Sermon for September 25, 2016, 1st Unitarian Church of Alton, Illinois
DELIBERATE, THEN ACT
A. Our topic for September is "Action." Our focus today is the need to deliberate, to think before acting, to look before we leap.
B. The issue isn't so simple as it might seem at first thought. I think that all of us have experienced situations where we needed more time to think about what we should do but where the situation was such that we had to act without further deliberation or delay. It became a case of "Now or never."
C. When I use the word "deliberate," I don't mean that we should rely only on our own thinking. In order to make good decisions we often need knowledge and experience beyond our own. In some cases we need the help of professionals such as physicians and lawyers and engineers and so on. In fact an important part of any deliberation may be knowing whom to consult and whose advice to follow. An important part of problem-solving is knowing about all the various alternative courses of action and the probable consequences of each, and that often means consulting professionals.
D. Of course, in dealing with any problem at some point one must act. We cannot just go on deliberating forever. Often the challenge is not only knowing what should be done but also when to do it.
II. The great philosopher Aristotle noted that doing the right thing usually requires hitting the right mean between two extremes both of which are to be avoided.
A. One example Aristotle mentions concerns the issue of how much of one's wealth one should give away to others. If you don't give enough, you will be considered "stingy" or "too selfish." At the other extreme if you give away too much, you will be considered "prodigal" or "imprudent." The right mean to aim for is to be "liberal" or "appropriately generous."
B. Aristotle goes on, however, to note that being "liberal" or "appropriately generous" is not merely a matter of giving the right amount. The "liberal" person is the one who gives the right amount in the right way to the right persons at the right time for the right reason. Ultimately one needs to do what the rational and morally virtuous person would do.
C. With regard to the issue of how long to go on deliberating before acting we need to avoid the extremes of acting rashly on the one hand and being overly cautious on the other.
D. Following Aristotle's lead we can say that the good problem-solver is the person who not only deliberates for the proper length of time but also deliberates in the right way and consults the right experts and takes into account the right factors and decides for the right reasons.
III. Now I want to direct our attention to an important problem with which this congregation must deal, the problem of how to make our church building accessible for all.
A. Anyone with a physical handicap who tries to come to this church immediately sees that there is a big problem, namely, how to even get into the building when there are so many steps to climb. Yes, there is that Easton Street entrance which has no steps to climb, but it is a very long walk from the street to even get to the actual entrance.
B. Unfortunately, even after one gets into the building one faces another problem if one wants to go down into the basement to get to the children's classrooms and the main office.
C. This accessibility problem be a factor in our not yet being able to find a regular minister rather than just interim ministers. Can we ever hope to get a regular minister to serve this congregation if this problem is not solved?
D. This accessibility problem is one that we can no longer ignore. We need to deliberate long and hard and collectively about how to solve it, and then we need to act.
E. No doubt this problem is very challenging, and dealing with it undoubtedly will be very expensive. We need to consider all possible alternatives, even the possibility of selling this building and then buying a different one, or maybe just finding some other place to meet.
F. Another possibility would be to focus on providing assistance to those individuals who need it. Maybe we could have equipment as well as a team of volunteers or employees to help as needed, but they would have to be available whenever any kind of event was occurring.
G. We need as much advice from experts and professionals as we can get. This includes help from the UUA as well as from anyone else who could help us.
H. It is somewhat frustrating that this very beautiful sanctuary makes us want to stay here but at the same time may be what is keeping us from confronting the accessibility problem and taking the action necessary to deal with it.
IV. Let me share with you some very preliminary thoughts.
A. It may be that we need to divide the overall accessibility problem into two component parts which are solved in different ways. The problem of how to get into the building in the first place may be best solved by making the Easton Street entrance more accessible while the problem of getting between the main floor and the basement may best be solved by having a somewhat self-contained elevator built external to the existing building. It might be outside the nursery near the secondary front entrance, or it might be at the rear of the building outside of the Emerson Room.
B. I am not sure about the attitude of the Alton city government. One might suppose that it would be to their advantage to have this congregation remain in the city of Alton rather than moving to a different location. If possible we need to try to work with them in a collaborative way. Can the city government of Alton help us deal with the accessibility problem? On the other hand, a church does not have to pay property taxes, so maybe it would be better for them if this property were sold to a private business.
V. Deliberate, then act.
A. This formula, "Deliberate, then act," is what we as individuals need to use to deal effectively with our personal problems.
B. This formula also indicates what we need to do as members of other groups to which we belong. When they have problems, this is the formula to use.
C. But following this formula, "Deliberate, then act," is also what we must do as members of this congregation. We have a very challenging problem with which we must deal. We must deliberate intensely and wisely, with all the help that we can get from others. But in the end we need to act, not just hope that somehow the problem will go away.
D. Let the deliberation begin, and may our action soon follow.
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