Yesterday we had a guest speaker at church. We were celebrating UUSC Sunday and their efforts in honoring the 60th anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights. Our speaker spoke on Fair Trade and its importance in human rights. She was very powerful. While her voice and style were very laid-back, her language and choice of words were not. She really challenged the congregation to look at themselves and whether or not they were an oppressor or liberator in their purchasing choices. She also did not hold back in listing the ramifications and power our choices made in the lives of people around the world. It was hard not to feel at least a little uncomfortable in her word choices. She did not hold back in us owning up to our responsibility as consumers. I, personally, was glad she chose to be so direct. I talked to her about it later and she admitted that she had debated whether or not to soften the language. In the end, she went with it. Everything she said was true. I have no doubt people felt uneasy with some of what she said, but I hope it made people more aware of how things they take for granted have a world-wide impact.
After listening to her, I was wishing that we would hear more sermons like that. Ones that really put it out there and challenge you to action. But, I realize, this is not so easy for a minister to do. Sure, a guest speaker can come in and say all sorts of things - they don't have to answer to the congregation. Ministers do, especially in a UU church. Within congregations there is such a wide swath of beliefs it is hard to deliver a sermon that can inspire and challenge without offending and discouraging. It really is a fine line. I would encourage any ministers reading this, though, to gently push the envelope. Sometimes the way to waken a congregation is to get them riled up. A little passionate discussion can help them focus on what they, as a congregation, are called to do. A congregation with a strong mission is one that inspires and fulfills the spiritual needs of its members. It is one that becomes a light within the community.