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Day 25: Creative Love

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Today is Day 25 of the Thirty Days of Love. Today’s action is to inspire creativity, facilitate action across generations, and share the love! Click here for resources, family actions, and more! Click here to sign up for the Thirty Days of Love emails.

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Like many congregations, we celebrate child dedications several times each year. Through music, words and symbols we dedicate young people to a life of clear vision, honest and powerful speech, generosity and love. When our minister gently rubs dirt into the palms of the children’s hands and says:

“We rub this earth into your hand to remind you that it’s good to get your hands dirty doing the work of the world”

Many people in our congregation are visibly moved. Such a simple and symbolic gesture. Such a powerful charge.

Four years ago, our children’s religious education program added a Faith in Action (FIA) component. FIA includes monthly workshops inviting students to share stories, connect their UU beliefs and principles with action, and experience their power to make a positive difference. By cultivating young people’s natural sense of justice, empathy and compassion, we are beginning to transform not only how our youth learn, but also the way we engage in service and justice work together – across generations.

It all started in 2010 when the earthquake hit Haiti. We knew we needed to do something – but what? A few parents and youth gathered at a pottery studio owned by one of our members. Soon our hands were covered with wet clay, as we got dirty “doing the work of the world!”

We made clay chalice pendants and our religious education classes turned the pendants into necklaces. They were remarkably simple, yet beautiful, and in one coffee hour we raised over $1,200 for the UUA/UUSC relief efforts in Haiti. During a time of loss, we discovered that we could take action to make a positive difference. Art connected us, across generations, in affirming our shared faith, and the mystery and miracle of life.

Each year more and more artists, enthusiasts and activists have joined our team. We have made murals, posters, notecards, jewelry, ornaments, and so much more. Thanks to our generous congregation, and many artists, we’ve raised over $6,000 to support the work of organizations in our community. More importantly, we are learning how to work together to bring about positive change. Art has been a unifying element of this process!

On February 9 we celebrated our fourth annual Faith-in-Action Art Faire. Our Faith-in-Action team, a group of retirees in our congregation, students, and teachers, all came together for the month of January to learn, share stories, and create art. Check out reflections from a few participants below:

Let this Be a House of Love

“We talked about how people live in many different types of homes, but we all have the same need for shelter and love. Each of our houses, made from recycled paper and cardboard, has a heart somewhere, symbolizing both love and home.”
~Kathryn Hillyer, Art Faire Team Member

Intergenerational Connections


“Members of our Transitions group of retirees were more than happy to share our skills and interests, and help with the sewing projects. Young people learned a bit of sewing, we all had fun, and were grateful for the opportunity to help others through our efforts.”
~Juli Cicarelli, Art Faire Team Member

The Power of Love and Art

“The arts lend themselves to love in infinite ways . . . the words we speak, the lines in a book, each note in a song. Love finds its way into our hearts and our artwork because it is one of our most powerful emotions. Love is a tricky thing, but when we find the right notes and colors and words to express it, it turns our art into magic.”
~Emily Cruz, 14, Artist, Singer, and Art Faire Team Member

Making the World a Better Place

“I feel strongly that art is a powerful way to make the world a better place and connect people with each other. I think we’re all born as natural artists, and when we put our affinity for art to use to help others, it inspires all of us.”
~ Janet McDonnell, FIA Team Member

Feel the Love

“Making the projects for the Art Faire is fun. I like making the bowls, heart plaques and fused glass. I feel helpful and loving and caring.”
~T.J. Allison, 8-year-old FIA student
Our Faith in Action program exposes our youth and congregation to many ways that we can stand on the side of love. Through advocacy, service, and art, we are learning new ways to put our faith into action. Art is one powerful way to express feelings, claim power, and engage all ages in standing on the side of love. We look forward to hearing more of your stories!

In faith,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Faith-in-Action Team

Countryside Church Unitarian Universalist, Palatine, Illinois

P.S.
If you would like to learn more about any of our projects, workshops, or to share ideas, please contact us at: re [at] ccuu.org.

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Day 24: An Invitation Into the Sacred Pause

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Today is Day 24 of the Thirty Days of Love. Today’s daily action is to commit to inserting sacred pauses into your life as you go about your day. 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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In this final week of Thirty Days of Love, we are invited to first pause, then reflect, then celebrate. As a practicing Buddhist, the spiritual practice of pausing is a large part of living out my faith in the world, and I’d like to invite you to join me in practicing the sacred pause today, throughout this week, and beyond.

Many people think of mindfulness meditation as sitting still for long periods of time and noticing one’s thoughts. Although this can be true, that is an advanced practice, and it’s not the only option. Mindfulness can be lived moment-to-moment in our daily lives in a profoundly simple and accessible way: all that is required is to simply pause, and notice, in the moment, what is happening for you.

The sacred pause is about just taking a breath—inserting a breath between stimulus and reaction. We are taught to leap to action; we are not taught to sit with what is real for us before reacting. We are also not taught how to bear witness to someone else’s truth. By inserting a breath after we receive a stimulus, the breath invites awareness, and out of awareness can grow an intentional response. The question becomes: can I be more intentional about what I add to the world? Can I bring a response to the conversation or even to myself that comes out of a sacred honoring of stillness and of breath and of humanity and of what’s here?

The sacred pause is not simply a stopping, it’s not a quick brusque assessment or a moment to stop and relax—what makes the pause sacred is that it is a call to bear witness, to notice what’s happening for us, to see what’s here right now. For example, take a breath. What’s happening in your body—what’s your heart rate, where are you holding tension? Are you hungry, are you thirsty? What are your emotions? Is there an unmet need in this moment? Breathe in, breathe out.

The sacred pause also calls me to bear witness to who’s with me—particularly when I am face-to-face with someone with whom I disagree or with whom I am in struggle—and take a moment to see the human being in front of me. Not the cause, the organization, or the politics, but the human being, because there’s always a human being. Part of the pause, the invitation to investigation, is a call to see my humanity and the humanity that’s around me.

I will never tell you that this is easy. The idea of taking a breath sounds simple, and it is—but it is a skill, a difficult and powerful skill, one that has to be practiced. My own history of trauma and PTSD mean that my instinct was once to either lash out or retreat so deeply inside that no one could reach me. Practicing the sacred pause, creating space between the world I had been trained to anticipate and the world that was currently in front of me, was a way to crawl out of immobilizing fear and disconnecting rage.

I invite you to try on this transformational practice that has allowed me to heal and to be an effective agent of change in the world. Today, commit to inserting deep breaths—sacred pauses—into your life as you go about your day. Maybe it’s ten times throughout the day. Maybe it’s on the hour every hour. Maybe it’s every time you stop at a red light or every time you open your mouth to speak. Pause, take a deep breath, check in with your humanity and the humanity of those around you, and whatever you do next, do it with intention.

Namaste,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Teo

Teo Drake is a spiritual activist, an educator, a practicing Buddhist and yogi, and an artisan who works in wood and steel. He is affiliated with Off the Mat, Into the World and the organization Transfaith. When this blue collar, queer-identified trans man living with AIDS isn’t doing faith-based welcome and inclusion work, he can be found teaching martial arts, yoga, and woodworking to children or blogging at www.rootsgrowthetree.com.

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Day 23: Thanks from the UUA and the UCC

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Today is Day 23 of the Thirty Days of Love. Today’s action is to learn about the social justice work of another faith and journal about what about that work inspires you. Click here for more resources, family actions and more! Click here to sign up for the daily Thirty Days of Love emails.

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Yesterday, members of the Unitarian Universalist Association and the United Church of Christ participated in the Moral March on Raleigh in Raleigh, N.C., as part of a group of thousands of concerned North Carolina citizens and committed individuals from throughout the country. We sang, prayed, and marched together to raise awareness about the threats to voting rights in North Carolina that are spreading to other states.

As we stood surrounded by people who shared our concerns and listened to our collective cry for change, we both paused and reflected that this is love reaching out in action—raising our voices for those who are being silenced by voting restriction tactics. Showing people who we don’t even know, have never met, that we love them, that they matter, and that we won’t let their power be taken away from them.

Back in April of last year, the UUA and the UCC once again stood together in Rhode Island and celebrated and worshipped with citizens of that state as they worked to pass marriage equality. And soon after, they became the 10th state to grant all people the freedom to marry the person they love!

We must, as communities dedicated to justice, peace and love, reach out to others to share the transformational stories of what our unique faiths have to offer. Each one of us has a powerful story to share about how our faiths have touched our lives, how it has transformed us, and helped us to make the world a better place. We need to be telling these stories, listening to others, and helping people grow in spirit and in service.

Thanks to you and everyone who embraces the principles of love and justice, we now have nearly 20 states with marriage equality, and we continue to move closer to comprehensive immigration reform that will recognize the human worth and dignity of the 11 million undocumented individuals living in the United States. At yesterday’s march, we stood side by side with the NAACP and other partners to show that we are equally committed to voting rights and access to a fair and open democracy in this country. While there is still much more to do, let’s take this time to pause, reflect, and celebrate all we have accomplished together and all that we will accomplish in the future.

Thank you.

In Faith,

Rev. Peter Morales and Rev. Geoffrey Black

UUA President + UCC General Minister and President

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Day 22: We Stand on the Side of Love Together, Shoulder to Shoulder!

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Today is Day 22 of the Thirty Days of Love. Today’s daily action is to learn more about Muslim communities in your area and about the Shoulder-to-Shoulder campaign. 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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At the Shoulder to Shoulder Campaign, we talk a lot about effective responses to anti-Muslim sentiment. Expressions can be anything from bullying, to insults on the street, to desecration of sacred spaces, to legislative actions, to hate crimes…and the list goes on.

After a few years of listening to the experiences of faith communities across the country, it has become clear that responses to anti-Muslim sentiment are often only as strong as the existing relationships between the targeted community and those who wish to be supportive.

In other words, the most effective response starts way before the actual incident takes place.

That’s why today I’m asking that you stand on the side of love by reaching out from your congregation to a local Islamic Community Center or mosque. There are a number of reasons why building a relationship now is your best response to anti-Muslim sentiment:

Your relationship will be an example of what we are trying to achieve in the first place; communities and relationships that are safe and celebratory of people from many traditions and identities. By cultivating this kind of a relationship, you have the opportunity to know your neighbors as an authentic and dynamic faith community instead of a community defined by stereotypical and inaccurate tropes. This also allows you to tell positive stories about interfaith partnerships before anything happens, addressing misinformation that can lead to discriminatory incidents.

It means that your first call after a tragic incident is not one establishing your trustworthiness. Instead, you can simply respond with essential activities like listening to the experience and needs of those who were impacted. Acts of religious discrimination or racism are traumatic. You can learn about what trauma is, as well as some “do’s and ‘don’ts” for responding in these resources.

It means that responses are more likely to be helpful, not hurtful, because you better understand the context and community. Among the many impacts of discrimination are a denial of agency and dignity to those who are victimized. Responses, then, must prioritize placing leadership and/or support firmly in the hands of those who are targeted. When well-intentioned allies overlook responding to the stated needs of the group and instead respond to discrimination generally, it runs the risk of re-victimizing.

In other words, responses that do not follow the leadership of the community risk doing more harm than good. Responses taken in the context of a long-standing relationship make this less likely.

Today, I’m hoping that you will join me in the effort of responding to anti-Muslim sentiment by taking the first steps to introduce yourself to a neighboring Islamic Community Center, school, or mosque. Engage your youth, your leadership, yourself in these efforts. Some options for action include:

  • send a greeting card (youth group to youth group, clergy to clergy)
  • identify when Islamic holidays occur and plan to celebrate them with your neighbors by either accepting an invitation to a gathering or simply sending a holiday card
  • learn about important anniversaries, like the anniversary of the opening of an Islamic center or school, that you can commemorate and celebrate with the community
  • engage deeper by visiting each other’s sacred spaces or organizing a joint service effort

When reaching out, you might consider some of the successes that UUs have had in the past. In addition, be aware that Islamic centers often have a different leadership structure than other religious groups. If you are having a difficult time finding a clear contact for interfaith engagement, be flexible and stay in touch as you learn how the community you’re reaching out choses to do things.

Sometimes, Islamic centers can get a lot of requests for interfaith partnerships because there may only be one mosque in town to partner with. If this is the case, be willing to go through an established interfaith organization or to meet your Muslim neighbors where they have already chosen to engage on an issue of common concern.

Interreligious partners are essential to responding to anti-Muslim sentiment. I am encouraged by the fact that we don’t have to wait for discrimination to define our responses. Instead, we can build diverse communities that celebrate our respective traditions now, making our communities safer and more inclusive for the future.

In faith,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christina Warner

Christina Warner currently serves as Campaign Director for Shoulder-to-Shoulder: Standing with American Muslims; Upholding American Values. In this capacity, Christina collaborates with 29 national members of Shoulder-to-Shoulder and numerous local, state and regional partners to implement multi-faith work to end anti-Muslim sentiment. She previously served three years with Mennonite Central Committee in India and then Washington, DC.

Find Shoulder to Shoulder online on facebook and @S2SCampaign on Twitter!

 

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On the Eve of the Moral March in Raleigh: A Prayer

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Rev. Patty Hanneman is the minister of the UU Congregation of Hillsborough, NC.  She will be offering this prayer, ‘Called from Many Places’, during the Friday night worship for UUs ahead of Saturday’s Mass Moral March.

Called from Many Places

Holy One, known by many names, whose spirit is Love,
thank you for the grace that brings us together
in this time, in this place, for a common purpose.

From many places you have called us,
from many life paths,
many other concerns.
Yet we have all been touched by what is happening
in North Carolina,
and we have chosen to be here,
to stand together, on the Side of Love.

So turn your spirit loose* on us.
Send us forth with power and with the courage
to live out in the world what we profess to be true.
Send us forth in gladness,
that in building this gathered community
we may do justice, grow in love,
enjoy ourselves, and enjoy one another.

Turn your spirit loose on us,
that we may remember who we are:
a gentle but angry people,
a people who recognize that we are connected,
connected to a power greater than ourselves,
connected to one another,
knowing that laws that hurt one of us hurt us all,
knowing that as one strong body,
we can accomplish more than any of us could do on our own.

Turn your spirit loose on us,
and inspire us to loosen the knot of cynicism and anger
in this city of Raleigh.
Let our gentleness remind us that everyone deserves a voice,
everyone carries the spark of your Love,
even those who do not believe we should be doing this work.
Let us meet them in the streets with compassion,
for many have not yet learned the truth of our interconnectedness.
Let us not oppose them so much as show them a different way
to be in and of the world.

Turn your spirit loose on us,
that our anger might carry us through a wintery North Carolina morning.
Let there move through us a benevolent rage
that the values you have set before us – the sacred values
of human dignity, compassion, and justice,
have not been honored in our legislative buildings.
Let us say with one clear voice and in numbers they cannot ignore:
That which is sacred will not be defiled.

In the spirit of Love you have gathered us,
in the spirit of Love we now depart.
May this same spirit sustain us throughout our time together
as a people of faith,
willing to risk the urging and insisting,
the pushing and tugging,
the pounding and kneading,
of this world we love so passionately,
because this is what it takes to give life the shape of justice.

Let the gathered community say Amen. May it be so.

 

* “Turn Your Spirit Loose” is the title of a prayer by Ted Loder, published in his book, Guerrillas of Grace, and is a phrase from which I take much inspiration.

 

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