1930s. At the time, the business of coal mining was structured around the "company town.”[3] Everything was owned by the company: the grocery store, our homes, the land under our feet, and the coal mines. In the eyes of the company, families were there for one reason -- to produce corporate profit. The human being was of importance for only this purpose. Often, this was a grinding existence for the coal miners and their families. The 1930s were hard economic years. The great depression started in 1929. For these years and many more, opportunities for THE POOR, ESPECIALLY PEOPLE of color were not in abundance. Around 1950, our coal mine closed; then families were put on notice that they had to leave the hollow. As a result, my father became unemployed. Our family had to relocate.

When we left this company town, my family moved to an area only a little larger than this hotel. I was puzzled as to why, in such a small town, we had to have two Baptist churches ─ one black and one white serving the same God. I tried to connect to various churches as a child, a teenager, and later as an adult, but I found Sunday school boring. As an adult, I found the ministers to be too other worldly and not enough of the here and now (this worldly). If this was religion, I reasoned, it wasn’t for me. It was boring, it was segregated, and it was isolated from day-to-day life.

I changed my mind when the Holy Spirits (both male and female[4]) led Meredith Higgins, my classmate in graduate school and a member of All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church[5] in Washington, DC, to introduce me to the Unitarian Universalist denomination and I thank them and her. While I was in graduate school working on a degree in Counseling Psychology, Meredith asked me if I would come to her church, All Souls, to help her with the high school Religious Education Program. Although I knew nothing of the Unitarian Universalist denomination, I said yes. I became hooked that first Sunday.

What hooked me was that the church was well integrated in terms of both ethnicity and sexual orientation. As I have heard Rev. Robert M. Hardies, current All Souls UU minister say, "we’re about all souls not some souls.” People of different ethnic groups were in administrative and leadership positions. The sermon was short and dealt with problems of the here and now. The music was outstanding and the fellowship wonderful. I thought "this must be what heaven will be like.” I admit, I was impressed by the ministry of All Souls, but over time, I learned not all our UU congregations were so well integrated or as involved in the wider community surrounding their churches (as All Souls did back then).

As a denomination, we have plenty of room to grow. We CAN reach out more effectively. We CAN become more involved, and today I am going to share with you my thoughts about how we best can do that.

First, let me tell you what I did. From my growing UU involvement, my life’s mission emerged. I decided to attend divinity school because I was determined to begin a community ministry program in an inner-city neighborhood in the District of Columbia; I believed an ordained minister would be better received by the community than a layperson beginning such a program. Someone asked me once what would stop me from following my dream. I said, "Death, me dying!”

Becoming an ordained Unitarian Universalist minister, with the intention of serving a community rather than a congregation, was not easy. To become ordained, I had to complete a successful internship. Securing the internship with a UU church proved more difficult than I had expected. I met some resistance within the Unitarian Universalist churches. The opposition appeared to take the form of resistance to the community ministry concept. I eventually received the help of Sarah Campbell (now Sarah York and the Moderator here this afternoon); at the time, Rev. Campbell was the Senior Minister of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Rockville, Maryland. She and her congregation welcomed me with open arms. I secured an internship there, and after completion, I became ordained at All Souls church in June 1990. I have the distinction of being the first Unitarian Universalist Minister who was ordained into community ministry.

Later, when I opened Beacon House, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Rockville would prove even more helpful with my community ministry. They believed in my undertaking. They went with me to the people who were facing severe hardships. They volunteered, helped with Saturday programs, and provided financial support. Other Unitarian Universalist churches around the Washington, DC, beltway also began to share my vision, to assist, and to become involved in the mission.

As I now stand here today speaking at the Berry Street lecture, perhaps you can understand why it is so difficult for me to find the right words of gratitude. In the more than twenty years since I first had my vision of a community ministry, I’ve come a very long way to the point where I can share my own story as what, I hope, will be an inspiration and possibly a road map for others. I believe my journey was guided by the hands of higher beings for a purpose, as this voyage of mine has filled me with a particular viewpoint about how to be of support to those facing the greatest deprivations in our country today.

An Analysis: The Urgency of Action

It has struck me that we don’t have Unitarian Universalist congregations, at all, in some of the areas in this country with the greatest needs, and my thoughts on this matter were further heightened, last July, when I listened to Bill Moyer’s interview with Chris Hedges about the graphic novel "Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt” that Hedges published with Joe Sacco on capitalism’s "sacrifice zones.” Chris Hedges has defined sacrifice zones as areas in this country where Americans are trapped in endless cycles of poverty, powerlessness, and despair as a direct result of corporate greed. And although our inner-city communities are some the worst examples, sacrifice zones are not restricted to urban locations. Rural America also suffers. My childhood-coal-producing company town was a sacrifice zone, and much of West Virginia still is.

While my earlier upbringing and experiences had already sensitized me to the needs of people who live in our country’s "sacrifice zones,” my work as a Washington, DC, teacher and counselor, prior to my becoming a community minister and beginning Beacon House, further raised my awareness of poverty and need.

I saw some sad things as I worked with the children of DC. One of the sights that touched me most was when I saw two children, about four years of age, sitting on the curb one morning eating someone else’s discarded French Fries from the gutter. I suspect the rats had shared them earlier that morning. I’ve seen children buy a twenty-five cent bag of chips and then share that small bag with four or five of their friends. Each may have gotten only one chip. No matter how small a thing they had, they shared what they had today because tomorrow was unknown. They knew that later on, one or another of the group would have something to share. Sharing meant more chances to have something in one’s belly.

The first victims are the children. Youth are at the top of the list FOR BEING AT THE BOTTOM. Child poverty[6] has increased even as the amount of food we throw away (as a nation) has reached embarrassing levels. We have unsupervised youngsters while parents work multiple jobs. We have hungry and homeless children. We have uneducated, sick and neglected children.

In living out our creeds, the central issue goes beyond the evils of slavery, bigotry, Jim Crow laws, and segregation. While these various evils have been part of our American society and accepted and often promoted by federal, state, and local governments, the underlying game plan is the orchestrated war against the weakest by the most powerful. Why? For Greed, for Power, and for Dominion (GPD)! It’s not Gross National Product (GNP),[7] it is Greed, Power, Dominion! Methods of exploitation have been refined, aggregated, aggressively funded and pursued; and, more importantly, the targets of manipulation no longer consist of just the usual cast of characters, i.e. the poor black, the poor Hispanic, the poor white. It has expanded to the middle class; we all need to understand that we are ALL in peril.

I tell you, there is much for Unitarian Universalists to do. There are numerous ways we can serve communities in crisis. We must be sharp; we have to be relentless; it is essential to show a loving spirit in our approaches; and necessary to be in the actual communities we seek to assist. The denomination requires a presence working in cities, the suburbs, and the rural areas where there are great hardships.

As Chris Hedges notes, corporations are in these "sacrifice zones” using the people in these areas and then abandoning them. Unitarian Universalists need to be in these zones helping people to lift themselves up and out of that corporate abuse or abandonment. Hedges said, "Greed. It's greed over human life. And it's the willingness on the part of people who seek personal enrichment to destroy human beings. That's a common thread. We, in that biblical term, forgot our neighbor.”[8] Unitarian Universalists must to be in these areas showing that we have not forgotten; that we are neighbors.

In my opinion, often we UUs don’t see ourselves as having much in common with many of the people who live in our country’s sacrifice zones. But, these people are our neighbors, and we need to find our commonalities with them for our own sake as well as for theirs. When we view others as different from us, it makes it easier to ignore their problems. Their trials and tribulations, however, eventually become our problems. Finding the commonalties ties into the concept that we are our brothers and sisters’ keepers and that our survival rests upon love of one another. Finding this love starts with finding our commonalities. Doing so would enable us to live out our Unitarian Universalist principles and our American ideals. As Rosemary Bray McNatt wrote and I quote:

"The truth is this: If there is no justice, there will be no peace. We can read Thoreau and Emerson to one another, quote Rilke and Alice Walker and Howard Thurman, and think good things about ourselves. But if we cannot bring justice into the small circle of our own individual lives, we cannot bring justice to the world. And if we do not bring justice to the world, none of us is safe and none will survive. Nothing that Unitarian Universalists need to do is more important than making justice real----here, where we are. Hard as diversity is, it is our most important task.”[9]

Martin Luther King, Jr., also warned us about injustices and said we must live together as brothers and sisters or perish as fools.[10]

We don’t all have to pack our bags and travel to the sacrifice zones of the inner city, the hollows of West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, or the Indian reservation -- the poor or nearly poor are all around and among us. Sacrifice zones may have the greatest challenges, but the struggle we are talking about is increasingly going on within communities that appear well off.

In 2008, after seeing a television news clip about Beacon House, a woman from the District of Columbia suburbs who was working in a school system in Maryland wrote to me saying, "Our community needs a place like Beacon House to help our students after school…I really want to explore the possibility of setting up an afterschool program for our students so they can have a safe and stable place to be.” Many of the children in her school were very young latchkey children. Many were not from well-to-do families. These are youngsters living in one of the richest DC suburbs, Montgomery County, Maryland; too often, their poverty and needs go unseen. However, this teacher recognized that county riches aside, these children needed an after-school program just as much as my urban kids. There are places of great destitution in this nation. To find these areas of need, we must leave the pew and go out into the community. We have to be in the community to see, feel, and understand what we can do and how.

Then Our Ministry Begins

When we leave our worship services and come in contact with those that require our support outside the doors of our edifices, when we go out into the communities and volunteer in a school, at a recreation center, etc., where there are great challenges, and we do something about those challenges ─then our ministry begins.

Now, I have seen how much we UUs do for those who seek assistance, face major issues, fall within the cracks of society, and are the victims of oppressive practices. We have prison ministries; we work with homeless shelters and soup kitchens; we form committees to tackle social justice issues; we form legislative ministries, global justice initiatives, mentoring and environmental projects; we partner with other organizations with similar objectives; we educate ourselves about the problems we face; we provide meeting space for unpopular causes; and we donate money. These are all good. While we do a lot, I am saying that we can still do more by reaching out directly to at-risk communities, youth, and families.

My focus is about us, going to the people (where they live, work, love and raise their families) and investing residents with the tools, information, and resources to help themselves. In collaborating with at-risk residents and communities, our goals should be to create an ongoing domino effect of generational self-empowerment and improvement. The way to implement this is through committed, on-the-ground service to challenged people. The prerequisite is the establishment of programs that require us to be there all day and evenings, getting to know the people and them getting to know and TRUST us. Trust is so important because people in the sacrifice zones have been exploited and abandoned too many times. Their first thought about a new program coming into their community is how long will this last ‒ this time?

We cannot, in good conscience, limit ourselves to simply educating ourselves about the significant struggles of others. Being aware of the problems and doing little-to-nothing is unacceptable. We must serve those at-risk and in crisis; we must witness to others about victimization; we must determine how we can serve others so their needs can be addressed; and establish how we can provide support for the poor and others in challenged communities and circumstances.

It is critical that we add our influences to the voices of communities of the poor as they organize to protect themselves. The devices and methods used to keep poor people disadvantaged are complex, tangled, organized, orchestrated, and unrelenting. Our ministry cannot be solely on Sunday; far from it, the ministry actually must begin as soon as we leave our gathering places.

We cannot wall our congregations off from the oppression and ill-treatment of the people around us and truly be spiritual communities. Parishioners in Washington, DC, Maryland, and Virginia were not afraid to be with the people in the killing field where Beacon House was founded; nor should you be afraid! Help a child in a school near your church. Start athletic programs and science and math projects, etc. Be collaborative, leverage resources, and work in partnership with each other and the community. Decide you are going to help, decide you will not be deterred, and it will occur.

This outreach should not be, as it so often has been, a ministry of only individuals or even of congregations working each one by itself. Reaching beyond our sanctuary walls should be a ministry of our congregations working regionally with one another in ever expanding areas as well as the denomination enabling our association of congregations to work together as a whole so that feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, welcoming strangers, visiting the elderly, helping a child with homework, reading to young children, etc., is not just what individual Unitarian Universalists do on their own or what this congregation or that congregation does but what we all do together.

An Example: Establishing Beacon House Community Ministry, Inc.

Let me tell you how the congregations around the D.C. beltway came together to serve children at Beacon House Community Ministry. Since its inception, Beacon House has been supported by the UU congregations and their members in the DC metropolitan area. I hope its establishment and successes serve as an example and that similar affiliations for community ministry will grow all over the country.

The number one thing to remember is that launching and achieving an operational program requires a lot of help, a lot of buy-in, a lot of commitment, a lot of understanding. Effectiveness involves partnerships, coalitions, networks, and organized work teams. It’s not a one-person or a one-group initiative. Community ministry cannot be successful without the collaboration and empowerment of the community residents.

In addition, specific knowledge is helpful. I was at an advantage in knowing the community I was serving. I had experiences working as a fifth grade teacher for the District of Columbia school system, working as a teacher/counselor at the Receiving Home for Children (a juvenile jail facility), and working in a community setting providing onsite social work services to families in their direct neighborhood. In these positions, I witnessed firsthand the terrible impact of poverty and despair on children, their families, and neighborhoods at large.

My work as a Community Youth Counselor gave me knowledge about some of the worst neighborhoods in the District, all of which were low income, public-housing communities. All were havens that served as open-air drug markets and magnets for crime. All the social ills of our society could be found in these neighborhoods. I often thought why these conditions had to exist in the wealthiest nation on earth. Why! Why! Was it Greed, Power, Dominion! Was this the only reason? And why must these environments persist?

Scores of residents had little expectation that their lives would improve. Despair and lack of hope killed ambition and fostered the drug trade as well as other criminal activities. As you might suspect, many residents unsuccessfully struggled to secure sustainable employment. Nonetheless, even in the middle of such horrendous conditions, there were residents who wanted to make their communities better places to live. These residents of Edgewood Terrace, the Unitarian Universalist churches (UUCs), and I found each other and we formed a partnership to confront the community evils and to help the most innocent victims – the children.

Specifically, with the assistance of several of the older residents known as the Resident’s One Tenant Association (ROTA), the Edgewood neighborhood was put on a path of renewal. This effort took a long time, and it does take the whole village. As a result, the ROTA members, the Unitarian Universalist churches (UUCs), and I began Beacon House in the early 1990s as a Unitarian Universalist program. At the same time, I started visiting the area Unitarian Universalists churches, getting speaking engagements whenever I could. Through these appearances at the suburban UU churches, I was able to attract a group of volunteers who served as tutors, board members, and eventually financial donors. Bob Johnsen, a member of River Road UU Church and a Community Organizer, pointed the way that we should go, and we did. These volunteers helped to get us incorporated as a tax exempt non-for-profit corporation eligible to receive grants and donations. All Souls UUC became our fiscal agent. I never accepted cash, only checks and money orders after speaking in a church.

Please note that Beacon House does not promote any form of religious dogma. Even though Beacon House Community Ministry has "ministry” in its title, it is not a faith-based organization. Ministry as used in the organization’s title refers to the work that we do; namely, we minister to families and children in the community. Ministry, in this sense, means providing service. Ministry here is being a servant to the people.

Since its inception, Beacon House has been supported by the UU congregations and their members in the D.C. metropolitan area and beyond. Church members from the suburbs physically walked into the community reaching out to children and adults. There have been several significant accomplishments: one has been to support children academically and the other has been to break the myths that each held about the other. Suburban white people began to review and challenge their thoughts about black children and young adults. They came to understand that all black children and young adults were not bad. Blacks learned that all white people were not negative toward them, and if given an opportunity, genuinely wanted to help. This, to me, was monumental and influential. It eradicated racial, stereotypical-type thinking which is needed in our communities and the country.

As the months progressed, more and more volunteers and more donations found their way through our doors. Church members helped to write grant applications to foundations, so that we were able to hire a director to take over the task of continued grant seeking. Little-by-little, we were able to grow our funding base. By tutoring more and more children, doing outreach to the community, and adding athletic programs – the community increasingly came to recognize, TRUST, and appreciate Beacon House. Even the drug dealers respected Beacon House and never hassled any of the volunteers, including the white Unitarian Universalists, as they made their way onto the property and to our doors.

Today, the Beacon House Community Ministry, Inc. has increased its youth activities. We developed athletic programs in football, basketball, baseball, and tee-ball that attracts more than 300 children each year. We partner each year with the city’s Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP); we have expanded our food initiative and work with the Office of State Education to offer healthy meals and to fight childhood obesity. We still have volunteers who mentor and tutor children; we follow their school progress; and assist in resolving family issues impacting the youngsters. We have computers available for the children to help with homework assignments. Community residents use the computers during the day while the children are in school. We collaborate with the College Bound program and work with a number of school organizations in the city. The goal of collaborating with educational institutions is to help children receive educational opportunities that they would not ordinarily receive without such connections.

Beacon House has helped children to be educationally successful. Each child represents a family of the future. When Beacon House first began, many children were dropping out of school at the elementary level. Many would attend school only sixty to seventy days a year to eat breakfast, lunch and then leave at noon during recess. During our evening snacks, it was not unusual to see children sneaking food into their pockets. Some might have thought these children were stealing; we learned that these kids were taking food to brothers or sisters who were too young to be at Beacon House. They were getting food for their siblings who otherwise would have nothing to eat.

In President Obama’s second-term inaugural address, he said, "We are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else because she is an American, she is free and she is equal not just in the eyes of God but also in our own.”

When the Interim Executive Director of Beacon House, heard the President say this on January 21, 2013, he told me he thought about the accomplishments of Beacon House. Beacon House, he stated, is about equality for all, it’s about giving children born into difficult circumstances a fighting chance to get a good education and make something of their lives.

Urban Ministry Thoughts

One of my forebears in the Unitarian Universalist community ministry, Joseph Tuckerman, understood the need for this collaborative form of community ministry. He said of the poor immigrant Irish community of nineteenth century Boston, "…they were born, and have been reared as if they were a recognized Pariah caste. They have been debased and corrupted by circumstances within the control of those in more favored conditions, but not within their own control, or that of their parents.”[11] The Irish were replaced by people of color as the citizens debased and corrupted by circumstances. The Irish eventually made their way into acceptance and success. Blacks are slowly making their way out too. But, there are still too many people of all colors being left behind. Those driven by greed, power, and dominion are equal opportunity predators.

I encourage each parish minister in this room to work with your own congregation and your neighboring congregations to serve those at-risk and in crisis within your community or in a community of need you choose. I encourage each community minister in this room to connect the programs you serve to our congregations, but please remember that it is important to include the people in the neighborhood when creating your ministry.

Being in ministry can make our congregations more attractive to those who expect religious communities to have some mission, some calling outside their own walls. In 2002, Henry Brinton had an article in the Washington Post entitled, "Churches Need to Get Out of Themselves.”[12] Brinton is Presbyterian, but we Unitarian Universalists can also learn from what he wrote. He says, "I’ve experienced many occasions when the American church has concentrated more on itself than on the world around it, when it has put more energy into maintenance than into mission…People are naturally going to be attracted by a missionary church—one that works from the walls of the church outward…..the good life is found in enthusiastic service to the community.” The church is the church only when it exists for others[13]

In his book Urban Churches Vital Signs: Beyond Charity Toward Justice, Nile Harper features Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell and the Windsor Village United Methodist Church in Houston Texas which Caldwell serves. "From a theological point of view,” says Caldwell, "we believe God is just as concerned about the salvation of the whole community as about the salvation of the individual. Anyone who seeks to separate the two has failed to understand the ethos of the Old Testament and the teachings of Jesus Christ in the New Testament. Members of the Windsor Church are nurtured in a community that embodies the expectation that they can and will make a positive difference in the larger society. The church believes that it is called to be a living incarnation of the gospel active in the world.” We UUs may use different language than Caldwell does, but we also need to be nurturing members within our congregations to assure that they are communities that embody the expectation that they can and will make a positive difference in the larger society.

We are proud of the democratic nature of our Unitarian Universalist congregations, but we need to remember what A. Philip Randolph, a leader in the twentieth century African American civil rights movement and the American labor movement, said, "A community is democratic only when the humblest and weakest person can enjoy the highest civil, economic, and social rights that the biggest and most powerful possess…No power on earth can cause [the poor] to abandon their fight to wipe out every vestige of second-class citizenship and the dual standards that plague them.”

A few of the Unitarian Universalist ministers who have come before us provide examples of the required commitment, sensitivity, and devotion. They put themselves in communities of the poor and the sacrifice zones. Duncan Howlett says of one of these, our forebear, James Reeb, "He not only understood (the poor), he found it a joy to help them. The world’s castoffs whose only virtue was meekness responded to him in a way that was almost unique. They had sought to solve the problems of life by submission because no other solution seemed possible, those who had made their way into the refuge of alcoholic insularity, those who had wound up in the neuropsychological wards of an urban hospital, found in James Reeb an unexpected and unbelievable friend.” Rev. James Reeb gave his life so the "humblest and weakest person” could "enjoy the highest civil, economic, and social rights…”[14]

I have pleaded with you today to do more. I have presented to you why we must do more, and what this "more” can be. There is an urgency to this. With this as the mission, we can take our cues for how to proceed from a number of our forebears, ministers and laity; James Reeb, Whitney Young, Dorothea Dix, Dorothy Day, and Clara Barton. Our job as Unitarian Universalists (UU) is to engage, assist, inform, and guide those amongst us who are disadvantaged, poor, deprived, and destitute. The best way to do this is by building relationships at the community level. Engage on the ground, so to speak! To truly help people, we must go among those we seek to help, enlighten, inform, and guide. I urge prioritizing community-level goals and objectives; then to proceed with dogged determination.

The Prophetic Imperative (Beyond Church Walls)

One among us, Richard S. Gilbert, author of "Confessions of a Militant Mystic: Spirituality and Social Action – A Seamless Garment,”[15] quoted Ralph Waldo Emerson as saying that "everything of God has a crack in it.” In response, Gilbert states that "Ministry is about trying to fix those cracks, about repairing the world and creating the Beloved Community of Love and Justice. The inner urge to work in the service of this vision I call the prophetic imperative.”

Sometimes we refer to our ministries, our vocations, as our "callings.” Theodore Roosevelt defined "vocation” as "the work that most needs to be done in the world.” I believe that my ministry to the children and families of Beacon House is a vocation. For me, the concept of "work that most needs doing” came together with my knowledge of the sufferings of the children and the community. This knowledge brought me to my present ministry. It is a calling, and it needs to be done.

The impetus of my commitment was sensitized by my experiences in the coal-mining company towns of West Virginia; by working in the inner city; by seeing the living conditions of the poor in the cities and rural areas of our country; and it was triggered, among other things, by seeing those children eating French Fries from the gutter that I suspect had been shared by rats.

I propose that our service to others must be done through the community ministry structure, working side-by-side with the poor, the elderly, and the children. We can teach our flocks how to serve communities and people in need, and this assistance must be as sophisticated as are the methods used to suppress and take advantage of the uninformed, the poor, and the new victims[16] of our economic downturn. Are there any of you here? Do you know any of the new victims?

I say, we CAN do more; it is our duty to do more. Our commitment must be focused, strategic, long term and visionary in scope. It isn’t a job for the faint of heart. But it is a job for those with a vocation, a calling; it’s work that must be done.

Our Ministry Begins When We Leave This Place.

Thank you,



Ahlstrom , Sydney and Carey, Jonathan S., eds., An American Reformation: A Documentary History of Unitarian Christianity, Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1985.

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich, Letters & Papers from Prison.

Channing, William Ellery, "How Far is Reason to be used in Explaining Revelation?” Read before the First Ministerial Conference in Berry Street, at the formation of the Conference May 31, 1820, http://www.uuma.org/Page/BSE1820

Genesis 1:27

Gilbert, Richard "Confessional of a Militant Mystic: Spirituality and Social Action-A Seamless Garment,” 1996 Berry Street Essay, June 20, 1996, http://www.uuma.org/Page/BSE1996

Harper, Nile, Urban Churches Vital Signs: Beyond Charity Toward Justice, Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1998.

Hedges, Chris and Sacco, Joe, Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt

Howlett, Duncan, No Greater Love: The James Reeb Story.

Merriam-Webster.com and Dictionary.com, practical

Poor Kids - http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/poor-kids/


1. Channing, William Ellery, "How Far is Reason to be used in Explaining Revelation?” Read before the First Ministerial Conference in Berry Street, at the formation of the Conference May 31, 1820, , http://www.uuma.org/Page/BSE1820

2. of, relating to, or manifested in practice or action : not theoretical or ideal <a practical question> <for all practical purposes>. Practical suggests the ability to adopt means to an end or to turn what is at hand to account: to adopt practical measures for settling problems. Source: Merriam-Webster .com and Dictionary.com

3. A company town (typically located in remote areas and involving an established monopoly franchise) is a place where practically all stores and buildings are owned by the one company that provides employment. At their peak there were more than 2,500 company towns, housing 3% of the US population. [Source: Wikipedia]

4. Genesis 1: 27: So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

5. http://www.all-souls.org/

6. Poor Kids - http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/poor-kids/

7. Gross National Product (GNP) measures the output generated by a country's enterprises (whether physically located domestically or abroad) vs. GPD = greed, power and dominion.

8. Hedges, Chris, "Chris Hedges on Capitalism’s ‘Sacrifice Zones’”, July 20, 2012, http://billmoyers.com/segment/chris-hedges-on-capitalism%E2%80%99s-%E2%80%98sacrifice-zones%E2%80%99/

9. McNatt, Rosemary Bray, "It’s Hard Work,” page 15, from "Been in the Storm So Long: A Meditation Manual "edited by Mark Morrison-Reed & Jacqui Ames.

10. King, Jr, Martin Luther, "We must learn to live together as brothers or perish as fools,” Speech in St. Louis, Missouri, March 22, 1964.

11. Sydney E. Ahlstrom and Jonathan S. Carey Middletown, eds., An American Reformation: A Documentary History of Unitarian Christianity, Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1985, p. 343.

12. The Washington Post, April 21, 2001, Page B5.

13. Bonhoeffer, Dietrich, Letters & Papers from Prison

14. Howlett, Duncan, No Greater Love: The James Reeb Story, Boston, MA: Skinner House, 1993.

15. Gilbert, Richard "Confessional of a Militant Mystic: Spirituality and Social Action-A Seamless Garment,” 1996 Berry Street Essay, June 20, 1996, http://www.uuma.org/Page/BSE1996

16. Those in the declining middle class.

[1] "How Far is Reason to be used in Explaining Revelation?” Read before the First Ministerial Conference in Berry Street, at the formation of the Conference May 31, 1820.

[2] of, relating to, or manifested in practice or action : not theoretical or ideal <a practical question> <for all practical purposes>. Practical suggests the ability to adopt means to an end or to turn what is at hand to account: to adopt practical measures for settling problems. Source: Merriam-Webster .com and Dictionary.com

[3] A company town (typically located in remote areas and involving an established monopoly franchise) is a place where practically all stores and buildings are owned by the one company that provides employment. At their peak there were more than 2,500 company towns, housing 3% of the US population. [Source: Wikipedia]

[4]Genesis 1: 27: So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

[5] http://www.all-souls.org/

[6] Poor Kids - http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/poor-kids/

[7] Gross National Product (GNP) measures the output generated by a country's enterprises (whether physically located domestically or abroad) vs. GPD = greed, power and dominion.

[8] Chris Hedges on Capitalism’s ‘Sacrifice Zones’, July 20, 2012, http://billmoyers.com/segment/chris-hedges-on-capitalism%E2%80%99s-%E2%80%98sacrifice-zones%E2%80%99/

[9] It’s Hard Work by Rosemary Bray McNatt, page 15, from Been in the Storm So Long: A Meditation Manual edited by Mark Morrison-Reed, Jacqui Ames.

[10] This is a paraphrase of the original quote, which was as follows: We must learn to live together as brothers or perish or as fools. Speech in St. Louis, Missouri, March 22, 1964.

[11] Eds: Sydney E. Ahlstrom and Jonathan S. Carey Middletown An American Reformation: A Documentary History of Unitarian Christianity, CT Wesleyan University Press 1985, page 343.

[12] The Washington Post, April 21, 2001, Page B5.

[13] Letters & Papers from Prison, Dietrich Bonhoeffer: a German Lutheran Pastor during WWII.

[14] Howlett, Duncan, No Greater Love: The James Reeb Story, A Skinner House book published under the auspices of the Unitarian Universalist Association, 1993.

[15] Gilbert, Richard S., Confessional of a Militant Mystic: Spirituality and Social Action-A Seamless Garment, June 20, 1996.

[16] Those in the declining middle class.