What Does It Mean to Be White?

Date: Sunday, April 29, 2018 10:30 am - 11:30 am

Sermon by Rev. Shawn Newton.

Dear Members and Friends of First,

It has been a difficult week for Toronto as we’ve absorbed the news of a terrible act of violence on our city’s streets and sidewalks. Yet, it has also been heartening to see so many signs of resilience, as we find our way forward.

In Sunday’s service, we will pause to honour the lives lost this week and hold in our hearts all those affected by Monday’s violence. And we will carry on, doing what we always do, which is working to bring more love and justice into our world. It is, I believe, the best possible way for us to respond and to heal.

This Sunday, we will take up the topic originally intended for the service on April 15th. As you may recall, the plans for that service were upended by the ice storm. Here’s how I described that service a couple of weeks ago:

What Does It Mean to Be White?

I am guessing there aren’t too many sermons bring preached around the globe this weekend on the topic of what it means to be white. But that is precisely what I will be doing.

The service isn’t meant to denigrate white people, of which I am obviously one. It’s, frankly, far more complicated than that. I want for us to look at white racial identity as honestly and openly as we can—not to induce paralyzing feelings of guilt, but to isolate the meaning of whiteness so that those of us who are white can be more effective in working for racial justice.

It is said that in a Unitarian Universalist congregation, the sermon is never the last word on anything. I especially hope that to be true with this topic. My hope is that this service will serve encourage us to take the next step as a congregation, challenging us to deepen our efforts and the quality of our conversation. I hope this will be heard as an invitation, individually and together, to do the soul-work of self-examination that is required if we are to truly live into our principles.

As we dig into this month’s theme of “Change,” let us all bring a full and open heart to the service on Sunday.

Following the service on Sunday, I, with leaders of our Reconciliation Working Group, will lead a Scrupling session on the Calls to Action in the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. This is an opportunity for us all to listen to our hearts and consider how we are being called to help bring healing and reconciliation to the relationship between Settlers and Indigenous Peoples in Canada. Lunch will be available. I encourage you to attend.

Finally, an invitation to attend the Feb 27 concert by our congregation’s music program. The concert will present musical responses to significant events of the 20thcentury. In light of this week’s events, may this concert offer a healing balm to us all.

In faith and love,

View the Order of Service.

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