Opening Words from Sun. August 6 by David Brown

Like many of you, I was raised in a good Christian home. In my case, it was a fundamentalist version – we believed every word in the Bible was carefully chosen by God and should be followed exactly.

In my early twenties, I could no longer accept these beliefs that had been ingrained in me from birth. Later in my twenties, I came across the Unitarians and found theirs to be a refreshing view of our human circumstance. For almost thirty years, I was an active Unitarian-Universalist, mostly at Eliot Unitarian Chapel in Kirkwood, serving on many committees and several leadership positions. Twenty years ago, my wife Chery Green and I left that church, where we were married, and came here. It was a better fit as this was a little more secular. We have both been active here serving on many committees and in leadership roles – the first one for both of us was called “eSociety”. It was the group that maintained our computer systems, network, and website. We have now hired most of that out, but Matthew Hile continues to do volunteer work on our website. Many things have changed in twenty years.

Some things are still the same. For the Ethical Society and for the Unitarians also, the reason we come together is to be part of a community that wants to do good things for others and for our planet, and we want to do that as humans together, not in the service of any supernatural being. We are on what I like to call “the non-belief spectrum”. We are not unified in any specifics of our beliefs, but we are “good without God”.

Ethical Societies and the Unitarians have been heavily involved in social change as long as our organizations have existed. Several Unitarians made the national news in the 1960’s as they were registering black citizens to vote in the South; at least one was martyred. Members of this Ethical Society sat with black friends at lunch counters in this city to pressure white managers and break the color barrier – both Billie Teneau and Joyce Best were part of this group. We have protested the War in Vietnam, the war in Iraq, uncontrolled gun legislation, reproductive rights, LGBTQ+ rights, and many other social issues that plague us.

Some of us want to publicly protest in support of their issues; others want to find more private ways to help others. Some are satisfied, at least for now, to be a member of an organization that takes a stand on social issues. I have done all of these at various times. Being an active member has helped me become more sensitive to and aware of the inequities many people face.

Since we have various interests and talents, we find different activities here at the Ethical Society to engage us. Let me tell you about a couple of very different activities I am involved in that may also interest some of you.

The first one I will mention is working with immigrants or refugees to St Louis. Several of our members and friends have worked through the International Institute to provide food and dine with refugees to help them become more comfortable talking with Americans. We have donated items, done babysitting and bus training. We even “adopted” two different families for a three-month commitment to help them learn to function in this country. I’m still in contact with these families even though they have been in this country for five years and can now apply for citizenship. One winter we got a $5000 grant from a refugee support organization to pay for food which we purchased and delivered once each month to six families for six months.

There are many opportunities today for our participation with immigrants from Africa, Afghanistan, Ukraine, and other places from which they have been displaced. The website of the International Institute of St. Louis is Catch me in the Becker Room, and I will tell you more details.

Sometimes a group of members want to form an Ethical Society activity around an interest of theirs. In 2008, Joe Corrigan and some member friends organized a fundraiser featuring a bicycle ride on the Katy Trail. That effort led to the group we know today as the Ethicyclists. For several years, we have ridden one Saturday morning of each month during riding season – April through October. We ride 20 to 25 miles as a group at a comfortable pace, culminating with lunch; lunch may be the best part as we often have interesting discussions about politics or the Society.

We invite you to ride with us. This month we have two rides. On Saturday Aug 12, we will be riding in the Alton, IL area and having lunch at Fast Eddies. On Saturday, August 26, we will start our ride at Stacy Park in Olivette and ride to Tower Grove Park for the Festival of Nations which is a major fundraiser for the International Institute. While we are at the park, we can choose from many ethnic food options, check out items made by people from various countries, and watch ethnic dance shows.

If these activities that I’m involved with interest you, talk to me after platform – I’ll get a yellow mug. We need you to ride with the Ethicyclists as lately we have sometimes had more people who have never been to the Ethical Society than those who have. And if you are interested in learning more about the International Institute, I can help you. They are currently looking for volunteers to help with the Festival of Nations.

NOTE: The ideas and opinions in this post do not necessarily express the thoughts or opinions of the Ethical Society of St. Louis or its leadership.