Thursday, December 01, 2016

World AIDS Day 2016

We've come so far. In the beginning, we didn't even know what to call it. We didn't know how it was spread. Now, we can medically keep viral loads undetectable and therefore unspreadable. Now, thanks to PrEP, no one need contract HIV. Now, because of combination therapies (conveniently packaged in a single tablet), we can live vibrant, healthy, and long lives. Now, we can (and in Broward Co., do), have a zero rate of transferrance from mother to child. Now, HepC co-infection is less threatening as HepC is curable. And now, because of much research on many fronts, some scientists believe a cure could be found within a decade. This WAD, I bless the memories of those we lost too soon. I bless the courage of those who survived and those who did not. And I bless the power of hope that has sustained us all this time. And, as I have since the 80s, I continue to pray for a cure for AIDS...I know its on the way! Amen.

Dear God, we continue to pray for a cure for AIDS. We are thankful for life-saving therapies. We are thankful that we can prevent the spread of HIV. We are thankful that medical advances continue to be made. We bless the memories of those we have lost along the way, and we continue to hope and pray for a world where AIDS is a memorial to human resilience but no longer an incurable infection. This World AIDS Day, we remember. We hope. We give thanks. Hear our prayer, O God. Amen.

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Prayer for the Wave of Violence that Continues in our Society

"We want to ask you to heal our fears and our hatreds, O God, but you will not force healing upon us. We must be willing to face our fears and exorcise our hatreds.
You will not make us kinder, more tolerant, or more just than we choose to be; but, when we make space for healing, when we are willing to be willing to explore the possibilities of positive change, please move quickly in those spaces and let miracles begin to take shape in our world.
When we dare, however briefly or hesitantly, to see all people as children of God, may healing begin in that fragile and fleeting moment.
We are tired of hatred.
We are exhausted from fear.
We ache from the constant rhetoric that demonizes the Other.
We are left thirsty from the tears we have shed; we are desensitized to the image of blood flowing in the streets. We deserve better. We need to do better. We can do better. As we make the effort, bless our effort that it may finally make a difference.
We so desperately want the war on human dignity to cease and peace and justice and compassion to prevail in our hearts and in our lives and in our world. Let it be so. Amen." Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins


Monday, July 04, 2016

Independence Day Prayer

By Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins

God of hope and liberation,
As we celebrate our independence and our liberties this holiday, may we also be mindful of liberties that have been denied over the years to people because of their race, gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnicity, age, or life-circumstances.
May we rejoice over the moments in our nation's history where we have attempted to atone for the sins of exclusion, bigotry, and injustice.
May we be glad and grateful for the 19th Amendment, Civil Rights legislation, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and Marriage Equality; and may we not be satisfied with the progress that has been made, but let us continue to seek to guarantee "liberty and justice for ALL."
Let us work to keep LBGT teens safe.
Let us value peace over war, and prosperity for all rather than privilege for a few.
Let us remember that valuing the right to worship freely and to practice one's faith openly is not a license to discriminate against others or to marginalize those we fear or dislike.
Let us remember that our ancestors came to this country from other places, and let us in their names welcome and respect those who come here still seeking a better life.
God bless our nation and the community of nations.
Let peace prevail in our hearts.
May wisdom guide our leaders.
And may we acknowledge the sacred value of all people within our borders and beyond. Amen.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

I am a progressive person of faith

I am a person of faith. I am a seminary educated, ordained minister. I pray. I study the scriptures. I am also a resident of the 21st century. Being a person of faith does not make me an imbecile. I can affirm the value of spirituality and work to build religious community and still know that climate change is real, evolution is a fact, same-gender love and attraction are natural, bisexuality is a thing, transgender people are part of the wonderful diversity of humanity, no religion has all the answers (or has even asked all the questions), no religion is "God's favorite" (though we are each free to choose, navigate, and adapt our favorite), cruelty isn't okay (even if you think you have a bible verse condoning it), women aren't inferior to men in any way, women are THE experts on women's health and women's bodies, all people have sacred value, and using religion as "fire insurance" (trying to secure privilege or avoid torment in a possible future existence) is the least noble, most selfish, and least compelling reason to embrace religion. I just really needed to say that. (dw)

Saturday, June 18, 2016

The Christian Fundamentalists' Lie About the President's Faith

To the Right Wingers who are using the Orlando tragedy to say Pres. Obama is a secret Muslim and a Terrorist organization sympathizer (and who seem to believe that one equals the other), I am frankly exhausted with your willful ignorance and chosen hatefulness. If you have emerged from your cave ever in the last few years you know perfectly well that...
1. The President was a member of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago
2. The President, while in office, has visited (and even "preached" at) Christian congregations.
3. The Obamas, having the entire District of Columbia and surrounding suburbs to choose from, chose to send their daughters to a Quaker school.
4. His Christian bona fides not withstanding, we have freedom of religion in this country; so, if he were Muslim it would be completely okay. "Christian" is not a requirement for POTUS.
5. The overwhelming majority of Muslim Americans are peace-loving patriots who are as impacted and devastated by terrorism as anyone else.
6. It was Obama who eliminated Bin Laden (HELLO???!!!!).
7. It is our current president who has authorized on-going military strikes against terrorist groups in the Middle East.

So, please, for the sake of all things decent and sane, STOP using "Muslim" as an insult or as a word meant to stir fear, STOP intentionally lying about the president's faith (and if he ever decides to convert to Islam, just congratulate him and move on with your sad little lives), and STOP trying to connect him to terrorism when he has combatted it more effectively than any president to date (we can take issue with drone strikes and undeclared wars that don't have congressional approval, but we can't say he's not taking a fight to the terrorists ferfucksake!).

Just stop lying. Just stop hating. And while you're at it, stop pretending to be outraged that 103 people who come from a community that you have demonized and dehumanized and damned and insulted and vilified and rejected were hurt or killed. You've gleefully threatened them with hell since day one; now that 103 of them have gone through it, don't pretend that you are suddenly filled with compassion for them (and if you really are, then do the healing thing and offer an apology for the hate speech you've supported that leads to such violence).

That's all.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

A Weary but Committed Optimist

I am an optimist, not by nature (by nature I'm a cynic) and not by nurture; by nurture (the way I was reared) I am at least a 4th generation worrier. But by decision and determination and practice, I am an optimist, even when it's difficult to be (which of course is when optimism is needed the most!).

Optimism by choice can be exhausting.
When people PASSIONATELY will defend easy access to military grade weapons no matter how many innocent lives are lost to them, it's hard to remain optimistic.
I really am not asking you to turn in your derringer, or if you live in the piney woods of East Wherever, I am not asking you to stop hunting; we are just talking about reasonable restrictions on some types of weapons. Our own past and other countries have shown that such sensible actions will reduce gun violence.

When a group finally achieves civil rights and some measure of social equality and the immediate reaction is legislation that says all of that is void as long as someone says their religion demands discrimination, it's hard to remain optimistic.

When individuals make terrible choices, and their entire religion or culture or ethnicity is blamed (even by people seeking high office)...when that sort of unmasked bigotry seems to flourish, it's hard to remain optimistic.

When haters and lunatics gain power because ridiculously high numbers of people don't vote, it's hard to remain optimistic (and when those who do get power make it even harder for those who wish to vote to do so, it's hard to remain optimistic!).

When hate and fear, homophobia and transphobia, racism and xenophobia, misogyny and violence, hate speech and demagoguery seem to have all become mainstream, it's hard to remain optimistic.

BUT I WILL. I must. I have given too much of myself, offered too many sacrifices on the altar of  the gods of optimism to give up now.

What if my efforts to maintain and share optimism utterly fail, what if there is evidence to show me that it will fail? I will remain optimistic anyway!

What if some days my optimism feels false and naive? I will cling to it all the more stubbornly!

What if some days, and today could be such a day, optimism feels like a heavy load almost too much carry? Then I will drag it behind me, however slowly, but I will not let it go.

Some days, it's hard to remain optimistic. So what? It's too precious a gift to let go. That we have been given the power to choose optimism means we have also been given the responsibility to to do so. And when enough of us do so, and we remain optimistic long enough, things do change for the better. We've seen it; we've lived it.

May the victories of optimism in our memories inspire us to embrace it again and again, day after day, and never let the tides of fear, hatred, and division wash away our holy optimism. May optimism energize us to do what we can, to say what we must, to stand tall until we are knocked down, and even then to dare to believe that more possibilities exist for us.

I am a weary optimist, but an optimist nevertheless. Just owning that truth fans the flames of peace and joy within me. I remain a preacher of the Gospel of Optimism. Now, it's time to put that optimism work; please join me in doing just that. (dw)

Monday, June 13, 2016

Bigotry in the Name of Religion is Still Bigotry and It Has Consquences

The killer in Orlando was apparently outraged by seeing two men kiss in Miami, and his reaction was to kill 49 people in Orlando. Obviously he was mentally ill, and he may have been influenced by extremist ideology, but Heterosexism/homophobia was his primary motivation. Two people expressing affection angered him to the point of committing mass murder. Religious leaders and politicians whose rhetoric continuously dehumanize and demonize same-gender loving people are giving unstable people tacit permission to commit violence. Hate speech, even when disguised as a stump speech or a sermon, fuels the fire of violence. Enough blood has been spilled. I will not "agree to disagree" when it comes to the sacred value of LBGT people. Your opinion is not equal to someone's life. We must insist the bigots own their hatred and its consequences and stop blaming it on "God."