My favorite nineteenth century Unitarian minister is James Freeman Clarke who served the Church of the Disciples in Boston for nearly 40 years. He is responsible for inaugurating a great number of the features of our contemporary congregational life. One aspect of his religious vision escaped him during his lifetime—extensive, systematic, and effective cooperation among all religious denominations in Boston in furthering common social justice and social service aims.
I experienced Clarke’s vision come to life in a remarkable way as I attended the Community Problems Assembly of Jacksonville ICARE last Monday evening via Zoom. Encouraging reports were given on the success of replacing adult and youth arrests and incarceration for minor crimes with civil citations. The report was rendered that 97% of youth who go through neighborhood accountability boards rather than through the court system do not re-offend. State Attorney Nelson made a commitment to continuation and expansion of the program.
Sheriff Williams made a commitment to further training of officers in more constructive handling of cases involving mental illness and pressing for treatment rather than incarceration.
Nearly 300 participants from 22 congregations voted on next year’s primary area of emphasis from among three possibilities—housing and homelessness; crime, violence, and enforcement; and health care and mental health care. The second option was chosenI was pleased and proud that 20 of our members were present and that Lois Hoeft of our congregation was one of the leaders of the meeting. Karen Christiansen of the Buckman Bridge UU congregation offered an inspiring benediction to the meeting.
On another note I want to say how pleased and relieved I am at the outcome of the presidential election and how impressed I am with the civil tone and pleas for unity made by president-elect Biden. In one respect it seems impossibly idealistic amidst the polarities of our society but in another respect it is something that I can endeavor to do personally. I am part of an early-morning fellowship group at my local Panera restaurant which includes people on the other side of the political divide from me. I will not exult in the outcome of the election in our conversation. I will celebrate the high voter turnout—best since 1908. I will be civil. I will not raise my voice. I will listen and not argue. If asked my opinion I will give it without denigrating opposing viewpoints. Perhaps there is a political issue upon which we may find agreement. All in all, I want to avoid the vain desire that I will be able to convert them.
My resolve comes in large part from the positive example of Bill, a Trump supporter who, unfortunately, has left us recently to be with his family in Michigan. We all miss him deeply for many reasons, but particularly for his ability to manage discourse across the political divide.
– Rev. Paul Johnson