Thank you, Clay. I’m Jonathan Mason, a long time member of the church and the head of the 2019 Pledge Drive and I am happy to come to you today to talk about the state of the congregation and the formal kick-off of our 2019-2020 pledge drive.
It’s been three years since I addressed the congregation and before we get to the canvass issue at hand, I’d like to give a quick summary of my history as a Unitarian and the ongoing development of my Unitarian theology.
Sometimes a sermon just won’t behave. It refuses to accept its fifteen minutes of fame are over and go quietly into that dark night with a whimper. Last week’s sermon insists on being chewed on and savoured but never swallowed. It prefers to haunt the recesses of my mind demanding, not closure so I can move on unchanged, but discomfort, daring me to move forward into a deeper understanding of who I am. I want to scream at it to go to its room, “bang the door if you like, but go.” I need some respite from all the uncomfortable questions the tragedy in Christchurch has wrought like a snow globe vigorously shaken. “Too bad,” the cheeky sermon taunts me. “You will have no peace of mind until I give you a piece of mine.” And so, it goes. I relent. Last week’s sermon has reclimbed the pulpit, to tell us, “Ahem, let us do go on.”
When I was about six (that would’ve been about 1955) something happened that had a profound effect on me. We were visiting for the summer with my grandparents. One evening at the dinner table, my grandfather (born in 1895) went into a tirade about anyone who was not a white straight person, using every reprehensible, but common smear to describe each. Since I had not learned what that hate language even meant yet, I was not shocked. What shocked me was the fury my mother (born in 1925) directed at her father. She made it perfectly clear he was never to use such language in front of her children again. I doubt if it changed his 19th century views, but it left an indelible mark on me.
I see Brian
Tamaki of Destiny Church is having a tantrum again about New Zealand
being a Christian nation. He objected to Jacinda’s call to Muslim
prayer before a two-minute silence to remember the victims of the
massacre of worshipping Muslims in Christchurch. He called it an
abuse of her Prime Ministerial powers.
Friday morning, I had today’s service and my talk all prepared. Friday evening, I had nothing to offer. The unthinkable, the unimaginable had happened. New Zealanders had been cast out of the Godzone with tears streaming down our face and our hearts broken. Our Muslim brothers and sisters lay dying and bloodied in a house of prayer. This couldn’t happen here, yet graphic news stories and social media told us otherwise. It has shaken us to our core even more than the earthquakes that had come from previously unknown fault lines in Christchurch. As traumatic as those were, they were natural acts. This act of hatred had not previously happened here. We didn’t think it could in spite of plenty of evidence that the deadly virus of white nationalism had become epidemic around the world. No house of prayer was safe if its worshippers were the marginalised or people of colour. Homophobia, transphobia, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, and racism has crawled out from the rocks they have been hiding under to be greeted as mainstream by right-wing political leaders and print and social media. But we thought we were better than that. We thought that was not who we are.