Harnessing Love’s Power
to Stop Oppression


First Look! The Third Annual Thirty Days of Love

No Comments | Share On Facebook| First Look! The Third Annual Thirty Days of Love Share/Save/Bookmark Sep 10, 2013

For the past two years, we have committed to a period of intentional action, service, education, and reflection called the Thirty Days of Love. During this time, folks all across the country (and even the world!) have spread love and justice in truly inspiring ways.

In 2014, our third annual spiritual journey for social justice will run from January 18 through February 16 and focus on four weekly themes:

Week One: Living the Dream

Sunday, Jan. 19: Suggested worship service themes include honoring Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and recommitting to racial justice work.

What to Expect: Kick off the week with MLK Day and set aside time for congregational self-examination and reflection. Look for resources on furthering your racial justice work.

Week Two: Sharing Our Stories

Sunday, Jan. 26: Suggested worship service themes include exploring your community’s “Story of Self, Us, & Now” and using stories to make the invisible visible.

What to Expect: Resources for telling your own story as well as stories from past and present social justice heroes. Help us envision what our stories will be in the future and how we can get to that place.

Week Three: Building Bridges of Love

Sunday, Feb. 2: Suggested worship service themes include “where is your radical love?” We encourage you to give out Courageous Love Awards and focus on the idea of radical inclusion.

What to Expect: A chance for us to reach out past walls, barriers, or borders and engage in places we don’t usually go. Look for ideas on putting together service projects, interfaith exchanges, and community dinners.

Week Four: Pause, Reflect, Celebrate!

Sunday, Feb. 9: Celebrate love–what justice victories does your community have to celebrate this year? This could be anything from a new anti-discrimination ordinance to an emerging partnership with an immigrant justice organization to the opening of a new LGBTQ youth center.

What to Expect: Since our campaign kicked off in 2009, we have helped achieve marriage equality in 13 states and DC. These are HUGE victories! Plus, the SSL campaign turns five years old in 2014. Look for inspiration on lifting up these milestones in your community.

On February 16, we invite you to end the Thirty Days of Love with Share the Love Sunday, a chance for your congregation to give back and help support our social justice work.

We hope that you will start to think about how you can lift up these weekly themes in your congregation or community. Over the course of the next several months, we will be sharing more information on our plans for the third annual Thirty Days of Love. Bookmark our Thirty Days 2014 webpage today so you will always have the most current resources at your fingertips!

I can’t wait to embark on this spiritual journey for social justice with you.

In faith,

Meredith Lukow
Program Assistant
Standing on the Side of Love

The message above went out on Tuesday, September 10, 2013 to Standing on the Side of Love supporters. You can sign-up for these emails here.

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Join the Interfaith Fast Action for Immigration Reform

No Comments | Share On Facebook| Join the Interfaith Fast Action for Immigration Reform Share/Save/Bookmark Sep 05, 2013

All summer long, you have been standing on the side of love with immigrant families. From California to Florida to New York (where Rev. Susan Karlson recently got arrested to raise awareness about the dire need for immigration reform), you are putting your faith in action!

Now, with Congress returning from their August Recess next week, we must escalate our work for immigrant justice. There will be many ways to plug into over the next few months and we’ve just revamped our resources page. Click here to learn more and get involved.

We are also really excited to announce that Standing on the Side of Love is joining with the Interfaith Immigration Coalition in a rolling Fast Action for Immigration Reform during the month of September.

Imagine hundreds of thousands of people of different faiths fasting and praying together in an act of solidarity and hope. Join us for a spiritual fast that will enable us to take on some of the suffering of our broken immigration system and focus more clearly on reflection and action for change. Demonstrate your solidarity with immigrant communities by fasting for just one meal, a day, or every week, or you can fast by abstaining from caffeine or social media or whatever would be spiritually important to you. All our denominations will be spreading the word, sharing our stories, and creating a huge moral movement for immigrant justice.

Click here commit to join with thousands of others across the country for the interfaith Fast Action for Immigration Reform.

Standing on the Side of Love will be co-hosting a webinar this coming Monday to help kick off the fast, where you can learn about the current status of immigration legislation and how to raise awareness. Click here to sign up for the webinar.

Together, we will ensure that our voices are heard in the halls of Congress. We will get just, compassionate immigration reform passed this year!

In faith,

Rev. Noel Andersen, UCC Minister, Interfaith Immigration Coalition Grassroots Chair, & Church World Service Grassroots Coordinator
Jennifer Toth, Standing on the Side of Love Campaign Manager

PS: Heads up–we are also gearing up to join local immigrant rights organizations in a National Day of Action for Dignity and Respect on October 5.

The message above went out on Thursday, September 5, 2013 to Standing on the Side of Love supporters. You can sign-up for these emails here.

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Continuing to Walk Until We Have Compassionate Immigration Reform

2 Comments | Share On Facebook| Continuing to Walk Until We Have Compassionate Immigration Reform Share/Save/Bookmark Aug 27, 2013
Rev. Susan Karlson gets arrested.

Post author Rev. Susan Karlson and others are arrested in an act of civil disobedience.

Each Thursday, clergy and lay people circle Federal Plaza that houses Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and immigration courts in New York City. We silently pray the Jericho Prayer and walk in solidarity with people who struggle with unjust immigration laws and fear separation from their families. Last Thursday, we continued marching to Varick Street, home of a detention center that brings immigrants in shackles, bound by their hands and feet. At the detention center, others joined us for a rally and eight of us remained in the street and got arrested in an act of civil disobedience.

My decision to act in civil disobedience outside a place that shackles human beings feels linked to all the current events happening around the country directly related to racism. We have immigration laws that criminalize undocumented people no matter how they entered the country initially. Under the current broken system, many undocumented immigrants pay taxes, but receive no benefits or representation. The court decision about the slaying of Trayvon Martin and Stand Your Ground laws deeply trouble many, but people of color live with this every day. The recent Supreme Court decision on the Voting Rights Act abnegates the need for protections around voting rights for people of color.

I might scream about the endless stop and frisk rhetoric from politicians who say we must continue to stop young Black and Latino men. I think about all the enslaved people brought to this country against their will in shackles and now how people are now detained for long periods of time and suddenly deported in shackles to out of the country in shackles, a country they may not remember or have ties to now. It is time to remember the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.

NYC Federal Plaza witness

Witnessing for immigrant justice at the Federal Plaza in New York City.

A dear immigration activist friend with the New Sanctuary Movement of NYC asked me to commit civil disobedience. Despite his tireless efforts for immigration reform, he cannot risk arrest because he would be deported. I risk nothing and, in fact, am treated with the utmost respect and dignity, in contrast to the treatment of thousands of immigrants brought to Varick Street. We so desperately need humane immigration reform with a path to citizenship. I hope that our rally and civil disobedience brought more awareness and might hasten the end of this ugly nightmare that undocumented immigrants face.

To learn more about the history and involvement of Unitarian Universalists in the New Sanctuary Movement, click here.

Rev. Susan Karlson is the new Central East Regional Group (CERG) Disaster Response Coordinator, charged with recruiting, organizing and developing partnerships to bring Unitarian Universalist volunteers to all the areas devastated by Superstorm Sandy. On September 1st, she is leaving her ministry at the Unitarian Church of Staten Island in New York where she and the congregation worked on immigration, antiracism, interfaith efforts, and Sandy recovery. Susan has been an active participant in the New Sanctuary Movement since her previous arrest three years ago for civil disobedience around comprehensive immigration reform. She also serves as secretary of the Unitarian Universalist Trauma Response Ministry.

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A Sign of Love

2 Comments | Share On Facebook| A Sign of Love Share/Save/Bookmark Aug 16, 2013
Lesley-Fox Family

Post author Tina Lesley-Fox (right) with her wife, Melissa, and their daughter, Amelia.

Recently, I have been thinking lots about Portland, Oregon, in 2004. My wife was working for the statewide LGBTQ civil rights organization, and I had recently been laid off from my job working as a sexuality educator at the LGBTQ youth resource center. We woke up one morning to discover that Multnomah County, where we were living at the time, had started to issue marriage licenses for same-sex couples. In a matter of hours, my wife and I along with a team of volunteers organized clergy, space, and logistics for 800 couples to get married over two days. It was a time when we were overwhelmed with love. We witnessed people who had been together for fifty years finally given the right to marry. We saw children who got their families recognized as valid for the first time. There was laughter, and hugging, and real LOVE.

Just after that amazing week, my wife and I were walking down the street downtown looking at all the beautiful church buildings and enjoying a lovely rare sunny day. Neither my wife nor I had set foot in a church in many, many years. She had always said she had no interest in going back to any organized religion. As we rounded the corner we saw a great big old church with a giant sign out front that proclaimed: “We support marriage equality.” We decided right then and there to check it out on Sunday morning.

When we walked into the church that Sunday we felt nervous and anxious. Would people be friendly to us? Would we be welcome? Was there really a faith community where we would be accepted as a couple? We entered the sanctuary and sat down amongst the other 500 people and waited for the service to begin.

The service began like many others I had been to. We sang hymns and listened to readings… then something changed. The minister started talking about all the people who had been able to get married in the last week. She talked from her heart about the importance of standing on the side of love. About welcoming all people and speaking out when things are not right. Then she had all the newlyweds rise so everyone could cheer.

This was our introduction to Unitarian Universalism. A great big sign and a room full of people who were standing on the side of love. I will forever be grateful to the people who decided to put that sign outside on that building. It was a sign of love, a sign of hope, and a sign leading me to my spiritual home.

I want to remind you that often it is the little things we do in life that have the biggest impact. As a Unitarian Universalist and a director of religious education, I feel it is my responsibility to stand on the side of love all year long. Will you stand with me?

This post was written by Tina Lesley-Fox. Tina is the Director of Religious Education at the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Syracuse, New York.

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Solidarity Photos: Show Support for the California Prisoner Hunger Strike

2 Comments | Share On Facebook| Solidarity Photos: Show Support for the California Prisoner Hunger Strike Share/Save/Bookmark Aug 13, 2013

Members of the 2nd Unitarian Church in Chicago show solidarity for the hunger strikers. (Credit: Megan Selby)

This is the beginning of the sixth week of the California Prisoner Hunger Strike. Over 30,000 prisoners began the hunger strike together on July 8th; that’s 36 days ago. These people are putting their lives on the line to stop the brutal torture they are subjected to in solitary confinement. See our previous post to learn more about their demands.

On Monday, July 22nd, 32-year-old Billy “Guero” Sell died in solitary confinement at Corcoran State Prison while participating in the hunger strike . Prison officials are ruling the death a suicide, but advocates and friends of Guero assert that he had no prior mental health issues and that he died because of inaction by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). Guero’s friends described him as “strong, a good person, a good soldier.” The hunger strike continues and we must all remind the world that Guero’s life mattered.

We invite you to join us in sending Gov. Jerry Brown a message to support the California Prisoner Hunger Strike and force the CDCR into negotiations with the hunger strikers. Take a photo in solidarity with the hunger strikers. Invite your congregation, social justice council, youth group, or other friends to stand with you. Then, you can tweet your photos to @CAHungerStrike and/or with #cahungerstrike, or post them on the official “Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity” Facebook page.

Kids from 2nd Unitarian Chicago are with the hunger strikers! (Credit: Megan Selby)

There are currently 36 people who have signed on with the weekly solidarity fast each Monday since July 8th. People are participating from Boise, Idaho; Chicago, Illinois; Boston, Massachusetts; Toronto, Ontario; New Orleans, Louisiana; and elsewhere around North America. On Monday, August 4th, a group of community activists shut down the entrance to a state building on Oakland, California, demanding action by the Governor and an end to solitary confinement. People around the world are outraged and paying attention to the ongoing suffering in the prisons throughout California. The leadership and bravery of those on hunger strike is a call to action for those of us who are people of faith.

Our Unitarian Universalist theology reminds us that our lives are all interwoven and together we are part of the Divine. Our Universalist ancestry calls us to recognize the holy in every individual and to honor that beauty through community and solidarity. As prisoners in California continue to risk their lives, it is our responsibility to lift up their voices with our own. As their bodies lose strength we must grow stronger. With one life lost and others possible to follow, we must not let their lives be lost in vain. Speak out. Stand in solidarity.

This post was written by Rev. Jason Lydon, Community Minister at Black and Pink, and Megan Selby, Chicago Area UU Young Adult Ministries Coordinator.

For more info, check out the Pelican Bay Solidarity Fast blog and this list of ways to support the strike.

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