|September 21, 2000
Volume 31 Number 3
|A publication for the faculty, staff, administrators, and friends of California State University, Chico|
Master Bridge Builder Williams
Cecil Williams Demonstrates Building Bridges
Building bridges requires people with vision and people who can make that vision a reality. If we use our imaginations and our improvisations to combine truth, trust, and respect, we can be the visionary who builds bridges of mutuality and justice.
- Cecil Williams
Reverend Cecil Williams, pastor of Glide Memorial United Methodist Church in San Francisco, brought his message of integrity and inclusion to Chico to kick off the Building Bridges program on August 30.
Williams told the standing-room-only crowd that any community wanting to build bridges needs bridge builders, and bridge builders need three things: imagination, a sense of what is just, and the ability to define oneself. Of imagination, he said: "When we use our imagination, it takes us in many directions, in ways that we never imagined that we could imagine. I used my imagination to combat racism. I began to envision what it would be like to have an integrated church."
Williams was the child among his six siblings who was designated as the minister. It wasn't always an easy burden to bear, but he took it seriously. From the time he was small, he and his brothers and sisters played church. When anything died (or, he joked, if nothing died, there were plenty of roaches around), he and his sister and brothers had a funeral. Williams, already sensitized to the injustice of racism, would appoint each child as a member of a different racial and ethnic group. "So, I had an integrated church even before it became popular."
Second, our imagination links us with an understanding of what is just and how to remedy what is unjust. "If you want to be a visionary, there must be something deep within your existence that says, this is not justice, it is not right," Williams said. "There comes a time when one has to say, 'I will not put up with this any longer, I can't stand it.' "
The third characteristic of the bridge builder is the ability to define oneself. Williams exhorted the audience to see themselves and others as they really are. "Don't let anybody put those stereotypes on you about somebody else, and certainly don't let them put it on you about you. It's time for us to live who we really are."
Williams is well known for his work in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. He is sometimes asked how he can be close to this community. His response is, "I did it because I could see that their suffering was like my suffering." Williams is bothered by the response of some churches and church people to homosexuality. "I can't get out of my mind how church people can say, 'Well, we don't want them until they get like us.' Who gave you the authority to talk about us?" Unconditional love and acceptance are necessary tools for bridge builders.
Williams has been told that because he is a minister he should be out saving people. He looked out at the room and bellowed, "Save yourself!" The saving is something to be done together. Mutuality, respect, justice, truth, trust, unconditional acceptance -- these are the tools. Williams said, "Bridges are always waiting to be built. Where are the bridge builders?"
Williams' address was sponsored by A.S. Presents with assistance from CSU, Chico, the College of Humanities and Fine Arts, and the Building Bridges program. -- BA
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