"Washington and Back Again"
July 1, 2018
by Rev. Robert Francis Murphy


Fifty years ago, I wanted to be with Martin Luther King, in Washington, DC. During the early months of 1968, I made my plans to join the Poor Peoples Campaign. Martin Luther King was murdered in April, and the nation fell apart. There were riots. Followed by more riots. Bobby Kennedy was assassinated.

This year, William Barber and others resurrected the Poor Peoples Campaign. Last month, Lyn and I went to Washington, DC, to walk with the abused and the marginalized. The Unitarian Universalist Association asked me to wear a clergy collar - something that I seldom do in my ministry - and I needed a cane, to make the long hike.

Lyn and I walked with young people and with older people. People of all races and ethnic groups. Dreamers and skeptics. We heard speeches that could have been delivered during the 1960s. We also heard about new concerns. Consumer protection programs are being destroyed. Climate change is happening.

Has American life improved during the last fifty years? I've been happy for most of my life and I've been fortunate. Still, some of neighbors struggle to pay for the basics of food and housing. I've met them in homeless shelters and at community meals. I try to provide counsel at the Senior Information Center.

We live in a nation that has enormous potential. However, there is too much cynicism, too much chicanery, and too much nastiness in today's America. I agree with Rev. Barber that a "moral revival" is needed, in order to move America in the right direction. It may happen. However, some effort will be required.

In recent months, there have been marches in support of women's rights and in favor of gun control. The big mobilizations grab the public's attention and, heaven knows, that can be important and helpful. However, as several sages have noted, what's needed is a movement, not just a few minutes on television. Our congregation may be small, but we have the opportunity to do some of the good work that needs to be done. Year after year. Generation after generation.

The Unitarian Universalist Church of Tarpon Springs has been involved with justice-making work for a long time. Our efforts started with people like Mary Safford and Rev. Henry D. L. Webster, during the 1880s. Henry and Mary, with others, were involved with humanitarian work during the American Civil War. They continued their good work, as the town of Tarpon Springs was established. Their good influence is still with us, as we rebuild our church in a new century.

On July 1st, the Sunday service will be unusual. We'll sing some patriotic songs but we'll skip the political speeches. To make America great again, we'll identify community projects that bring neighbors together. Come join us, as we examine some of the possibilities for the Unitarian Universalists in Tarpon Springs.

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  © Unitarian Universalist Church of Tarpon Springs, 2015