The Rev. Chris Buice of the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church is featured in this week’s Newsweek in the “My Turn” column.  His is pastor to a church still actively involved in healing since the shootings that violated the sanctuary on July, 27, 2008 and killed two people.

His testimony is powerful about the best of liberal religion and our Unitarian Universalist congregations.  We believe in the transforming power of love.  It is a greater love, held by the infinite capacity of the human heart- the same heart that holds hurts, regrets, losses.  Buice preaches of a faith that we can hold on to beyond the times when things are going well- a faith that sustains us in times of great burden, of immeasurable tragedy; a faith that moves us to put our own lives on the line to take down someone filled with anger, hurt, and evildoing.

Chris Buice, you are a treasure.  Eloquent, inspiring, colleague, you!

It was January of 2007 that I first got to preach on Martin Luther King, Jr. Sunday.  In my preparations for that sermon, I had an epiphany about my own faith journey.  Having grown up in the rural outskirts of Knoxville area, I was hurt by my pubescent peers who told me I was going to hell, who told me I was a heretic, that I was in need of saving to be accepted.  As a result of a need to fit in, I got saved and was tremendously disappointed by what was lauded as a transformational, life-changing event.  As a result, I turned my back on all organized religion, even to the point that I would not enter the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church, choosing to remain in the parked car instead of entering a church.

Luckily, I came around after college.  Yet I still believed in a random universe devoid of meaning.  Even the fact that the Universe, our earth, or humanity existed seemed to be empty of meaning or purpose.  Yet the analysis of my intellect never matched the callings of my heart or the way I was raised by loving families and elders.

It was not until I studied the work of Dr. King in depth that I realized what was missing.  I was missing a belief that gave meaning to life, that embraced what my heart felt was true.  The belief is so simple, given words by Theodore Parker and echoed by King (and now Obama):

“The arc of the moral universe bends towards justice.”

And for me, this assertion is backed up by the belief that LOVE WILL PREVAIL.  Amen and hallelujah!

I still tear up when I think of these two simple notions- two simple beliefs that suddenly gave me more direction and purpose, that gave me the power to look forward into a future of what had not yet been made real- a world imagined again and again by great activists, poets, and prophets.

It is accounts such as the Rev. Buice’s of Love’s triumph that make me ache for this promised land of justice, of unity, peace, love.  His testimony offers a glimpse of the promised land, heaven on earth.  It is the ache that brings me again and again to ministry: a longing to remove the walls of separation that divide us, the “strange and foolish walls” in the words of A. Powell Davies.

Love will prevail, love springing from hands and hearts in community, love that is greater than the sum of its parts;

This is my salvation.

My prayer is that this proclamation of faith stays strong and focused in all aspects of life.  And it is about faith- we have an equal amount of empirical, rational evidence of evil and injustice that points to the triumph of hate.  But faith takes us beyond what can be proven, beyond the horizon into the visionary’s  land of dreams and imagination.  So in order to do what I do, to really be a minister, I simply must believe that love prevails and that a future of justice is possible.  Amen and hallelujah!

PS: Our church has the great fortune of having a library, and an exceptional librarian.  Our librarian has provided me with some timely resources for reflection and study around race, civil rights, and Martin Luther King, Jr.  Please email me if you would like this list of resources!