Pro Roe Rally

Sunday evening, June 9, I had the privilege of being one of the speakers (pictured below, courtesy Indivisible Westford) at the Pro Roe Rally at the Westford TownPro Roe Speakers Common. My remarks stressed that the majority of people of faith in this country are pro-choice, and being pro-choice is a faith-filled stance. We must do all we can to protect Roe v. Wade! There was a great turnout at the rally, including many FCU parishioners.

I said in my remarks, I am here tonight on behalf of all people of faith in the United States who are pro-choice. Tonight, I am the symbolic reminder that there are people of faith who strongly support reproductive choice. The religious right in this country has put forward the notion that being godly or religious or having faith means that you are what they call ‘pro-life’, or what I would call ‘anti-choice’. But it’s simply not true. In fact, most Americans who are part of the faith community are pro-choice. Did you know that? It’s true! Who here tonight is a person of faith, in any religious or faith tradition, and is also pro-choice, in favor of upholding the Roe decision? See that? You are not alone! And there’s a reason for that. In short, the reason is that reproductive choice is a moral stance. It’s a faith-filled stance.”

“We people of faith who support the Roe decision (which is to say the majority of people of faith in the USA) know that people deserve to make decisions about their own bodies. We know that women and transgender persons who get pregnant should have agency over their own bodies and lives. We know that those persons who find themselves pregnant often have very compelling reasons to end those pregnancies. But really, it’s not for me to stand here and tell you what are the good reasons or the justifiable reasons to end a pregnancy. That’s the point. If it’s not my pregnancy, it’s not my choice, nor should it be. I have my moral and religious convictions, and so do each of you!”

Installation Service

On March 10, 2019, I was installed as the 28th settled minister of FCU since its founding in 1714. It was an incredible and joyful day! There is a video here if you’d like to see for yourself. The Rev. John Gibbons preached (“Getting the Hell out of Paradise”), and there were other wonderful speakers and lovely musical performances as well. There are so many people to thank… you will see them named at the end of the video.

The photo to the left is of the Act of Installation, the heart of the service, when the congregation and I shared our covenant. Leading the way were our Standing Committee Co-Chairs, Alison Bentley and Lezli Whitehouse. It was one of my favorite moments in the service.

I feel so lucky and grateful to be sharing ministry with the wonderful people of First Church Unitarian in Littleton.

I will never forget the day… I hope that this shared ministry lasts for many, many years to come.

Below are some more photos from the day, with captions.

Choir Lord
The Church Choir performed twice, and beautifully.
Artemis 2
The Artemis Singers performed a lovely offertory piece.
John installation
The Rev. John Gibbons preaching a thought-provoking sermon with surprises.
uu ukes
The UU Ukes delighted us and made us smile, as they always do!
lay on hands lara
The Laying on of Hands, detail.
lay on hands crowd
The Laying on of Hands.

A lifetime search…

Galilean Aramaic Yeshua bar Yosef by Rod Borghese
Conception of (the Jewish) Jesus of Nazareth, by Rod Borghese.

I was raised as a Unitarian Universalist and by a father who had studied religion for many, many years. He had a B.D. (what would now be an M.Div.) from Lancaster Theological Seminary, and he was raised in the German Reform tradition (now part of the UCC). He thought he might be a minister in that tradition, but his humanistic atheism made him decide otherwise in the end.

He discovered his first UU church in Los Angeles, where I was born. We moved to Pennsylvania and the whole family joined the Unitarian Church of Harrisburg, where I attended “Sunday School”.

In addition to the obvious influences (I went to divinity school and got my M.Div., and I am still a UU), there’s a lifelong influence that also came largely from my father. And that is that, like my father, I am very interested in trying to discover as much as possible about the historical Jesus. In fact, I’m probably more interested than he ever was. I am somewhat obsessed with learning as much as I can about the historical Jesus.

And it’s not easy.

As you probably know, Jesus (apparently) never wrote anything. The documents we have about him were written some time (often generations) after his death. And the documents and points of view are contradictory, and they suggest that in some cases details were fabricated to present a particular Christology and theology. It’s very hard to know what to believe.

I’ve read the canonical New Testament, and all the gnostic gospels (I think so, anyway). I’ve read many books that explore the historical Jesus. I’m in the midst of reading all the books on Jewish Christianity that I can; it is possible that these early “Christians” (who were unitarian and thought of Jesus as the Messiah — a human prophet) were the closest to Jesus’s perspective. But really, how can we ever know? The work of the Jesus Seminar is helpful, but it’s still mostly educated guesswork.

And so, my lifetime search for the historical Jesus continues.

HDS students and Cornel West

FlyerRadicalFutureLast night I had the pleasure of participating in an event put on by the Harvard Divinity School Socialists called “Living a Radical Future: The Spiritual Opportunities of Socialism.” I was (unbelievably) on the bill with Dr. Cornel West! (Flyer to the left.) It’s sort of a fluke that I got to do this; the Harvard Divinity School students saw that I was in the “editorial group” of Religion and Socialism (of DSA), and that I was local, and an HDS grad. So, lucky me!

The event was in Andover Chapel, which I hadn’t stepped foot in since 1997, 21 years ago! I was surprised to find the pews are gone, with lovely chairs creating a much more versatile space.

It was great to meet the current HDS students, too. They gave me so much hope. They were predominantly from the Millennial generation, and they seem so advanced in their understanding of democratic socialism.

When I was a student at HDS in the mid-90s, it was through taking a class with Dr. West (called “Religion and Cultural Criticism”) that I ultimately learned about the concept of democratic socialism (as opposed to the “scary” versions of socialism that I’d been taught about growing up). And it was through Dr. West that I heard about DSA (the Democratic Socialists of America), since Dr. West has been an honorary Co-Chair of DSA for quite some time.

I attended quite a few meetings of a start-up version of Harvard YDSA (Young DSA), but there were only a handful of us (four – seven, tops) at each meeting, though it was university-wide. This was around 1995-97. At last night’s gathering of HDS Socialists (just Divinity School Students, not university-wide), there were probably 85 people there! It was wonderful.

Cornel West Lara Hoke HDS Nov 2018I had the honor, after giving brief remarks, of introducing my hero, Dr. Cornel West. I felt unworthy of this, but I did it anyway!

Dr. West is so brilliant. I had the privilege of learning from him, once again.

In addition to being as intelligent as anyone I’ve ever met, he is also as warm and sweet as anyone I’ve ever met. What a great human being.