Harnessing Love’s Power
to Stop Oppression


For our veterans

1 Comment | Share On Facebook| For our veterans Share/Save/Bookmark Nov 10, 2014

As a Unitarian Universalist Minister who serves as an Army Reserve chaplain, I have seen the wounds that our veterans carry, both physical and spiritual. I myself struggle with chronic pain from a training injury I suffered as an enlisted soldier before I became a chaplain. The peacetime injury that I experienced pales in comparison to the wounds that many veterans returned home with from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. As a nation, we sent these young women and men off to war. It is our responsibility to do all in our power to support them now that they are home.

In recognition of Veterans Day, I ask you to join me in protecting the rights of people, including veterans and many others, who are living with disabilities. Call Sen. Harry Reid, the U.S. Senate majority leader, at 202-224-2158. Ask him to bring the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) to a vote in the U.S. Senate.

When you call, press 2 to leave a short message. All you need to say in your message is the following:

“Hi, I’m [name] from [state]. I’m calling to urge Senator Reid to schedule a floor vote for the disability treaty before the end of this congressional session.”

People throughout the world who live with disabilities often experience stigma, marginalization, and discrimination. CRPD would provide greater legal protections to people with disabilities — including veterans — to ensure such things as access to public transportation, education, employment, housing, and safe drinking water and sanitation. Americans with disabilities would also benefit by being able to travel, study, and work overseas.

CRPD is modeled on the Americans with Disabilities Act, but until the United States ratifies the treaty, our country can’t fully participate in the global movement for disability rights.

Whether you agreed or not with the wars our nation chose to fight, we all still owe a duty to those who answered the call to serve. These young men and women displayed courage during their military service and have continued that bravery as they returned home to rebuild lives forever changed by the wounds they sustained. We must do our part to ensure that the rights of all of those veterans and others who live with disabilities are protected both in the United States and throughout the world.

Yours in faith,











Rev. David Pyle

District Executive, Joseph Priestley District of the Unitarian Universalist Association

Chaplain (Captain) U.S. Army Reserve

P.S. This Veterans Day, take three minutes to protect the rights of people living with disabilities. Call Sen. Harry Reid today at 202-224-2158. Ask him to bring the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) to a vote in the U.S. Senate.

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Waiting for Justice in Ferguson

No Comments | Share On Facebook| Waiting for Justice in Ferguson Share/Save/Bookmark Nov 07, 2014

People around the country are preparing for the prosecuting attorney to announce the grand jury’s decision on whether to indict Officer Darren Wilson for the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson. Indications point to a grand jury announcement soon, possibly between now and Thanksgiving. An indictment is extremely unlikely, but whatever it is, whenever it is, there will be much pain and anger that will be expressed in a variety of ways.

Our deep theology as a justice-seeking people calls us to stand in solidarity with Michael Brown’s family and the people in Ferguson and around the country who have been calling for justice. We are working with local coalitions here to be part of a faithful response that will push this movement for justice forward. People are asking what they can do to help.

You can stay updated by following the local St Louis Standing on the Side of Love (SSL) facebook page, and both the national SSL website and facebook page.

We urge you to help us to show up in any of the following ways:

• Seek in-depth information and perspective on the protests in St. Louis. Mainstream media has gotten a lot of things wrong, or simply paints an unfair portrait of people who are resisting racial profiling and police brutality. Read and share these stories to counter others that people are hearing.

• If you are part of a congregation and are in charge of worship, consider a different worship service and Religious Education focus for the Sunday immediately following the announcement or as soon as possible thereafter.
• Write a blog or prominent message on your congregation or personal website and social media outlets, urging people to pay attention.
• Write public statements and op-ed pieces. Check here for a tip sheet and talking points for ideas.

• Build relationships with local organizations and community-based groups working on racial justice and intersectionality

Join or organize a vigil in your own community. Use this opportunity to shine a spotlight on police brutality where you are. Personally reach out to others in your area to encourage their participation. This is an excellent time to bring congregations and community partners together. See Standing on the Side of Love With Ferguson page for news of vigils across the country.

  • Getting to and around in St. Louis may be difficult in the time immediately following the announcement. It will also take organizations a while to prepare actions for a national call. Please watch for information about a call to come to St. Louis.
  • Should protests arise in your area, show up in support. Follow the lead of the African American community, and check in with interfaith groups.
  • Seek non-violence training and bring a message and spirit of love. If there is not an indictment, vigils and protests can serve as a ‘People’s Indictment’ across the nation.
  • Join organizations that are monitoring police. It may require soul-searching about what you can and cannot support, but that too is important work. “We need not think alike to love alike.”
  • And finally: photograph and document everything you do. People need to see a giant splash of yellow Standing on the Side of Love shirts in both the physical and virtual worlds at this time. Post them on your website, Facebook pages, and to St. Louis SSL. If you use Twitter, use #UUwithFerguson. Send photos and stories to love@uua.org.

Justice is what love looks like in public.

In Faith,

Rev. Barbara H. Gadon, Lead Minister, Eliot Chapel, Kirkwood, MO
Rev. Thomas Perchlik, Minister, First Unitarian Church of St. Louis
Rev. Krista Taves, Minister, Emerson UU Chapel, Chesterfield, MO
Rev. Julie Taylor, Affiliated Community Minister, Emerson UU Chapel, Chesterfield, MO
Rev. Sunshine Wolfe, Interim Minister, First UU Church of Alton, Alton, IL

With thanks and appreciation to the UU Ferguson Response Team:

Taquiena Boston, Rev. Terasa Cooley, Rev. Barbara Gadon, Rev. Michael Hennon, Rev. James A. Hobart, Rev. Abhi Janamanchi, Leslie Butler MacFayden, Annette Marquis, Rev. Rosemary Bray McNatt, Rev. Thomas Perchlik, Rev. Meg Riley, Christopher D. Sims, Rev. Bill Sinkford, Rev. Krista Taves, Rev. Julie Taylor, Kenny Wiley, Rev. Sunshine Wolfe


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We are Still Fighting for Justice #GOTV

No Comments | Share On Facebook| We are Still Fighting for Justice #GOTV Share/Save/Bookmark Nov 04, 2014

This email is part of our Voting Rights Campaign blog series. Today we hear from Willie Nell Avery, from Perry County, Alabama, who is a stellar and inspiring civil rights veteran who had to fight for her right to vote in the early 1960s and today works in the Board of Registrar Office.

Interviewed by Dr. Janice Marie Johnson,  Multicultural Ministries and Leadership Director, and Annette Marquis, LGBTQ and Multicultural Programs Director from the UUA’s Multicultural Growth Witness staff team on the road with the Living Legacy Pilgrimage.

Janice Marie Johnson: Would you please just share with us a snippet of your extraordinary story, Mrs. Avery?

Mrs. Avery: Basically I start with my move to Perry County, and my husband was not a registered voter, and there were lots of other people who weren’t. And we decided that we were not really citizens until we reached that status to become registered voters. Every time the registrar’s office would open, I would go and attempt to get registered. And we had to take a test in order to become registered. And I took the test. And each time the board was open, I would go back, and they would tell me they hadn’t graded my paper. That went on for a while.

The Perry County Courthouse, Marion, Alabama

Finally I told them: if you have misplaced my test, give me another. But they knew my walk, I guess! When I would walk in they would look up and say, “well we haven’t graded yours yet”. After everybody was being turned down, we wrote letters to the Justice Department telling them the treatment we were receiving. They had a hearing in Mobile, Alabama on the case and my husband happened to be one of the persons to testify. So in June ’63 they allowed my husband to become a registered voter, followed by mine in July 1963. I never filled out another application.

I guess they thought when they allowed the two of us {to vote}, because we were involved in the case, that we would stop, that we had achieved what we wanted to do.

But we didn’t have enough people, something like less than maybe 300 voters, and knew that would not make a difference, so we just kept pursuing.

And from that time until now I’ve been involved in a lot of things.

Today it is better, and not better. We hold more positions now than ever have held. In the Courthouse where I work, I work in one office in the Board of Registrar, we have more people in positions than ever. In the Commission of Revenue, there is a black woman. The elected official in the 2nd clerk is a black woman. The first African American probate judge, happened to be a woman. In the sheriff’s dept, there is a black person. So we have that leverage now.

Click here to listen to our interview with Mrs. Willie Nell Avery

But I see another arising of slavery, where they are dividing us now and almost about to conquer. The fight is not where they will strike you with a billy club, put water on you, or put dogs on you, or spray with tear gas…

But that mentality is still here. From ‘61 up until now, we are still fighting for justice. To make sure that everyone is treated fairly. But we are still struggling, still out here there trying to make a difference in our lives.

Annette Marquis: What drives you to do this? Why is this so important to you?

Mrs. Avery: I thought all of us are created equal. I really did. I thought, that’s what the Constitution says. I don’t understand why the color of your skin has anything to do with your character. I believe if you have it, and the Lord puts it here for everybody, I should have a piece of that pie too. And I’m not satisfied if I don’t. And I won’t be satisfied.

Janice Marie Johnson: Mrs. Avery, I know you have said you will continue this fight until you take your last breath.

Mrs. Avery: That’s right!

Janice Marie Johnson: Are you ramping up the fight during this election period?

Mrs. Avery:I am. I made a statement in church today. And I’m telling people:

Go to the polls and vote!! Click here to find your polling location.

Janice Marie Johnson: Mrs. Avery, we are so grateful and you continue to inspire us. Thank you.

To learn more about our Voting Rights Campaign click here.

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On the Side of Love with Ferguson

4 Comments | Share On Facebook| On the Side of Love with Ferguson Share/Save/Bookmark Oct 31, 2014

“Our fear that justice will not be served is now a reality. Regardless of the reasons why a grand jury decided not to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown, people are angry, frustrated, and outraged. We still have questions unanswered. We still seek justice…Collectively, we must be a strong voice for change to end police brutality and the systemic racism in our society that causes violence, chaos, and death. Black lives matter.”

- From Rev. Peter Morales Statement on November 24, 2014

The following resources will help you and your congregation continue to learn more, grow, heal, and take action. Prior to and following the Grand Jury Decision in November 2014, UUs have been gathering to call for justice for Mike Brown. See photographs from around the country here and read a number of sermons on Ferguson here.

Worship Resources

Take Action with Guidance from Groups on the Ground in Ferguson

Find Partners (See Local Chapters for National Organizations)

Organize a Vigil

Follow Reliable News Sources

Twitter follow @deray, @brownblaze, @TefPoe, @HandsUpUnited, @stackizshort, @bdoulaoblongata, @MillennialAU, @LostVoices14, @OBS_StL, @shaunking, @Nettaaaaaaaa, @UnrulyRev, @KristaTaves, @BarbaraGadon as sources of in-depth information and insight beyond mainstream media.

Speak Out through Op-Eds, Letters to the Editor & More

Ongoing Education and Action Resources

SSL Blogs & Images with Ferguson and UUA Blogs/Statements/News


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Reflections from the Border: Thoughts on Justice & Voting on the Side of Love

No Comments | Share On Facebook| Reflections from the Border: Thoughts on Justice & Voting on the Side of Love Share/Save/Bookmark Oct 27, 2014

This email is part of our Voting Rights Campaign blog series. Today Jennifer Toth, Campaign Manager of Standing on the Side of Love, chats with Monica Dobbins and Bob LaVallee, seminary students from Meadville-Lombard Theological School. Jen, Monica & Bob just traveled to the U.S./Mexico border on a Border Trip sponsored by Standing on the Side of Love (SSL) and the UU College of Social Justice. With the mid-term elections just a week away, and just returning from their trip, they share what calls them to take action for justice. Click here to see more about the Campaign.

SSL: First, I would love to hear from you what called you to join this trip, Monica and Bob, what you hope you will get out of it, and where we go next.

Monica: I saw an announcement for the trip in a church newsletter, and saw that there were scholarships available for seminarians, so I thought I would apply! I’m in my first year at Meadville-Lombard Theological School and being a student, I knew I would need additional funds to pay for the trip, so I started a GoFundMe account. People all throughout my congregation, Unitarian Universalist Church of Birmingham chipped in, five or ten dollars here or there, and in the end, they paid for all my expenses. So I came to this journey with the support of my whole congregation, and I’m here really representing them.

Bob: I’m in my second year at Meadville-Lombard, and I have been realizing that I really needed to seek out an intentional experience of direct witness as part of my spiritual formation. And actually being here has been a lot more powerful than I thought it would be. Hearing from all the people affected by our broken immigration system has really clarified for me that I want to do community ministry.

UU Clergy & Leaders gather in the Sonoran Desert (Photo by Dea Brayden)

SSL: Do you see parallels with any justice work you might already be involved with and the stories we have heard from people here on the border?

Monica: As part of my studies, I work eight hours a week with Greater Birmingham Ministries, an interfaith community organization. My project this fall is Project [V]ote, modeled on Project [C], which was a huge voter registration effort during the civil rights era. We go into low-income neighborhoods in Birmingham, and ask folks if they are registered to vote. We stand on street corners, go to farmers markets, even gas stations, and just talk to people about voting.

For me, the parallels are really clear: racism is never just about racism, it’s about money and jobs. I hear from people, “of course I’m not a racist”. But when we engage on immigration issues, I hear: how can our society provide jobs, education, housing? It gets tricky. I think it takes seeing what people are going through, and learning about the history and the system of economic injustice.

SSL: Monica, is there anything that has surprised you doing this work? What kind of challenges have you faced?

Monica: What I’ve realized is that we really have to gain people’s trust. Racial tensions are still really raw for many people in Alabama. I realize because I look out of place, I have just a few seconds to gain someone’s trust. I try to share with folks I might not be from this neighborhood, but I want to help break down barriers.

A challenge we have encountered is around people who have felonies on their record, who believe their voting rights have been taken away. However, in Alabama, not every felony conviction results in disenfranchisement, so we work with people to understand their rights.

SSL: Bob, can share you more about what you learned here on the border and how it ties together where you want to go with ministry?

Bob: As part of this trip, we heard from John Fife (one of the original leaders of the Sanctuary Movement in the 1980’s and a current vocal proponent today) about the failure of government to fix the immigration system. For me that is a reminder of how critical it is for people to vote. A lot of races this time around that will change the balance. Any hope we might have for immigration reform that is actually humane really depends on that. We have so many pieces of immigration policy that are broken, all up and down the system. It’s a long process, but we have to have people who are sympathetic and will do something.

And something I saw on this trip is Jesuit leaders, Presbyterian Ministers, and more, people of faith who really set the bar high for living their values. To me it was a bracing call to arms (so to speak).

SSL: Thank you so much for chatting. If there is one take-away you can share with people, what would it be?

Bob: It really has to be seen to be believed, just how screwed up things are here at the border. So come on a border trip yourself!

Monica: What I try to remember is that very few people would make this extremely dangerous journey if the reasons weren’t compelling. People generally do not want to leave their homes, they prefer to stay in their homes and communities. But if their homes are too dangerous, we have a moral obligation to hear their stories and provide them sanctuary.








Monica Dobbins is a first year seminary student at Meadville-Lombard who worships at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Birmingham, and lives with her spouse, her seven-year-old daughter, a handful of fish and a frog.

Bob LaVallee is a second year seminary student also at Meadville-Lombard living in Buffalo New York. He recently spent time in Kandahar, Afghanistan and help lay lead the worship services there, which led him realize his dream of going to seminary.

Jennifer Toth is the Campaign Manager of Standing on the Side of Love. Going on the trip to the U.S./Mexico border has been an extremely formative and profound experience for her, and she is still processing how to take back these experience and share them with the SSL community. One thing she knows for sure: We must have people who represent us who share our values and will vote on the side of love, at the local, state and federal level. Go vote this November 4th!

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