No Small Votes

November 6, 2012

1 Kings 2:6

"Act therefore according to your wisdom"

Reflection by Lillian Daniel

In 1756, in Uxbridge, Massachusetts, Lydia Chapin Taft became the first woman to legally vote in colonial America.  She cast her historic vote at her local town meeting, where the pressing issue was funding of the French and Indian War.

At that time, only "freeholders" (free male property holders) were allowed to vote, but Lydia Taft's late husband had held one of the largest properties in town. Captain Josiah Taft had fought in the French and Indian War. He was a respected legislator and had presided over the town meeting. After his untimely death before that meeting, the town fathers decided to allow Lydia to vote by proxy. She voted to increase her town's contribution to the war effort. But she did it a full 164 years before the United States passed a constitutional amendment allowing women to vote.

It was the Congregationalists, one stream of our United Church of Christ spiritual forebears, who brought town meetings to the New England colonies. They brought the practice of voting from their church life into the towns they settled, long before Americans had their independence.

Now if you have any experience with Congregationalists, you know that Congregationalists like to go their own way. They often do things locally before any kind of majority would be ready to do them nationally. They often vote on things in their churches long before big government is ready. For example, in 2005, at the 25th General Synod our UCC delegates voted to adopt the resolution, "Equal Marriage Rights for All," long before most state governments were ready to talk about it.  Sometimes, big things happen first on a smaller stage.

Today, on Election Day, our attention is appropriately drawn to the big stage of presidential politics, but there are all sorts of votes taking place today. Let's not forget all the smaller stages where big things also happen.

In 1854 Henry David Thoreau spoke passionately about the power of town meetings in a speech entitled Slavery in Massachusetts: "When, in some obscure country town, the farmers come together to a special town-meeting, to express their opinion on some subject which is vexing the land, that, I think, is the true Congress, and the most respectable one that is ever assembled in the United States."

From church meetings, to town meetings, to a national presidential election, there are no small votes. Because each voter stands on the big shoulders of the mighty cloud of witnesses who came before.

Prayer

Today, let us pray for those who will be elected, for those who do the electing and for the many people around the world who still do not get to do either. Amen.

About the Author
Lillian Daniel is the senior minister of First Congregational Church, Glen Ellyn, Illinois. She is the co-author of This Odd and Wondrous Calling: the Public and Private Lives of Two Ministers and author of the upcoming When "Spiritual But Not Religious" is Not Enough.

Click to order Hark! Advent Devotionals 2012 from the Stillspeaking Writers' Group.

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