A letter to our collective community: All Souls Unitarian church values individual freedom. We are also a church that balances individual freedom with the common good. We draw the line when a person’s individual freedom places the good of others at risk or inhibits others’ freedom.
In the spirit of covenant
In this spirit, and following this covenantal tradition, we will be deciding in the coming weeks and months how and when to resume in-person church activities and services.
In the course of a pandemic that is causing widespread illness and death, the balance of our decisions are weighted toward the common good.
In the spirit of common good
For example, even though a young, otherwise healthy person, is less at risk in this pandemic, they can and do unknowingly carry the virus to others who are more vulnerable. Therefore, the younger people stay home, not so much for their personal safety as much as for the safety of others who could be severely harmed by their freely going about their pursuit of happiness.
This is the spirit of our faith and it is also the spirit of our democracy.
In the spirit of our democracy
In 1620, a ship of disparate people—Puritan separatists, adventurers and tradesmen—aboard the Mayflower, found themselves off the coast of Plymouth. They were heading to Virginia, but circumstances required they come ashore In Massachusetts. Their governing charter, from the king of England, was only valid in Virginia. What this meant was that when they set foot ashore in Plymouth, each person would be free (and ungoverned) to pursue their own self-interest. Nobody had a legal right to impose any restrictions because their charter held no authority in that part of North America.
It meant that the strong and the young and the healthy and those who were not with families with small children or elders could go forth to do as they desired. However, this would leave the vulnerable even more in danger and less likely to survive or thrive in the new environment.
The Mayflower Compact
So, they stopped the ship offshore before disembarking. They wrote and signed what we know as the Mayflower Compact. It was a covenant. It was an agreement between them that said that they would place the common good of their fellows above their own self-interest.
The Mayflower Compact is considered one of the foundational documents of American Democracy and of our covenantal faith tradition.
Each of these democratic institutions do everything possible to enhance the individual freedoms of everyone while also balancing the common good. When these two (freedom and common good) are in tension, our tradition is to favor the common good.
To this end, and in this tradition, we will make decisions on behalf of our collective community.
Thank you. I love you.
Rev. Marlin Lavanhar
This Washington Post editorial, In-person church services right now are an affront to public health — and morality, looks specifically at the questions before us as a church and is guided by these same underlying principles and democratic traditions.
Rev. Dr. Marlin Lavanhar is the Senior Minister of All Souls Unitarian Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He will celebrate 20 years at All Souls during the church’s Centennial in 2021. Follow Marlin’s cartooning on Instagram, @MarlinLavanharCartoons & keep up with All Souls @AllSoulsTulsa. You can read more of his blogs on beyondbelief.online; All Souls exclusive blog sharing stories of our free faith, curated from the heartland