Richard S. Gilbert: Reaching In - Reaching Out - To Make a Difference: the UU Revue - A musically amusing - and adoring - look at the idiosyncrasies, the quirkiness and the generosity of folks at 220 Winton Road South - a musical look at what makes Unitarian Universalists unique. This is Commitment Sunday, also known as Canvass Sunday for the literalists among us.
Helena Palmer Chapin: It is our annual celebration of who we are as a church, and our annual reaching out our hands with pledge cards, in hopes you will reach into your heart and make your generous pledge to our canvass. We work on the assumption that laughter makes a generous giver. However, please remember that while the Lord loves a cheerful giver, the Canvass Committee also accepts from a grouch.
RSG: As theologian Reinhold Niebuhr once said, "Laughter is the beginning of prayer." Throughout this musical revue there will, of course, be some homiletic interludes. Like this one.
Ben Franklin wrote in 1789: "Our Constitution is in actual operation; everything appears to promise that it will last; but in this world nothing is certain but death and taxes" AND the Annual Canvass. I believe it was "Poor Richard" who said: "A generous pledge is more than a penny saved, or earned."
(An usher rushes urgently down the aisle and hands a note to minister) Ah, yes, "The characterizations depicted and the opinions expressed in this liturgy are strictly those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Board, the Council, the ministers, or any other designated officials of this church."
HPC: And now, The UU Revue!
Yes, it's the UU Revue,
We're here to share the goods we've got on you;
Those things that make you
Ve-ry special, silly, pompous, happy and sad,
(We're so bad) we know a thing or two
About what keeps us ticking as UU's;
We're hardly Mainstream - Flick up the lights,
Just sit tight for the UU Revue.
HPC: But just because you have a place to go doesn't mean it's easy to get there. In fact, sometimes, it's a real struggle! We tune in on a typical Sunday morning scene - it's 10 AM at the home of a UU family right here in Rochester.
Daughter 1: (enters rushing down the aisle to stage and calls out) Mom, Dad, Are you ready to go?
Mom: What is it? What's wrong?! And please, don't yell!
Daughter 1: Mom, it's time to leave for Church School!
Mom: Church School?! Do you know what time your father and I got home last night from one of those Candlelight Dinners? I can't even move! And besides my ears are tired. They're so talkative!
Daughter 1: Moooooom....!!!!
Verse 1: (sung by daughter)
Hurry, hurry, hurry, can't you see we're late.
Hurry, hurry, we've all got a date.
If we wait much longer the parking will be full.
We'll end up walking half a mile and I'll be late for Sunday School.
(Spoken) Mom, we've got to get there!
It's such a great place to be on a Sunday morning,
A time to be with friends,
Learning and working together as we do.
It's such a treat when we meet on a Sunday morning,
I can't be late.
I've got a date, a date to celebrate.
Daughter: (calls out) Mom! Dad! I'm waiting!
Dad: I'm going skiing today - there's six inches of new powder - and after this miserable snowless winter....
Mom: And I'm meeting friends for lunch.
Daughter: But Dad....!!
Hurry, hurry, hurry; why are you so slow?!!
I told my friends we'd meet at ten we've got to go!
I've got so much to tell them, this new girl's really cool!
How can I sit beside her if I show up late for Sunday School?
(Spoken) C'mon Dad!
RSG: Narrator: Ah, yes! It's a Great Place to be! And after we get there what do we do? Well we talk for one thing. You know about the UU who dies and finds herself at the Pearly Gates? She see two signs; one says "Heaven" this way (point right), the other says, "Discussion on Heaven" that way (point left). And which way does she go? (look left)
HPC: You know that UU's approach everything not only with an open mind, but also with an open mouth.
Voice 1: But what always bothers me is - what could have come before the Big Bang??!!
Voice 2: I'm not so sure that's really relevant.
Voice 3: Besides, what do you mean by "Big Bang"? We need to define our terms.
Voice 1: (exasperated) I mean Big as in "large" and bang as in "KABOOM"!!
RSG: YES, WORDS! We hate 'em; we love 'em! We gather and cultivate them like fine herbs. But some turn out to be pretty pungent.
UU's love talking, both early and late,
For some there's no pleasure like good old debate,
But when we're defining, refining our terms,
Agreeing on meaning's a kettle of worms.
It's the UU Alphabet Stew,
It's quite confusing, it's true.
All those words floating in the pot,
If you're not careful the pot gets hot
Making UU Alphabet, UU Alphabet, UU Alphabet Stew.
"G" is for God, is it she, is it he?
A constant conundrum in theology.
Is God anthropomorphic, a spirit, a force?
We can argue that point until we get hoarse.
"H" for humanity, no longer mankind.
If you don't watch your gender, you're really behind.
So climb on the wagon, get into the swing,
Or people will think you're a chauvinist thing.
Eileen and Gail:
"P" is for prayer, an ambiguous practice,(Others chime in corrected, "Whom!!)
A notion that's prickly and tough as a cactus.
Is this meditation or talking things through?
And if we are talking, then talking to who?
"S" is for sin, a bad little word,
Some say it's meaningless, even absurd
But though we may quibble, let's face it my dears,
Sin has been with us for thousands of years.
Words can make problems, I'm sure you'll agree.
The meaning for you is not the meaning for me.
But look at it this way, I know THIS is true,
If we all agreed, would we be UU's?!
HPC: In our Church School we cover a variety of routine topics: Other religions, our Jewish and Christian heritage, the Bible....well, sort of (although we all agree it's a really Good Book.) And, as a matter of fact, human sexuality does play a major role - think of Adam and Eve, David and Bathsheba, Jesus and Mary Magdalene. Oh, well, no church school really takes those topics very seriously.
We are very proud of our pioneering sex education program, but from time to time we wonder if we are getting through. Gary Trudeau in a recent "Doonesbury" cartoon illustrates our problem: Doonesbury is talking with daughter Alex and says:
RSG: "Hey, kiddo - how'd school go today?"
HPC: She says, "It was weird ... the scandal facilitator addressed the school again ... He asked us if we knew what 'phone sex' was. Of course, nobody did, so we started explaining it to us ... It sounded so silly and gross, I just got up and left. I figured I'd rather have you explain it to me, so could you?'
RSG: Doonesbury: "Phone sex? Uh ... well, sure, honey, it's ... uh ... uh ... Well, lemme see ... it's ...'
HPC: Alex - 'Dad, don't drop the ball here - there's going to be a test!'"
HPC: We help our children take that test - not only with facts, but with values. Yes, we believe in facing our biological origins fearlessly and armed with knowledge. Ahem! Yes, VERY WELL ARMED!
When I was three in Sunday School
While teacher made popcorn...
We learned about the animals
And how their babes are born.
Oh tho we may not know a lot about the Good Book,
That's fine with me.
But if we may not know a lot about the Good Book,
I know all about my sexuality.
Other Sunday Schools tell Bible stories,
That's what they're for.
But when it comes to sex, I'm tellin' you truly,
Well, I know more!
When I was six in Sunday School
We covered pregnancy.
We made a room that was a womb
And practiced floating free.
When I was twelve in Junior High
We studied sex again.
You wonder why my neighbors ask
What kind of church I'm in?!!
By Senior High as you might guess
The subject was old hat.
We all agreed that we'd discuss
Most anything but that!
RSG: There are times I wish I were a fundamentalist preacher who could invoke heavenly blessings. Our annual church canvass is the time when this heretical urge becomes particularly acute. I would like to be able to promise celestial bliss for all tithers.
HPC: Robert Fulghum writes: "I have a strong feeling, that as a human being I owe the pot, and to the degree one can give back to it one ought to." On a less serious note there is the story told of a group of smiling UU's ritualistically throwing dollar bills and checks into the great St. Andreas Fault in California. It was the only recorded case of Unitarian Universalists giving to a fault.
RSG: And then there are the wise words of the 19th century Unitarian author Herman Melville in Moby Dick. "The urbane activity with which a man receives money is really marvelous, considering that we so earnestly believe money to be the root of all earthly ills, and that on no account can a monied man enter heaven. Ah! How cheerfully we consign ourselves to perdition!"
Are you feeling just a little bit guilty today?
You probably should.
There are things you should be doing
Instead you merely fritter life away.
It's always there,
Reminding me I've failed to do my share.
It shows I care,
It says I'm quite upset that life's unfair.
Are you just a bit ashamed of all your dough?
I should hope so!
While you sit there on that money,
Plenty of folks could use it, honey.
Your embarrassment is really apropos.
You think you'll make it through that needle's eye?
My my my.
In a pigs eye!
With all that stuff you've got,
You most certainly will not.
How could you even think you'd qualify?!
At Christmas when your kids get all that junk...
Do you feel punk?
In a funk?
Why that stocking stuffer my dear,
Would feed the poor at least a year.
You've done it once again, you're such a skunk.
Angus MacLean, the late Dean of the Theological School at St. Lawrence University, used to delight in telling this story.
"An Irish Catholic and an Englishman and my friend Sandy MacTavish were once shipwrecked, and as they clung together to a broken spar and night came on, they were driven to desperate measures. They decided to try prayer. The Irishman couldn't produce anything that didn't sound like profanity, the Episcopalian couldn't recall a single prayer, and so they both turned to Sandy, rather hopelessly I'm afraid, but Sandy at once responded, 'Let's take up a collection.'"
RSG: The phone rings. You answer. A voice asks you for a pledge for the 1998-99 church year. You say you've decided to tithe this year. There is a silence at the other end of the line. The canvasser has fainted. An ambulance has been called. And the ministers. The millennium has come.
All right, so how much should I pledge? You already know it takes $500 per adult to support the church program. For some that will be far below what they can afford. For others it will be a good guideline. For still others it is more than they can afford. All we ask is that it be a generous pledge in view of your personal situation. Only you know what generosity means to and for you.
HPC: How seriously we take our pledging and how generously we give is a mark of our character as religious people. The generosity of our pledge - not its size - reflects how seriously we take our Unitarian Universalist principles. And so we ask you to greet your canvass caller warmly and give generously. And, just in case, we'll have an ambulance and ministers standing by. You never know. The millennium is just around the corner.
HPC: Every spring we build a new budget, and with it the necessity for a pledge drive. We now salute that brave, intrepid volunteer - the CANVASSER!! Our hats are off to you! It ain't easy what you do!
Vl: I hope I can count on you to be a canvasser again this year.
V2: Gee, I don't know. I didn't do too well last year. As a matter of fact, I was a total washout. How can I ever forget it! I never heard so many excuses in all my life!!
I'd give if I could but the children are small
And their preschool is costing a mint,
The car payment's due and the mortgage is too,
I'm afraid all our money's bin spint!
I'm afraid all our money's bin spint!
I would if I could but the children have grown
And the oldest is seeing a shrink;
The youngest needs braces, new shoes with new laces,
This year we are right on the brink
Of disaster - we're right on the brink!
I would if I could but I've gone back to school
And tuition is due in the fall;
With musical lessons and therapy sessions,
There's no way to pay for it all
No! - there's no way to pay for it all!
I would if I could but the kids are away
And their college is costing a mint.
We may get a divorce, things just couldn't be worse,
I'm afraid all our money's bin spint!
I'm afraid all our money's bin spint!
I would if I could but you know we're retired
And we're spending the year in Bombay
Now don't take offense, but does it make sense
To pay when we'll be far away?
To pay when we'll be far away!
We know you'll agree, legitimately,
Our tales are such sad ones to hear.
Tho' things now are tough, our finances rough,
Do try us again this next year,
Yes, try us again this next year!
RSG: We could well have chosen another song with which to end to the tune of "A Noble Life."
An open mouth, an empty head,
A pledge card left unsigned,
These are the lib'ral attributes
Which spring first to the mind.
These are the bonds of fellowship
Which tie our tiny band.
Why we do not convert the world
We cannot understand.
RSG: As one of our colleagues, Max Coots, wrote, "We make no claim of being exclusive keepers of a special revelation nor presume to have all the answers by which to provide a fire escape for those who fear hell, or an automatic passport to those in hopes of Heaven. Where two or three of us are gathered together, I only know for certain that coffee will be served" - and a canvass conducted.
HPC: Somehow, through it all, in spite of it all, perhaps because of it all we have thrived as a church. Our varied points of view, our diverse backgrounds, our different kinds of involvement have all blended together. Working together, we have accomplished something of which to be proud, we've built a house.
We've built a house, a house that's full of caring;
We've built a house, its spirit's rich in sharing.
It's built of hands that stretch to give,
It's built of hearts that share the joy of living,
We've built it well, it's standing straight and true.
This house is not a building, it's people, it's you!
Presented on Commitment Sunday
March 15, 1998