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Day 10: Why We Drink Black Coffee (or, The Power of Stories)

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Today is Day 10 of the Thirty Days of Love. Today’s action is to share a story with someone you love – share a story seldom told and invite others to share their stories with you. Click here for resources, family actions, and more! Click here to sign up for the daily Thirty Days of Love emails.

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When my niece Melanie was very young, she was given an assignment to write about a family tradition.  What she wrote captured an essential piece of our family lore, filtered through the lens of a six-year-old.

A long time ago, when her grandparents were dating, they would go out for coffee. In those days, coffee was a nickel if you drank it black and a dime with cream and sugar. They would drink black coffee so they could also afford a donut. And that, Melanie wrote, is why it is a tradition in our family to always drink your coffee black.

And she was right. We all drink black coffee. And now, we always tell Melanie’s story when we get to the coffee part of a family gathering. The coffee—and the regular retelling of the story—are part of who we are.

I grew up in a family that shared its stories—of joyful moments, of challenges met and overcome (or not), of dear departed loved ones, of interesting people that wandered into our circle, of lessons learned and dreams realized. We still talk about childhood adventures, about Grandfather’s fondness for chocolate cake with a certain kind of frosting, about the very hot August when the lollipops on my sister’s birthday cake simply melted. We also remember the day my great-grandfather lost control of a brush fire and the farmhouse burned to the ground. We remember the story of my mother’s difficult recovery from polio, and my father’s heartbreaking chore of liquidating a bankrupt family business after his father died suddenly. Even the musical instruments our children played came with stories of those whose hands had touched the strings before them—and the responsibility to hold the story for a while, and then to pass it on.

Resilience in the face of setback and even heartbreak is one of the most important qualities we can nurture in ourselves and in one another. Personal stories of courage, of moving through setbacks, and of celebrating triumphs can offer wisdom that deeply feeds our souls. Stories of mistakes made, or new truths uncovered, show a path to transforming painful or troubling experiences into new insights and new ways to meet the world. Funny stories, delightful stories, stories about why we drink black coffee, can offer the gift of laughter and love, and strengthen the sense of who we are and what we are called to do. Stories shared, stories heard, stories built together with others can help us find our way in the world, and discover and strengthen our sense of how we are called to make the world a better place.

So share your stories! Share the delightful ones as well as the difficult ones. Today, I invite you to exchange a story with someone you love—share a story seldom told and invite one in return. Strengthen the bonds which hold us in the love of family, friends, and community. And let that love go forth to make the world a better place.

In faith,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gail Forsyth-Vail

Gail Forsyth-Vail is Adult Programs Director in the Faith Development Office of the Unitarian Universalist Association. She is the author or co-author a number of print and on-line resources for Unitarian Universalists, including Stories in Faith and Adapting Small Group Ministry for Children.

 

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Day 9: Creating Our Stories of Now

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Today is Day 9 of the Thirty Days of Love. Today’s action is to download the Collective Visioning Guide and learn more about the process of sharing our stories of self, now and us. If it moves you, consider sharing this with your congregation, family or spiritual community. Click here for resources, family actions, and more! Click here to sign up for the daily Thirty Days of Love emails.

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The 30 Days of Love is a spiritual journey for social justice, and therefore an ideal time for us to gather in community to tell our stories. During the past few months, our congregation, First Jefferson UU in Forth Worth, Texas, has embarked on the process of telling our Story of Self, Story of Us, Story of Now. Created by Marshall Ganz and the New Organizing Institute, many groups use this process to build relationships, community, and partnerships for justice. By telling our Stories of Self and Us, we can determine what our “Story of Now” is—that urgent challenge we are called upon to face in this moment, the hope that we can face it, and the hopeful outcome we can create together.

Click here to download the Story of Self, Us, Now guide and begin the process in your community.

Our process began when 40 members of our congregation met in August with a stated goal of identifying one or two actionable Stories of Now. First, we shared personal stories of why social justice is an expression of our faith. While this may seem like an obvious or simple question, please trust me that it was a deeply rich experience for everyone involved. Next, we created our story of us, mapping out a decades-long history of activism by our congregation, the first in Fort Worth to be racially integrated. We grappled with our past social justice efforts, including the challenges and choices we have made, with outcomes both good and bad, and how we believe we have been perceived by the broader community. Creating a cohesive story of us as a congregation created a tangible shift in the room. Our facilitator cried as she summarized from us what she had heard.

Creating a Story of Now is what really brought people to the gathering.  Everyone there—from our youth group, to social justice committee members, to board members—had a stake in where our social justice efforts were headed as a congregation, and there was underlying tension about what would be chosen as our focus. In a trusting space, with our hearts open, we engaged in the difficult work of determining the history, grounding, accountability, relationships, and resources we bring to various opportunities for creating justice and honestly assessing if the topic area we were examining led to an urgent story of now.

While our hope had been to emerge with just 1 or 2 Stories of Now, we ended up with four immediate actionable focuses. Let me tell you about just one Story of Now. During our gathering, a young man from our youth group told us:

“Last year at my high school, several of my LGBTQ friends were being pretty badly bullied. The school has not dealt with it effectively. Over the summer some of these friends have stopped communicating. They haven’t been on Facebook; they’re not returning calls. I’m so worried about them and afraid about suicide. I am asking this congregation to please host an LGBTQ prom for these kids and let them know that there is a community here that cares about them, that values them, that is standing on the side of love.”

There was much to learn: I had never heard an elder African American member of our congregation tell the story of how he sat in protest at the lunch counters when he first was part of the church in the 1950s. The Story of Us has been a useful touchstone for other conversations about the past, present, and future of the church. And certainly the process and the results led to a lot of conversations. And we are learning that the follow through on the four areas has been, well, mixed. We are acknowledging this is but the beginning of a longer journey of discernment and transformation.

Needless to say, our congregation was called to action now by hearing this compelling Story of Self and Us.

What is your story of now?

In faith,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rev. Jennifer Innis

First Jefferson UU Church

Ft. Worth Texas

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Have you followed the Thirty Days of Love this week?

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Have you followed the Thirty Days of Love this week? We launched our work in conjunction with Multicultural Growth and Witness on Living the Dream, Voting Rights, and the intersection with the New Jim Crow.

 

In case you missed any of our posts, you can read through them here!

  • Dayna Edwards, a DRE, shared her story of having a multiracial family in her piece: I Walk in Two Worlds.

 

In faith,

 

 

 

 

 

Jen Toth

Campaign Manager & Head Thirty Days of Love Enthusiast

Standing on the Side of Love

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Day 8: The Antidote to Fear

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Today is Day 8 of the Thirty Days of Love. Today’s daily action is to think about the intersections of civil and voting rights for the 11 Million Undocumented Immigrants in this country who are waiting for Congress to pass comprehensive immigration legislation. To take action and join Sr. Simone, click here. For more information and family resources, click here. To sign up for the daily Thirty Days of Love emails, click here.

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Forty-nine years ago in Selma, Alabama, Catholic Sisters marched for civil rights, voting rights and an end to segregation. They stood up with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and thousands of others to proclaim that segregation was wrong and democracy needed everyone’s participation. Almost fifty years later they are honored as the “Sisters of Selma.” One of their members said in a recent documentary, “It is one thing to have a right on a piece of paper, but unless you can act on it…it is nothing.”

On “Nuns on the Bus” tours across the United States, we Sisters of another era discovered the same truth. In every age we need to stand up for our rights to speak and act for justice. In Florida, I met Hispanic teens and young adults who were working to improve their communities as local organizers. In Camden, New Jersey, I met seventh graders working together to improve their park and their city. In Laredo, Texas, I met border patrol officers, Sisters of Mercy, and local court officials working together to improve their community and lessen the harshness of our broken immigration system. Everywhere we went, people of faith were working together to improve our communities and make democracy work.

But I also discovered on the Bus that there is a fear-based psychology of “scarcity” that causes fearful people to think that there are not enough rights to go around. Fear causes people to protect their own rights and think that they can’t give these same opportunities to others. Fear demands a self-protective response that makes me think that if I allow others to have their rights, I will lose my own. This is wrong!

The antidote to fear is community. In community, we know we are not alone and that someone has my back. This shared responsibility calls us to exercise our civil obligations. In fact, community can only exist if everyone contributes to the shaping of our society. This realization has led me to believe that an important task of the twenty-first century is to protect our rights by focusing on civil obligations. We as a community have an obligation to make sure that everyone is included. We must protect the right to vote, the right to education, the right to food, shelter and healthcare.

Catholic Sisters in Selma knew we had to stand together to ensure that justice was done. Achieving justice, they knew, was a mix of struggle and hope.  In our time, it is the same. We must stand together to make sure all of those eligible can vote. But that is not enough. We must ensure that all of us together do the hard work of democracy. We are called to build relationships, talk across differences, and find new ways forward.

In short, we are called to struggle together to form a more perfect union. No one can be left out of our care. In community, we know that we are our sisters’ keepers; we are our brothers’ keepers. Like the Sisters of Selma, we know that our rights are not just on paper. Our rights live in our vibrant democracy as we struggle toward justice.

In faith,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sister Simone, S.S.S.

Executive Director, NETWORK (Nuns on the Bus)

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Day 7: We are all in: Forward Together

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Today is Day 7 of the Thirty Days of Love. Today’s action is to learn more about why we have issued a call to join together in Raleigh on February 8. To learn more, sign up to attend, and find out what else you can do if you can’t attend, click here. To sign up for the Thirty Days of Love daily emails, click here.

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“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

~ Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today in North Carolina, fifty years after the 1963 March on Washington, there’s been a calculated, well funded, broad based assault on the civil rights of poor people and people of color.  In terms of civil rights history, and our state’s own history, after 150 years of progress, we’re suddenly going backward.  Since 1865, North Carolina has had a different way of doing things than our Southern neighbors, and it’s resulted in a great state education system and dynamic business climate.

But last spring we saw one regressive bill after another quickly roll out of the state legislature.   The newly elected ultra-conservative majority refused to expand the federal Medicaid program, passed a repressive reproductive rights bill, cut eligibility for unemployment insurance, and cut benefits for education, and for disabled and mentally ill people.  They’ve made it harder for poor people and people of color to vote, and enacted a regressive tax system while giving a large tax break to the state’s wealthiest citizens.  And in a truly stunning move, they repealed the Racial Justice Act.  Who repeals racial justice?!  Apparently, the very same folks who two years ago successfully funded the effort to change our state constitution to make same sex marriage illegal.

So when the call came to take a moral stand with the NAACP, of course I went to Raleigh with many members of the congregation I serve.  We were angry, but even more, we were committed to something much greater than anger, much greater than injustice.  We went to Moral Mondays last spring and summer with love for our fellow citizens, especially those who couldn’t be there to speak for themselves, and a passionate commitment to the common good.   We brought along our UU religious values: every person has inherent worth and dignity, so every person deserves equal rights.  And at the same time, we’re all in this together—what affects one of us affects us all.

We discovered that others were already working to get progress back on track.  The all-volunteer leadership of the NC NAACP has spent the last seven years crafting a broad based, progressive, and inclusive coalition.  These leaders know the history of North Carolina—how past multiracial coalitions have been beaten down by the KKK and Jim Crow.  They also know that the spirit of love and justice never died here.

So when this latest reprisal began, they launched the Forward Together movement.   It’s firmly rooted in the Judeo Christian prophetic tradition, and inclusive of other religious traditions, and atheists as well.  They’ve also reached out to labor, human rights, health and human service groups, and LGBTQ folk.   Like all vital movements, it’s sometimes messy, imperfect, and constantly in flux.  And it’s the real deal; sometimes their message of outrage at injustice hits so close to the bone, to the soul, it takes your breath away and leaves you humbled with no option but to fall in, with gratitude.

If this touches your mind and heart, come and join us in Raleigh on February 8 and be part of this movement, not just a moment.  That morning we’ll march with leaders from the NC NAACP, the UUA, and other groups who understand that when there’s an all out assault on the common good, all of us have to show up and speak out with a love that’s determined to find a better way.

If you can’t come to Raleigh, follow the Moral March on line, on Facebook and at Forward Together on YouTube.  Please help us spread the message of love and justice that’s blossoming again here in North Carolina.

Is this easy?  Not always.  Is it rich with meaning, hope and love?  That’s always the possibility when we go Forward Together—Not One Step Back!

Blessings,

 

 

 

 

 

Rev. Deborah Cayer

Lead Minister

Eno River Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, Durham, NC

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