Crestwell: ‘Go home and start a little trouble’
Plenary Hall was nearly filled to capacity on Sunday morning as General Assembly attendees gathered to worship together with song, prayer, and spirited words. Kellie Walker, David Glasgow, and the Rev. John T. Crestwell lead the congregation in song and UUA President Peter Morales offered a welcome to all gathered, saying, “We come to affirm the power of love.”
The Rev. Fred Muir invited those assembled to rise and join hands as he offered a moving prayer based on the hymn “Spirit of Life.” The Rev. Christina Leone then shared a humorous and poignant story for all ages called “The Fairest and the Fork,” a re-imaging of the classic “Princess and the Pea” tale by Han Christian Andersen in which the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is cast as a fairy tale king who seeks a dreamer who will make the land more fair and just.
United Church of Christ president, the Rev. Geoffrey Black, offered a reading excerpted from Martin Luther King Jr.’s Ware Lecture delivered at the UUA General Assembly in 1966. King said in that lecture, “there are some things in our nation and in our world to which I’m proud to be maladjusted. And I call upon you to be maladjusted and all people of good will to be maladjusted to these things until the good society is realized.”
Crestwell’s passionate delivery of his sermon, “Justice Is Love in Action,” brought much shouting and applause from the congregation. “I do believe that we have the world we have because enough of the right people have not stepped up to renounce human tragedies,” Crestwell said. “I want to encourage everyone here to go home and start a little trouble.”
“It takes courage and faith to stand in the face of ignorance which often-times can cost you your time, peace, your sleep, and even your life. . . . I want to be real with you this morning. There is a price to pay for ‘justice to roll’ and history is wrought with examples,” Crestwell continued. He shared the story of King’s “Kitchen Call” in which King faces down a moment of fear and weakness with the conviction that God stands with those who stand for justice.
Pointing to King’s example and to the bedrock of Unitarian Universalist faith, Crestwell called Unitarian Universalists to action. “I cannot look at our principles or our historic legacy of being with the down-trodden and then do nothing. That is a counterfeit faith—a kind of paltry piety to me. Justice is love in action! Justice is not just in what you say, it’s in what you are willing to do!”
As Crestwell ended his sermon with the words of Langston Hughes’ poem “I Dream a World,” with tears in his eyes and his voice breaking with emotion, those assembled jumped to their feet, cheering and clapping.
Carlos Garcia, director of Puente Arizona, spoke before the offering was collected on behalf of Puente Arizona and Comités de Defensa de Barrios. Referring to Saturday evening’s Tent City vigil, Garcia said, “I didn’t know what it would look like but last night seeing you with all the candles, in the heat, all together . . . that’s what love looks like. The people from our community couldn’t believe it as people just kept coming and coming.”
Following the offering, Morales asked the congregation once again to rise and join hands as he lead the closing prayer.