February 2022: Widening the Circle

What does it mean to Widen the Circle? What is our goal? As we have discussed in a number of meetings at First Parish over the past several years, the goal of Widening the Circle is to WELCOME into our congregation and our community all those who support the Unitarian-Universalist Principles. But, as is noted on the UU web page, and also expressed in our First Parish conversations, we may need to better understand the people we want to welcome, to understand their perspectives, in order for them to feel welcome here.
I am writing this message on Martin Luther King Day, and earlier this morning I heard once again on the television the “Arc of the Moral Universe” quote.  In a number of his speeches and interviews during the 1960’s, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
But this is an older theme; more than 150 years ago, the Unitarian minister Theodore Parker wrote “I do not pretend to understand the moral universe, the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways. I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. But from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice.”
And much more recently, former Attorney General Eric Holder, Jr. expanded on this theme in an interview with WNYC regarding a range of pressing civil liberties concerns, including immigration, criminal justice reform, and voting rights. “You have to understand that progress is not promised … we’ve got to find amongst ourselves heroes for this era.   Martin Luther King said that the arc of the moral universe is long and it bends towards justice. Well, it only bends towards justice because people put their hand on that arc and pull it towards justice,” he added. “Now is not a time to retreat … Now is the time to advocate for the values that truly underlie this nation, for the traditions that make this country exceptional. We can do it.”   Eric Holder’s quote echoes, and is a call to action, related to the first UU Principle:  “The inherent worth and dignity of every person.”
Perhaps to Widen our Circle, we need to think, and act, more like Reverend Theodore Parker in the 1850’s, or as Dr. King in the 1960’s, or as Eric Holder in the current century. Perhaps we need to open our minds to consider the thoughts of the people we are trying to reach out to, even when those ideas may make us uncomfortable; for instance, the following words from Ibram X. Kendi, 
“The opposite of racist isn’t ‘not racist.’ It is ‘antiracist.’ What’s the difference? …. One either allows racial inequities to persevere, as a racist, or confronts racial inequities, as an antiracist. There is no in-between safe space of ‘not racist.’ ”
How to Be an Antiracist
I look forward to our continuing Widening the Circle discussions and efforts at First Parish.
Mark Racicot, Treasurer
on behalf of the Board of Trustees