Delivered at the 2018 Annual Meeting
Executive Director’s get to be administrator’s sometimes and evangelists at other times. Today, I am an evangelist.
Have you seen Black Panther, the movie?
There are a lot of good metaphors from the Marvel Comics movie Black Panther. If you have yet to see it, you probably can rent it on line at this point. There are a couple of themes that fit for our purposes here.
Wakanda is a fictional country hidden in Africa, inhabited by a very progressive and technological people. They owe some of their technological prowess to a special metal called Vibranium. This metal contains energy and power, far surpassing anything that the rest of the world has. It powers the high tech world of Wakanda; everyone in Wakanda benefits from this resource.
Men and women share equally in the power structure of the country. One such woman, played by Lupita Nyong’o is Nakita, who travels from Wakanda to the outside world as a spy. She fights ivory traders and infiltrates terrorist groups to keep Wakanda abreast of what is happening in the real world. Her work, helps set up the conflict that becomes the central part of the story.
Nakita believes that the resources of Wakanda could be used to make the world a better place. Her love interest, T’Challa, who becomes king of Wakanda is following in his father’s philosophy and advocates that it is the isolation of Wakanda that is most important – it protects the country from outsiders who may come in with new ideas. He wants to make sure that no one steals their precious vibranium.
Nakita and Killmonger, the rival of the king believe that Vibranium could do a lot of good for others in the world and so they both want the resources of Wakanda to be shared. However, they have different views of how that should be accomplished. Killmonger, the rival, wants to use vibranium to create superior weapons so that oppressed people all over the world can rise up against their colonizers. Nakita wants to share the technology that vibranium can create to make the world a better place. She particularly has her eyes on creating food and nutrition programs for inner city kids in Los Angeles.
Are you following along with me here??? Our vibranium at Ferry Beach is love.
The tension over the years at Ferry Beach vacillates between isolation, and a big welcome, which has existed at different times in the past for new groups of people, such as gays and lesbians in the 1980’s.
In a new book, Who Do We Choose to Be, my hero Margaret Wheatley, using her New Science material, talks about the Laws of Thermodynamics as they might relate to living organizations like Ferry Beach. “The first law states that the quantity of energy is always conserved, neither created nor destroyed as a system changes form. The Second Law describes how the quality of energy deteriorates in a closed system.” She says, “In a closed system, every interaction has an energy cost; some amount of its energy becomes useless through activities. This is entropy – the measure of disordered energy. More entropy describes greater levels of disorder.”
Open systems, she observes are healthy living systems and “good learners that can thrive even though its environment is moving toward increasing disorder.”
Over the years, Ferry Beach has been an open and a closed system, perhaps reacting to the energy and disorder around it.
Quillen Shinn, our founder, came to Ferry Beach to share the message of Universalism with others. He didn’t just bring a core group of folks who already knew about universalism. He said, in 1900: “Our greatest need is a vaster investment of love and consecration which will flow out and kindle the world; it will send life and warmth into every wilderness where hearts are aching.”
The world’s greatest need is a “vaster investment of love which will send life and warmth into every wilderness where hearts are aching.”
Sutton and Needham write in the Universalists at Ferry Beach: “Universalism could either retire within narrowly conceived precincts and fail to take up the enormous opportunity to translate religious doctrine into terms of social gospel, or become active in the faith– expanding its services to match the nation’s expanded frontiers. …..”
There was in 1885 and today: “The enormous opportunity to translate religious doctrine into terms of a social gospel….”
Our new mission statement: “awaken hearts to explore, grow and renew the spirit of universal love.”
Even if you watch very little of Rachel Maddow or the national news these days, you know that we live in darker times in which our collective hearts are aching. Closing our borders to people who are trying to escape war and death, giving rise to racism and xenophobia, which ignites violence, through dog whistle rhetoric, these are the times in which we find ourselves.
When I look back at the history of Ferry Beach, I believe we are being called to return to the energy of our founder, to create a “vaster investment of love.” One of the greatest exigencies in the world today is to renew the spirit of universal love: to send “life and warmth into every wilderness.”
Shinn’s energy was to love: preach it, live it, advocate for it, be it. Wheatley says that we must not move into self – protective modes at this time. “Blind reactivity and fear are not the answer. Denial is not the answer. Sane leadership is.”
And what do you ask is sane leadership? She says, “It is the unshakable faith in people’s capacity to be generous, creative and kind.”
Last year, when we finalized the mission statement at the board level and then at the annual meeting, I didn’t really feel or understand its powerful call as much as I do now. Maybe you feel the same.
At Ferry Beach, I believe we are about to embark on a shift that has its roots in the founding of Ferry Beach and those days in the late 1930’s when groups of people from many other countries would come here and debate and discuss some of the important issues of the day. Our “vibranium” at the time, was that Ferry Beach was a safe place where differences of opinion could be shared and discussed; and they were.
If people in our country have fallen asleep when it comes to protecting our democracy, then so too have we regarding that early vision people had for Ferry Beach.
Today, as we re-commit to our campus year round, we have the opportunity to open our doors to more people to experience the love and support and spiritual sustenance you all have found here. We have the opportunity to become a center, a hub in the shoulder season for local initiatives as well as a conference center for big ideas and universal love.
We have the opportunity to be a bridge for people and organizations seeking to renew civility and lovein our public discourse, in our gathering places, in our neighborhoods and our institutions.
We have the opportunity to reinvent and redefine the social gospel of today.
With many, many Americans and particularly our young people NOT identifying with a church, mosque or synagogue, we have the opportunity to “secularize” the idea of a social gospel, translating religious ideas and language into universal spiritual ideas. Ferry Beach is the powerful “big” tent and the bridge that I think our founder and others believed about Universalism at the turn of the century.
With our roots firmly planted in spirituality, we create every week here, a big tent exploring what it means to renew the spirit of universal love. And in the process, we make a world that works for all of us.
We are not alone in this, many people and organizations are talking today about renewing the call for a social gospel, particularly in light of the hateful rhetoric we are hearing.
We know our vibranium here is love. We know that we are safe when we are here. We know that this place is good for people.
In the Black Panther movie, Nakita convinces T’Challa to use vibranium for good. How it will all work and come down, well, we’ll all have to wait for the sequel.
In the meantime, we have our work to do here.
We know that among us are engaged sane leaders who care for others all over the world. We have friends and members in other countries and many other parts of the U.S.
We are sane leaders. We have a legacy and a vision that is being called into action, Love in Action, today.
Our world, our country, our sisters and brothers across the country and across the world are calling us to step into our new mission:
Let us awaken hearts to explore grow and renew the spirit of universal love –
I hope you will join the board and staff of Ferry Beach as we renew and embrace our commitment to love.
As Quillen Shinn said, let us “send life and warmth into every wilderness where hearts are aching.”