Picture it: It’s summer time in Maine. You finally have time to truly unwind, and disconnect from all the stressors in your daily life. There are no unwanted distractions, and the only things that fill your schedule besides rest and beach time are things that fill your soul.
Sound good? Then join us this summer at Ferry Beach!
Standing on the Side of Love (SSL) has teamed up with Ferry Beach to offer a special program for people who want to strengthen their connection with others doing love + justice work. Holly Near, singer, songwriter and longtime community activist, will be at Ferry Beach from August 16th through August 19th. She will conduct workshops on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday mornings after her very special concert on Saturday night, August 16th.
Holly’s workshops will include ways we use music to advance our social justice/social action work in the community. She will help us consider how we can use songs and the spoken or written word creatively to bring our messages to the world. She will also guide us in thinking about how we can use our creativity to nurture ourselves as well.
Joe Jencks, singer, songwriter and activist will be at the Beach from Wednesday through Friday, also providing inspiration and activation for your SSL team.
Stay for the whole week so you can join Standing on the Side of Love Campaign Manager Jennifer Toth, who will also be at Ferry Beach offering afternoon workshops on building and nurturing your SSL justice work on Thursday and Friday, Aug 21st-22nd. These very special workshops will be energizing and uplifting for your SSL work in your community.
A special rate will be offered for SSL teams of 2 or more coming from the same congregation. If you register for at least 4 nights (the whole week is 7 nights) and have 2 or more people coming from the same SSL group, we will discount your stay by $200. That’s a 40% savings!
Won’t you join us this summer for this very special opportunity to further your social justice and social action work by re-energizing your volunteers in this way?
Cathy Stackpole, Executive Director, Ferry Beach
Jennifer Toth, Campaign Manager, Standing on the Side of LoveMore >
Standing on the Side of Love is thrilled to announce our upcoming collaboration with the UU College of Social Justice. This fall we will join them on a delegation to witness and call attention to the human rights violations taking place on the US-Mexico border. We will meet with civil society and religious leaders on both sides. And we will continue to call for immediate action to stop deportations and for comprehensive immigration reform. Click here to learn more about their witness trips including the Mississippi Civil Rights Journey this summer. We’re pleased to re-post this reflection from UUCSJ’s Director, Rev. Kathleen McTigue.
The long morning walk in the desert that stretches along the Arizona-Mexico border was eye-opening and heartbreaking. I was there a few weeks ago with a group of seminary students on our program with BorderLinks called “Theology and Migration.” We hoped to better understand the reality of these borderlands between countries and the many entwined justice issues that lead so many people to literally risk their lives — in the simple, essential search for work.
We walked through a stunningly beautiful landscape, filled with spring birdsong and blossoms, the horizon formed by sharp desert mountains. But the sun, harsh terrain, and lack of water made it a profoundly dangerous place to walk, even in broad daylight with sturdy shoes. We were warned to watch out for the cholla cactuses and even so, several of us got them caught in our shoes and clothing; they pierce easily and are very painful. The migrants who try to cross this desert do it at night, in cheap shoes that can fall apart in a matter of hours. For them, stepping on a cholla — or having the soles come off their shoes — can mean the end of their lives.
We learned that in this area over the past ten years, the remains of over 3,000 people have been found. Three thousand human beings in ten years! And the desert is a big place: those are just the bodies that have been found. Volunteers with groups like Samaritans and No More Deaths mark the places where people have died with simple white crosses of wood or pipe, with the word desconocido — “unknown person” — and the year they were found. In an effort to keep others from dying, they go out along these migrant trails every day, carrying gallons of water and the willingness to bring those they find into town to a hospital — an act that risks a felony charge under current law.
We spent a full week in Arizona and Mexico, hearing stories from migrants, clergy, volunteers of many stripes, and immigration officials. We sat in on court hearings as migrants in shackles were sentenced to many months in prison because they were caught for a second or third time crossing the border. We prayed at the border wall, a towering steel structure surrounded by stadium lights, mounted cameras, and armed guards. We saw first hand the degree to which an issue of civil law has been thoroughly militarized: our borders are like a war zone.
Now I am back home in Boston, more determined than ever to add my own voice to the demand for immigration reform. I urge you to consider joining us in the coming year on one of these journeys to the border, or contact us about scheduling a group from your congregation for this program. You will be moved, inspired and empowered — because no matter where we live, immigration justice calls us to action.
The Rev. Kathleen McTigue
Director, UU College of Social JusticeMore >
We have been humbled by the outpouring of support, actions and love received from our supporters over the last five years. You have shared your photos and stories, and have taken action online and on-the-ground. Now it is time to share a love note commemorating five years of Standing on the Side of Love.
We’re thrilled about our plans to celebrate and keep the momentum going at General Assembly, online, and in our communities. Can’t make it to GA? We still want to hear from you, so be sure to share your story. We can’t do this work without you. With your support we will continue to combat oppression as we call for justice and love.
See you soon!
Jennifer Toth, Campaign Manager & Nora Rasman, Campaign Coordinator
Standing on the Side of LoveMore >
The good news was that I stood on the side of love demanding greater economic justice! The bad news was that I was arrested for doing so.
Actually, I was part of a planned civil disobedience at a living wage action. This past February, the Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Network (PIIN) opened up a path for many people in Pittsburgh to stand on the side of love. PIIN is a congregation-based community organization (CBCO) that includes the First Unitarian Church of Pittsburgh, where I serve as Senior Minister. On February 27, 2014, PIIN organized a rally at the headquarters of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) in downtown Pittsburgh to urge them to pay their workers a living wage. Despite it being a bitterly cold and snowy day in Pittsburgh, more than one hundred people came to the rally. Ten spiritual leaders from PIIN congregations engaged in civil disobedience to demonstrate our demand for economic justice. We stood close together in the cold singing songs. Eventually we were arrested for trespassing. On Monday, March 3, more than one thousand people attended another rally at UPMC headquarters, and more than one thousand people attended yet another rally on March 4. Midway through that rally, we received word that the newly-elected Mayor of Pittsburgh had heard our message and would soon have a meeting with the CEO of UPMC to address our grievances.
As our region’s largest employer, UPMC employs about 60,000 people in twenty hospitals in the greater Pittsburgh region. A tax-exempt charitable institution, UPMC nevertheless collected $1.3 billion in profits over the last three years. Unfortunately, however, many of UPMC’s full-time service workers do not earn family-sustaining living wages. UPMC has $4 billion in reserves and recently spent more than $50 million for a corporate jet, while opening a food pantry for its low-wage employees and asking for contributions to the food pantry from other employees. Twenty-seven UPMC senior executive have annual salaries of $1 million or more. Meanwhile, UPMC management has strongly discouraged union organizing practices, has refused to provide affirmative action data as is required of all federal subcontractors, and has avoided paying real estate taxes, thus depriving local schools and governments of much-needed revenue. Our central concern remains that because UPMC is our region’s largest employer, when UPMC pays unfairly or inappropriately low wages, there is a ripple effect throughout our region that keeps wages unfairly or inappropriately low for many other workers as well.
It is clear that our efforts have made a difference. On April 2, 2014, the New York Times published an article about our struggle in Pittsburgh, including this observation: “Pittsburgh’s mayor, Bill Peduto, said in an interview that he had urged UPMC to pay more and not to ‘intervene unduly’ in the unionization drive. ‘It’s the largest employer in the state of Pennsylvania,’ he said. ‘They have the means to help their workers break the cycle of poverty and join the middle class. They probably have more of an ability to do that than any other entity.’”
At this time, when there is substantial momentum to raise the federal minimum wage, I hope you will find a way to stand on the side of love for economic justice in your community. Please see the joint UUA-UUSC Statement on Raising the Minimum Wage—A Moral Imperative. As Unitarian Universalists, we can make a difference when we put our faith into action. The UUA and UUSC are part of a broad interfaith coalition that is bringing your voice to Congress. In Pittsburgh, as in many other places, working in coalition with other groups has helped provide leverage for our Unitarian Universalist values. Learn more about UU involvement in congregation-based community organizing here.
Here is a portion of a prayer that I offered at the start of one of our rallies: “Gracious Spirit, when you asked us to love our neighbors as ourselves, you were asking us to focus on the public meaning of love, which is Justice. Gracious Spirit, we are not asking you to stand on our side. Instead, we are asking you to help us stand on your side: the side of those who experience injustice; the side of those who are treated unfairly; the side of those who are pushed aside; the side of those who are shut out; the side of those who work hard all week but are still denied a family-sustaining living wage.”
Rev. David Herndon
Minister, First Unitarian Church of Pittsburgh
Click here to read Rev. Herndon’s full sermon reflecting on the action at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.More >
As Passover is upon us and Easter is near, this is a special time for millions of Jews and Christians around the world. Tragically, this holy week started off with a shooting rampage at a Jewish community center in Kansas that left two adults and one teen dead. It has all the indications of an anti-Semitic hate crime, and it’s a painful reminder that the long journey to end oppression in our world also remains an urgent one.
And as is sometimes true of urgent journeys, we may need to drop everything that might cause us delay. Traveling lightly and rapidly, in fact, may be the only way to freedom.
This was certainly the case for the ancient Israelites. The Hebrew exodus narrative tells us that when the Jewish people decided to follow Moses out of Egypt, they had to leave in such a hurry that they couldn’t even wait for their bread to rise. In the words of poet Alla Reneé Bozarth, they had to “pack nothing and begin quickly” if they were to escape once and for all the horrors of slavery and open a new chapter of faith and freedom in their lives.
Bozarth writes of the Passover:
Pack nothing. Bring only your determination to serve and
your willingness to be free. Do not hesitate to leave your old
ways behind – fear, silence, submission. Only surrender to the
need of time – to love and walk humbly with your God . . .
Begin quickly, before you have time to sink back into old
slavery. Set out in the dark . . . Sing songs as you go. You may
at times grow confused and lose your way . . . Touch each
other and keep telling the stories . . .
Her poem reminds me that the work of justice and recovering wholeness often means interrupting the ways I usually think (such as “I couldn’t possibly make time to do such and such”) and seizing opportunities that present themselves before I become captive to my old ways of acting.
As we gather together with family and friends this week and this Sunday . . . and as we hear the old stories of freedom and new life, I’m hopeful that the well-being we want in our lives and in the world is possible. I believe it will begin as soon as I’m willing to leave behind anything that stands in my way . . . and get on my way.
The Rev. Terry Davis
 “Passover Remembered” in Womanpriest: A Personal Odyssey by Alla Renee Bozarth, 1998.More >