Sermons & Other Thoughts from Rev. Brian Chenowith

Tag: covenant

Wholeheartedly Unitarian

Our reading comes to us today from the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, in an essay titled, “Character.

Persons with character are as easy to spot as if they were a different color. Self-trust and the perception that virtue is enough is the essence of character. It is the natural tendency to defy falseness and wrong. It speaks the truth, and it is just, generous, hospitable, temperate, despises pettiness, and is scornful of being scorned. Character persists when the mood has passed in which the decision to act was made. Character displays undaunted boldness and a fortitude that does not wear down or out.

When the soul is not master of one’s reactions to the world, then that soul is everyone’s dupe. The person of character is not for sale. He does not ask to dine nicely and to sleep warm. He does not need plenty; he can lose with grace. Character is persistent. The person of character makes a choice based on honorable considerations and sticks with it and, no matter what, does not weakly try to reconcile itself with the world.

Most outstanding of all is the good humor and hilarity of the person of character. The great will not condescend to take anything seriously. The heroic soul is not common nor can the common be heroic. The person of character always does what he is afraid to do. Greatness ignores the opinions of others.

Spending a year living in Concord, Massachusetts was an interesting endeavor.  I lived right in the heart of the town center, just off of the old Cambridge turnpike, my neighbors were the Unitarian parish and the Wright Tavern — the tavern where the minutemen had drinks while waiting for the redcoats to show up and where John Hancock and the provincial congress first met. 

To say the place was charming and overwhelming, humbling and with a picturesque postcard perfection — it cannot capture the feeling of living in the yankee capital of northeast.  To walk the same paths as so many august names — John Hancock, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Louisa May Alcott, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry David Thoreau, and so many others — to walk where they walked, to be in the same buildings they were in, to eat chowder where they also had chowder, it is an American history geeks dream come true.  Read the rest of this entry »

A World of Closet Doors

I can’t quite remember the exact day, but in the second week of April in the year 2000, roughly ten students at my high school in the suburbs of Chicago filed into school, dressed entirely in black, and they wouldn’t say a single word the entire day. They came from various cliques in the high school.

A couple geeks, popular students, crunchy granola kids, and general misfits. I was one of them. We only knew each other a little and had no connection outside of a shared after school group and the moment before us. We recognized each other in the hallways, in each others classes, and during lunch.

We’d smile at one another in encouragement as we passed in the halls and go about our day. Upon entering each class we’d hand a small slip of paper to the teacher and to anyone else that asked why we weren’t talking. The rules were simple: Don’t talk and hand over a slip when someone asked why.

That April of 2000 was the first time my high school engaged in the observance of the National Day of Silence. A day every April where people across the country stayed silent, mostly in schools, to protest the bullying experienced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer students. The reactions were mixed. Read the rest of this entry »