The new year is here, and you are probably reading this between watching bowl games (Go, State!).
If you're like most people, including those who are by now "footballed-out," thoughts have already crept across your mind about what you expect of the year ahead and, more importantly, what it expects of you as you enter the first full week of the year.
Are you going to get those undone things done? Are you finally going to quit smoking, pay off debts, spend more time with your family, lose weight? All of them, right?
And then life happens.
As people of faith, we are called to make sure that, when life happens, we respond -- and keep responding -- until we get those undone things done.
At our church, one of those undone things in this new year will involve getting to better know people of other faiths and ideas and, in so doing, building bridges where rivers run through.
Starting this Monday (unless something has happened before press time), we'll be performing marriage ceremonies at our church for same-sex couples. Yes, we'll be celebrating what some have called "the dreaded gay marriage act."
For people who will no longer be maritally marginalized, it is one more step on the stairway to social equality.
Note to the Future: If by some legal act marriage equality in Florida is delayed, it will only be a postponement. Marriage equality is, like all civil rights as understood by all marginalized people, inevitable.
The only question is how much pain we are willing to put others through, including ourselves, before the mighty hand of justice corrects this great wrong and does what is right. Or, as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said: "If we are wrong, justice is a lie, love had no meaning."
On Jan. 18, many of our members will join people of other faiths, including some who will profess no spiritual faith at all, at the Palmetto Youth Center, to honor the legacy bequeathed us by Dr. King. At that gathering, not everyone present will agree with our marriage tenet, yet we will all gather in the same building, where we will all pay homage to the ideal of a society where everyone's life is worthy not of tolerance but of respect -- and, as Dr. King said many times, of love.
And yes, differences so many as there will be between so many present that night, we will all agree we are ready to peacefully march, as so many of us did so many years ago, in order that the force of the future stays in motion in ways that tell the world those rights so many of us thought we could take for granted, those rights still denied to far too many, are part of our breath and being and not just some hollow part of our law.
As we return to our church the next day and try to live in accordance with those goals, we will plan for three Tuesday evenings in February, during which we will gather with clergy and members of two of our spiritual neighbors: St. Joseph Catholic Church, Temple Beth El and our own United Church of Christ.
On those evenings, on Feb. 3 at our church) Feb. 10 at St. Joseph and Feb. 17 at Temple Beth El, we will share an Interfaith Symposium led by the Rev. Tom Zalewski, Rabbi Harold Caminker and myself.
Discover we are more than just geographic neighbors down the street from each other.
Discover many of the myths and stereotypes we harbor about each other are patently false.
Learn we are more one than we are many.
Recognize we are not in this world to tolerate each other, but to share with each other as we grow into the future together.
Learn, as we have many times before, we are able to trust each other, share with each other, help each other and rely on each other.
Learn we share the same mores, have the same needs and are in pursuit of the same goals.
Learn some of the things about which we are most passionate are not even shared within our own congregations are held dear by (and will allow us to bond with) members of the other two congregations.
Learn it is OK to broaden our circle of friends, including beyond our three bodies of worship, beyond our friends in Palmetto, beyond those people and places with whom and where we have marched in the triune names of peace, justice and love.
Right here in our own county, right here in our own neighborhood.
Those are some of the resolutions of our church for the first two months of 2015 -- and beyond.
Those are some of the ways we will seek to get our undone things done, even when life happens.
Happy New Year!
The Rev. Dr. Robert Sichta, Congregational United Church of Christ, 3700 26th St. W., Bradenton, can be reached by calling 941-756-1018 or e-mailing PBKAlpha1@gmail.com. Faith Matters is a regular feature of Saturday's Herald, written by local clergy members.