Hundreds gathered for the usual Sunday services at the First Unitarian Society of Madison meeting house on the near west side, but this week they were also seeking hope and healing just days after Gov. Scott Walker had prevailed in the divisive June 5 recall election.
"The potential for healing seems remote because the wounding goes on and on," Associate Minister Karen Gustafson said in her sermon entitled "Summoning Our Better Angels."
This "wounding," as Gustafson described, refers to attitudes of "pain and rage" of Walker opponents in the days since the governor's second victory.
"Our path must lead us back to the gates of hope," Gustafson said.
One 17-year-old congregant, who asked not to be named, said he is "appalled" by the nasty language and politically charged jokes he's heard on the streets and stressed the need for civility going forward.
"We're not Neanderthals, after all," he said.
Gustafson urged congregants to put Walker's win into perspective by acknowledging a political disconnect between Madison and other parts of the state.
"[We would be] ill-served to write it off as only about campaign finance," Gustafson said, referring to Democrats' complaints over Walker's $32 million in spending.
Gustafson acknowledged that the people of Wisconsin who voted for Walker have their own stories and said continuous protest and resistance would mean disrespecting those stories.
Despite hearing these words, Richard Scoby said he would continue his activism with civility.
"No apologies for my year of demonstration," he said.
Gustafson emphasized her message would have been the same even if the election's outcome had been different, since there would be "painful feelings one way or another."
First Unitarian Society attracted significant media attention surrounding Sunday morning's worship services, including some national inquiries, Andy Gussert, chief operations officer said.
Gussert said several new faces, including some young couples, joined the Society's regular Sunday morning crowd to hear Gustafson's healing words because the message was "relevant to people."
"It seems to be calming for a lot of different people," said coordinator of member programs Jeanne Sears. "A good way to begin again."