Action Social Justice Service – 1/17/2021

Prelude Video

Playing in backgroumd while people are joining the service. This 4:12 minute video includes MLK words set to music followed by quotes and intro to “Allyship”.

Beth Perkins welcomes everyone, talks about the focus of the service and leads the Invocation

Good morning and welcome to worship service at First Parish Church United in Westford. It’s great to see so many of you here this morning and we send out a special welcome to those of you who are joining us for the first time. Everyone, regardless of their religious beliefs, or where they are on their faith journey is encouraged to join our community. At First Parish Church, we cherish the diversity of humanity, a diversity which includes differences in sex, age, race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. We intentionally welcome all.

Today’s service, on Martin Luther King weekend, is a special one. In our First Parish covenant, which we repeat every Sunday, we acknowledge that we gather “In the Love of Truth”. Today, “in the love of truth” the Action for Social Justice committee invites you to ask “what are the truths of racism in our lives, in our church, in our town and our nation” and how do our values of inclusion and “the service of all” guide us in addressing difficult truths about our white privilege? Although this may at times feel uncomfortable for us, we understand that the discomfort does not compare to the sufferings of people of color who experience prejudice and injustice on a daily basis.

Our theme this morning is “How can we be better allies in the fight for racial justice”. You will hear voices from residents of Westford, Martin Luther King and other people of color. We ask that you listen with the goal of determining what it means to be an ally and how we can be better allies in our daily lives and as a church community.

Allies are active. As members of Action for Social Justice, we put action front and center. Today, we ask all of you to join us after this morning’s service for a conversation about action. And we invite you to join us throughout 2021 to continue our community’s work of seeking truth and working for justice.

At this time, I ask you to join me in reciting our covenant:
in the love of truth
and in the spirit of Jesus
we unite for the worship of God
and the service of all

First Hymn – We Shall Overcome: Love Will Rise Again

6:20 minutes

Lighting of Chalice and Invocation – Stephanie

First Reading – Stephanie

Words of Anthony De Mello
A woman complained to her visiting friend that her black neighbor was a poor housekeeper. “You should see how dirty her children are- and her house. It is almost a disgrace to be living I the same neighborhood as her. Take a look at those clothes she has hung out on the line. See the black streaks on the sheets and towels!” The friend walked up to the window and said, “I think the clothes are quite clean my dear. The streaks are on your window.”

Intro to Children’s Story – Angela

Local Westford Content

10 minutes

Video 1

Video 2

Second Reading – Dirkja

4 minutes for reading/intro and video is 4:43

The Stone of Hope
Speaking to the wounding of our nation on Jan. 6th John Paul Lederic looks to Dr. Martin Luther King ’s guiding pillars for ways to reverse the toxic dynamics of our collective life: to replace respect for dehumanization; responsibility for blame; and dialogue for violence.

King’s guiding pillars sustained commitment to the social contract while pursuing long sought change for equity and equality in the midst of deep division.

His first pillar referenced the deep soul’s despair that waiting for change was no longer an option. The ploys and pragmatism of politics kept placing true equality just out of reach, deferred to the next election or into potential new legislative goals. Promises no longer sufficed. “The sweltering summer,” as he called it, could no longer accept the “tranquilizing drug of gradualism.” This temporal pillar required such immediate action — and act they did and so must we — that he referred to it as the “fierce urgency of now.”

His second pillar constantly reminded people that the struggle for equality and dignity unfolds by way of a long and difficult pathway. So significant was this … challenge that in his words, now etched on a national monument, the movement must “hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.” Hope requires patience and persistence precisely because “the arc of the moral universe is long,” even as “it bends toward justice.”

In the midst of the temporal tension playing out between the fierce now and the long arc, Dr. King’s vision never wavered in the third pillar: the commitment to nonviolence and appreciation for our ultimate interdependence. Over and again, his imagination captured the understanding that while the past carries forward profound violation of dignity and the present continues to humiliate and divide, our future is shared. Calling this out in his “I Have a Dream” speech, he noted that across racial divides “their freedom is inextricably bound with our freedom” followed by the shortest single sentence in the speech: We cannot walk alone.

These pillars offer the way forward into renewing our social contract and reversing toxic dynamics. Act on and walk into what you know to be true. Start local. Reach out beyond your comfort zone. Commit to nonviolence. Always protect the dignity of others. Walk together. In this the stone of hope is hewn.”

A Letter From John Paul Lederach , Senior Fellow at Humanity United, a foundation dedicated to bringing new approaches to global problems and Professor Emeritus at the University of Notre Dame

Introduce extract from MLK sermon – Nancy

Washington’s National Cathedral on March 31, 1968. It was his last sermon.

Second Hymn – Stand Up

2:50 minutes

Intro To How To Be A Better Ally – Beth Morrison

Intro 1:00 minute and the video is 5:00 minutes

Closing and Future Steps – Tom Clay

2:00 minutes

  • Help set plans for ASJ for the 2021
  • What can we do to learn, listen and collaborate
  • What steps can we take in our community
  • What can we advocate for at local and state levels
  • What can our church specifically do

Intruduce after church “coffee and conversation” to discuss

Common Hymnal: How much Longer

4:36 minutes

Benediction and Allow Announcements – Dirkje

1:00 minute

Go out into the world in peace.
Have courage.
Hold onto what is good.
Return no one evil for evil.
Strengthen the faint-hearted.
Support the weak.
Help the suffering.
Honour all persons.
Honour all creation.
Love and serve the Lord,
rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit.
And may the love of God,
the Light of Christ,
and the power and communion of that Spirit
be with us all.
Go in peace. Amen

Encourage people to stay for conversation (estimate of 20 minutes)

Conversation – Tom and Beth

20:00 minutes




Unexampled Courage
Just Mercy
The New Jim Crow
Stamped From the Beginning l
How to Be an Antiracist
Sundown Towns
Between the World and Me
Born a Crime

The Vanishing Half
Well Read Black Girl
The Water Dancer

TV Shows:
Dear White People
When They See Us

Ear Hustle
The Nod

The Thirteenth
Fruitvale Station