30 Days of Gathering, Speaking, Singing, and Witnessing on the Side of Love
Thirty Days of Love by the Numbers
- Nearly 1,000 people took part in our daily love actions.
- 75 people registered public witness events.
- 52 people signed up to phone bank to defeat anti-LGBT amendments in North Carolina and Minnesota.
- 46 people submitted their own prayers, mantras, and meditations.
- 250 people attended the immigration webinar.
- 110 individuals took part in the collective visioning webinar.
- 77 congregations participated in Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day events.
- 7 congregations reported that they honored community leaders with Courageous Love awards.
- Nearly 200 people registered social justice-themed worship services.
Week 1: Story of Self
For the first week of the campaign, we explored our “Stories of Self,” which aims to communicate your personal values that move you to act. Dozens of people shared their personal reflections by posting on our Facebook page or commenting on our blog. Here are a sample of the thoughts folks bravely shared with us:
Day 2: How is love part of your personal identity?
Love is my eternal challenge. So many days I fall short of the mark. Anyone who thinks “standing on the side of love” is an arrogant statement that others should “be like me” must live on another planet than I do–because for me it is an aspiration that I will never fully embody. –Rev. Meg Riley
Day 4: Ask Yourself, What Do You Struggle With?
I worry that my son, who is gay and transgender, will be physically harmed or even killed for being different, yet I know that he MUST transition for his own mental and spiritual health. –Anne Reardon Urbanski
Lost my partner of 30 years eleven months ago. Struggling with walking the line between honoring lost love and finding a new path for myself, of having fun while being sad, of making new connections at a time when I am not fully present. Living life is not for the weak. –Phyllis Gorman
Day 5: Inspiring Others Through Our Own Stories
I came out as a lesbian in 1994 after being with my husband for 22 years. Very tough time and mostly self-inflicted. I had never felt any homophobia toward others but when it was me, I found that I had a lot of emotional hurdles to get over. I too am a compulsive overeater and have had so much shame around that. But have found a community that is supportive and encouraging and learning to love myself without excess food. What I have never come out about before though (except to a very few close friends) is that I was raped in my home by 2 men when I was 17 years old. Now that I’ve said it out loud maybe I can incorporate that experience into my life in an integrated way and even find a way to make a terrible ordeal into something that helps me and others. Thanks for this opportunity. I DO believe that the more we know each other’s stories, the healthier we all become. We know that so much dysfunction comes from keeping secrets. –Lynne Westmoreland
My middle child was five when i whispered it to him. Every night i would tuck his sweet soul into bed and whisper his good nights. We would reflect and talk quietly. We would prepare for the next day. This night was different. This night was sacred. I chose to tell him how it all would be from this point forward. I whispered “I am going to live on the outside how i feel on the inside ” he paused and pet my face “I will be a boy ALL the time” his listens, he took it in, he loved me through it “Oh mommy, I am so happy you are taking off your woman mask” Acceptance. Gratitude. Peace. Empowered. –Sayer Johnson
I stand on the side of Love because love was so absent in my childhood and I believe the lack of it was instrumental in setting me up for a series of victimization throughout my life. I am now a survivor, inspiring to thrive on LOVE. It is because I have learned to love, which by the way is a saving grace, phenomenal attribute our species, and why I therefore, stand on the side of love which sustains me. –Abuelita Grand
SSL activist Rachel Rott wrote a beautiful prayer that was sent to our email list. An amazing group of 46 people also wrote and submitted their own prayers, mediations, or mantras about love. Three particularly inspiring authors will receive a copy of “Thou, Dear God”, a collection of prayers by Martin Luther King, Jr. Click here to see a sample of the wonderfully inspiring creation that we received.
Week 2: Story of Us
The second week of National Standing on the Side of Love Month focused on creating and telling a “Story of Us” that communicates our values and inspire others to act. We held a collective visioning webinar with 110 participants (listen to a recording of the webinar here). We also shared a number of resources, such as the “Story of Us, Story of Now” Guide (PDF) and a Collective Visioning Guide (PDF), to help congregations create develop their stories.
Check out this sweet note about the resources that we got from Carrie Rice, the Worship Committee Chair at the UU Fellowship of Mankato, Minnesota:
I just wanted to say on behalf of my congregation (which just said goodbye to its minister) that the resources for worship which you made available are INCREDIBLE! We are very excited about using them in the months ahead. Thank you for all the work!
We also encouraged folks to lift up stories of courageous love, either on our online map, or by presenting awards to community members on behalf of their entire congregation. Leilani Pearce shared her story with our email list and SSL tech guru Tim Griffin told us about his daughter’s bravery. Click here to see more details on some of the amazing individuals that were honored around the country.
Week 3: Story of Now
This week focused on our “story of now,” which shares the urgent challenges we are called upon to face, the hope that we can face them, and choices we must make to act. During this week, 52 volunteers signed up to phone bank against upcoming anti-LGBT ballot measures in North Carolina and Minnesota. Additionally, 250 people took part in a webinar hosted by the Unitarian Universalist Association and its coalition partners–Interfaith Immigration Coalition, National Day Laborer’s Organizing Network (NDLON), and the New Sanctuary Movement–about the recently launched national campaign for community-based immigration advocacy. The goals of this campaign are to train interfaith teams to meet with local officials to change the way communities respond to detainment requests by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and stop ICE agents’ unlimited access to jails. You can watch a video recording of the webinar here and download a PDF copy of the Congregational Toolkit for Immigration Advocacy here.
We also asked our supporters to make contributions to anti-bullying projects through the Donors Choose project. We received the following note about this action from Carol Cobb:
Thank you so much for getting information out. In the days where sensationalism fuels social ills, it is refreshing to have information that helps cure the ills. I am a new Donor’s Choose Teacher and I am very excited to see that there are those that share the information. Thank you.
We also received submissions from several congregations that are engaging in their community’s issues in innovative ways. Here are their stories:
First Unitarian Congregational Society, Brooklyn, New York
First UU Brooklyn‘s Senior High Youth led an educational service project for the congregation’s children. After teaching the children about love, marriage equality, and justice, they made Valentines to send to the New York State representatives who voted to support marriage equality last year. They sent the cards to Brooklyn representatives and their federal Senators, Mayor, Governor, and the four Republicans who made a stand on personal conscious across party lines. Watch the gorgeous video they made about the project:
UU Fellowship of Bozeman, Montana
The UU Fellowship of Bozeman is getting involved in a number of important local issues. Rev. Nina Grey tells us that “Native American justice is a big issue in Montana” as the state houses seven reservations and the congregation is looking to become more involved with Native American advocacy work in the area. Additionally, the congregation’s social justice study group is focusing on immigration by reading The Death of Josseline and speaking with local minister Father Val Zdilla about the work his is doing with the local Latino community. Soon, the group will be starting the UUA’s immigration curriculum. Additionally, Rev. Nina Grey preached a “Standing on the Side of Love” sermon encompassing reproductive justice, immigration, LGBTQ equality.
UU Church of Worcester, Massachusetts
Youth in the Clara Barton District gathered for the “i got uu babe” mini-Youth Con at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Worcester where they participated in a “Standing on the Side of Love” workshop. They broke into small groups to discuss their identities and share personal stories. Everyone was affirmed for their participation as they sang Sonny and Cher’s “I Got You Babe.” Youth were also encouraged to put their faith in action by signing a ‘Graffiti Sheet’ committing to stand on the side of love, signing an e-petition calling for the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), and more. According to Janet Davis, “The workshop gave youth, as well as adult advisors, a space to share their own stories and begin to make connections to larger issues of bigotry and oppression.”
Week 4: Spreading the Love
The last week of the campaign, which included National Standing on the Side of Love Day, was dedicated to “spreading the love” through public witness and love-themed worship. Many dozens of congregations across the country took part. Check out some of the great work being done below for LGBT equality, immigrant rights, and economic justice.
Witnessing for LGBT Equality
Valentine’s Day is traditionally a popular time for LGBT rights activists to demonstrate in favor of marriage equality and tons of UU congregations used the “Standing on the Side of Love” message in their actions this year.
UU Congregation of Fairfax, Virginia
On Valentine’s Day, Rev. Kären Rasmussen and Barb Brehm, who are both retired Navy veterans and have been domestic partners for 26 years, filed for a marriage license at the Fairfax County Courthouse. Members of the UU Congregation of Fairfax and the People of Faith for Equality of Northern Virginia organized the demonstration and a number of UU clergy spoke at the event including Unitarian Universalist Association President Rev. Peter Morales. The demonstartion concluded with a candlelight vigil. Kären said of the couple’s decision, “For those who know us, Barb and I didn’t decide to do this lightly. We are pretty private people and retired Navy at that. But we felt that this act has such meaning, especially on Valentines Day.” The event was even covered by the Fairfax News and made an appearance on the local news. Click here to check out a great video slideshow about the event.
Northlake UU Church, Kirkland, Washington
Northlake UU‘s Rev. Marian E. Stewart testified at the House hearing on the Washington State marriage equality bill. Her colleague, Rev. Lois Van Leer of the congregation in Woodinville, WA also testified at the Senate hearing. You can watch videos of both testimonies online–Rev. Stewart’s remarks at the House hearing are here beginning at 1:50:25 and Rev. Van Leer’s speech at the Senate hearing is here beginning at 79:55.
Emerson UU Congregation, Marietta, Georgia
Emerson UU Congregation held its Fourth Annual Heart in the Park event to bring attention to LGBT equality issues. Songs were led by their 30-member choir and speakers used human amplification through Occupy’s “Mic Check” technique. An article about Heart in the Park in the Marietta Daily Journal said of the event, “This year, participants—dressed in red to celebrate Valentine’s Day—began the event by marching around the park behind a rainbow gay pride flag, carrying such signs that read: ‘Marriage is a Civil Right,’ ‘Support Love,’ and ‘The Right to Love is Inalienable,’ while singing to the beat of a drum. They then gathered in the shape of a heart, and sang more songs with such lyrics as: ‘When I breathe in, I breathe in peace; when I breathe out, I breathe out love.’”
Unitarian Universalist Church West, Brookfield, Wisconsin
UU Church West presented a play entitled “The Size of the Dream: Celebrating the Promise of Marriage Equality” in partnership with Equality Wisconsin. According to a description of the play, “In this premiere choral theatre production, a small group of ordinary citizens boldly enter the fight for marriage equality in song and story as a constitutional amendment comes up for a vote. Inspired by a compassionate community organizer, they tour the state telling their poignant and personal stories in order to win the hearts and votes of those who will be the hardest to convince.”
Michigan UU Social Justice Network
Last month, members of the Michigan UU Social Justice Network (MUUSJN) participated in a “Gay Families Matter” rally in Detroit to protest a new law in Michigan that eliminates domestic partner benefits. The group also published a great new interfaith LGBTQ toolkit, which you can find here. MUUSJN mailed copies of the toolkit to 400 different religious groups.
First Unitarian Church of Orlando, Florida
Nicki Drumb and her partner Rachel Gardiner, together for seven years, went the Orlando courthouse and asked for a marriage license for the fourth time in four years. Although they have been repeatedly turned down, they feel it’s still important to go, to ask, to make the clerk look in their eyes and say “No” in person, to make others aware of the 1,000+ rights and privileges that are being denied in that “No.”
Afterwards the couple gathered with hundreds of fellow LGBT rights supporters and members of the First Unitarian Church of Orlando for a public event at Loch Haven Park called, “The Human Heart: An OUTright Love-in” where the crowd makes the shape of a giant heart on the grassy field near Mills Avenue. They created a huge human heart made from as many human beings as humanly possible–uniting as one human family, celebrating what all humans have in common, and showing the community their support for equality and justice. ”We like to take a moment to remember, and remind others that at the heart of this issue is love. We simply want to love each other and get married, love our kids and ensure all families can stay together, and love ourselves for who we are without fear of being bullied.”
Maryland Lobby Day
Earlier this week, a crowd of more than 500 LGBT-equality supporters rallied on the Lawyer’s Mall in Annapolis as part of the annual LGBT Lobby Day. Sen. Allan Kittleman, the sole Republican in the Maryland Senate who is supporting the legalization of marriage for same-sex couples, said in his remarks, ““I’m a proud Republican who supports marriage equality. It’s not a partisan issue. There are thousands of Republicans in Maryland who support the principles of freedom, liberty and equality.” Check out this article about the Lobby Day in the Washington Blade, which features a photo of Governor O’Malley in front of a Standing on the Side of Love banner!
First Unitarian Church of Salt Lake City, Utah
Abigail, a 9-year-old member of the First Unitarian Church of Salt Lake City, was featured in the Salt Lake Tribune. Abigail created a valentine for the state of Utah asking for her mothers’ marriage to be recognized. The card was signed by dozens of Abigail’s classmates and members of First Unitarian. The message on the card reads, “Will you be my Valentine, Utah? I have two moms and I love them with all my heart. We moved here last year and we have no legal rights, and no legal protections as a family in Utah. My moms are married, but you don’t recognize this. WHY?”
First UU Church of Columbus, Ohio
The Gay Straight Alliance and Justice Action Ministry of the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbus hosted an event called ”Freedom to Love, Freedom to Marry: An Interfaith Rededication and Solidarity Celebration.” Participants, both gay and straight, rededicated themselves to their spouses and partners and to the inalienable and sacred right of individuals to choose their partners for life. The event aimed to bring together people from different faith communities who share the conviction that God’s love and grace are for all people; demonstrate gay-straight solidarity for equal rights; and voice heartfelt support for the people of Ohio and other states as they take the bold and necessary steps to legalize same-sex marriage. The Unitarian Universalist Association presented First UU Columbus with a $500 grant from the President’s Freedom to Marry Fund to make this event possible.
First Unitarian Church of Richmond, Virginia
Member of First Unitarian of Richmond participated in a range of projects to commemorate National Standing on the Side of Love Month, including a Jubilee Anti-Racism Workshop, through the congregations new Allian to End Oppression. This week, they participated in Equality Virginia’s Lobby Day and witnessed for marriage equality–check out their spot on the local news here!
Witnessing for Immigrant Rights
Immigrant communities face significant oppression across the country. Congregations in Boston, Colorado, and Connecticut all used National Standing on the Side of Love Month to call for just treatment of immigrants in their communities.
Standing with Immigrant Families, Boston, Massachusetts
Unitarian Universalists including UU Mass Action gathered at Boston City Hall Plaza with Centro Presente, National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), Boston New Sanctuary Movement, Interfaith Worker Justice, and others to celebrate the contributions immigrant communities give to Massachusetts and to protest the continued participation of the City of Boston in the ICE Secure Communities program of mass detention and deportation. Sarahi Uribe of NDLON and Patricia Montes of Centro spoke about the contributions of day laborers and other immigrant workers who in return for hard work are contending with an ICE program that is breaking up their families. Rev. Fred Small, First Parish of Cambridge UU, called on the community to stand on the side of love with immigrant families saying, ‘The only secure community is the Beloved Community.”
Columbine UU Church, Littleton, Colorado
Every month, the American Friends Service Committee co-sponsors a vigil at the privately owned GEO detention center that houses people awaiting deportation hearings in Aurora, Colorado. This month the theme of the gathering was love, in honor of Valentine’s Day, and members of several area UU congregations including Columbine UU Church participated. Says Rev. Mary Wellemeyer, “It was moving to be part of a group of so many young and old, anglo and latino, of numerous different faiths, carrying signs and lighted candles. Chanting. We walked about a block from the corner where we started, showing our signs to passing cars, receiving honks of support, watching our step on the ice while keeping the candles upright… We came to a place where the public road was near the chain link fence and the chain link fence was near the building. The students festooned the chain link fence with Valentine’s Day balloons and paper streamers…There will be Valentine’s cards for the detainees and for the workers in the detention center. And as always, encouragement for those who wait. Some of us will go to a deportation hearing ten days from now to show support. The struggle continues, with love and occasional glimmers of hope.”
Unitarian Universalist Society: East, Manchester, Connecticut
Friends of Sujitno Sajuti, an Indonesian national who sits in a Massachusetts jail awaiting deportation, led a press conference to keep him in this country. Sajuti is a teacher with advanced degrees, an activist for immigration reform and health reform, and has been in the United States for 23 years. The group of clergy and concerned citizens, who gathered at the Elmwood Community Center, said his case “has become one more example of the heartless, senseless bureaucracy that squanders government power in our country.” Local UUs have been active on this issue–check out Rev. Josh Pawelek’s reflections here and keep an eye out for a SSL banner in the video below!
Economic justice has come to the forefront of the public discourse over the last couple months. Several congregations and the Unitarian Universalist Association at the denominational level are working on these issues in their communities.
First UU Congregation of the Palm Beaches, Florida
The First UU Congregation of the Palm Beaches has been actively participating in the 30 Days of Love campaign. In addition to holding a worship service about Standing on the Side of Love with Immigrants, they have been displaying their Standing on the Side of Love and Occupy Love signs every Thursday as part of the Occupy North Palm Beach demonstrations and incorporated economic justice themes into their Teaching Thursday series. Later this month, they will be holding an all-day Occupy North Palm Beach event that will prominently feature Standing on the Side of Love.
Opposing the “Three Strikes” Bill, Boston, Massachusetts
UUA President Rev. Peter Morales joined with Jesse Jaeger, Executive Director of UU Mass Action, Rev. Eugene Rivers of the Black Ministerial Alliance, leaders from the Criminal Justice Policy Coalition, and activists from Occupy the Hood at a press conference at the UUA to oppose the proposed ‘Three Strikes’ law in Massachusetts that would create mandatory life without parole sentences and bar judicial discretion. Following the press conference, a delegation was led by President Morales, Rev. Rivers, and Mr. Jaeger to the State House to deliver a letter signed by 250 UUs, including over 100 clergy, to the Governor and legislators. The group has requested a meeting with the Governor. President Morales said, “As a people of faith, we are called today to stand on the side of love, not vengeance. Not fear. Not political maneuvering. As A matter of compassion and justice, the Conference Committee Should be dissolved, and this damaging legislation killed.” For more information on this measure, check out this article in the Boston Globe.
Historic Thousands on Jones St., Raleigh, North Carolina
Many “Standing on the Side of Love”-clad UUs participated in the sixth annual “Historic Thousands on Jones St.” (KHonJ) event in Raleigh, North Carolina. The march advocates for a number of economic justice issues, including a living wage, health care, public education, voting rights, collective bargaining, and immigrant justice. Members of both the Community Church of Chapel Hill UU and the UU Fellowship of Raleigh took part in the event.
Worshiping on the Side of Love
Nearly 200 people told us that their congregation was holding a social justice-themed worship service and a number of folks submitted details about their services.
UU Fellowship of San Dieguito, Solana Beach, California
The UU Fellowship of San Dieguito‘s Children’s Chapel activities centered around the Court Decision regarding the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8. The children designed Valentines Day “thank you” cards to the organizations and lawyers that fought hard against this amendment. On the same day, the whole Fellowship wore Standing on the Side of Love t-shirts and Rev. David Miller preached a sermon entitled “Is God Love?”
Unitarian Society of Hartford, Connecticut
Members of the Unitarian Society of Hartford also gathered to worship on the side of love. Rev. Katie Lee Crane’s “Love is a Verb” sermon focused on ableism as another focus in our work for justice. The sermon included a story from Carolyn Cartland about how the use of the term “standing” in “Standing on the Side of Love” can be alienating for people with disabilities. You can download Rev. Crane’s thought-provoking sermon here.
Magic Valley UU Fellowship, Twin Falls, Idaho
The Magic Valley UU Fellowship explored what it means to “Stand on the Side of Love” with undocumented immigrants and their families. The sermon discussed the broader immigration landscape and attempted to find some historical perspective on this issue, which is nearly as old as our country. Rev. Suzanne Marsh addressed questions such as: What (if any) is our civic and spiritual responsibility relative to the undocumented residents of our country? Why is this issue a priority for our denomination? What’s love got to do with it anyway?
Allegheny UU Church, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
The Allegheny UU Church designed a great postcard to publicize their “Love Communion Sunday.” It was sent to the congregations members and friends to encourage them to participate in this special Sunday event.
Eliot Unitarian Chapel, Kirkwood, Missouri
Eliot Unitarian Chapel held a kickoff event for their involvement in the Standing on the Side of Love campaign. Their extravaganza included an introduction to explain SSL, two guest speakers who are local professional advocates for the LGBT and immigrant/refugee communities, music by the women’s acapella choir, and a banner hanging ceremony.
UU Congregation of Columbia, Maryland
The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Columbia‘s youth group presented their annual Standing on the Side of Love worship service. The service focused on The Story of Us (the story of youth as ordinary heroes) and The Story of Now (the UUCC youths’ learning, justice and service topic for the next 16 months: homelessness).
First Universalist Church, Rockland, Maine
The First Universalist Church in Rockland‘s Standing on the Side of Love worship service focused on the upcoming referendum for the freedom to marry in Maine. Congregation member Annie Kiermaier and her partner Lucie attended a press conference earlier in the week where Equality Maine announced that they gathered 105,000 signatures on petitions so that Mainers will vote in referendum this November on the freedom to marry.
UU Fellowship of Midland, Michigan
Rev. Jeff Liebmann preached a Standing on the Side of Love-themed sermon about Viola Liuzzo, a Unitarian mother who answered Martin Luther King Jr.’s call and was murdered in Selma while driving a Black man home at night by four Klansmen. She died only two weeks after Unitarian minister James Reeb was also murdered in Selma. Click here to download and read a copy of Rev. Leibmann’s great sermon.
First Parish UU, Northborough, Massachusetts
In honor of National Standing on the Side of Love Day, Rev. Dr. Jan Carlsson-Bull delivered a sermon entitled “Love Stuff” as a pulpit guest at First Parish UU. You can download her beautiful sermon on the transformative power of love here.
Still to come…
Tapestry UU Congregation, Mission Viejo, California
Last December, the San Bernardino Planning Commission approved a conditional use permit for the construction of the Al-Nur Islamic Center. Since then, neighbors have appealed this decision and signed a statement opposing anything that would “increase the traffic on our streets and negatively affect the atmosphere of our rural country neighborhood.” Members of Tapestry UU will be attending the appeal proceedings with their Standing on the Side of Love banner next week. Member Jan Meslin says, “SSL has been such a powerful and supportive message to the Muslims at various actions we’ve [attended]. It’s been powerful for Tapestry UU members too.”
Worship Leader: Rev. Suzanne Marsh
On this Sunday, the closest to Valentine’s Day, we will explore what it means to “Stand on the Side of Love” with undocumented immigrants and their families. In the fall I spoke with you about the “Dream Act”, which would provide a path to citizenship for undocumented folks who came to this country as children. Our General Assembly in June in Phoenix AZ will also focus on this issue. In this service we will explore the broader immigration landscape and attempt to find some historical perspective on this issue, which is nearly as old as our country. I hope to answer questions such as: What (if any) is our civic and spiritual responsibility relative to the undocumented residents of our country? Why is this issue a priority for our denomination? What’s love got to do with it anyway? A discussion will follow the service for those who are interested.
Worship Leader: Rev. Suzanne Mars