This insightful reflection is from Katie Carpenter, co-president of the Unitarian Universalist campus ministry group at Vassar College. It is cross-posted from Blue Boat, the blog of the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Office of Youth & Young Adult Ministries.
The Westboro Baptist Church protested Vassar College on February 28th, for supporting LGBTQ rights. In response, Vassar’s current and alumni community came together amazingly to denounce Westboro Baptist’s views, in part by raising over $100,000 for The Trevor Project, which provides crisis support and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ youth. Seeing people rise to meet the challenge made me incredibly proud of my community, and what it strives to stand for.
But what made me prouder was to hear Vassar alum Joseph Tolton, the National Minister of Social Justice from the Fellowship of Affirming Ministries in New York, speak about not just his love for the school but his desire to see it always improving. In the discourse over this event, I’ve heard students challenge the school and point out that homophobia, racism, sexism, cissexism, and other inequalities do exist here; they exist everywhere.
It was a strange experience, to be sure, seeing the Westboro Baptist Church members. There were four of them, and they looked just like you see in pictures; offensive posters, American flags on their clothing, the whole bit. But after you get over the initial surprise that they actually exist, it was easy to not take them very seriously. It’s easy – maybe too easy – to look at Westboro Baptist and feel safe because they’re extreme, and we can distance ourselves from their opinions.
It’s easier to confront hate when it’s in the form of four angry, irrational people on the other side of a police barricade, and you have over 500 people standing with you. It’s not so easy to look inward at your community and demand better. Denouncing the Westboro Baptist Church is easy, but it’s only the beginning of creating real change. Continuing down that path requires facing our own biases and assumptions. We may not agree with hate groups, but we do all have a responsibility for a world in which they can exist. Seeing many Vassar students try to take ownership of that fact gave me an enormous sense of love and appreciation for my community, despite its faults, and I think that’s a sturdy foundation to build from.More >
At the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) General Assembly in 2012, delegates voted to repudiate the doctrine that Europeans used as legal justification for conquest and colonization of the Americas. The resolution encourages Unitarian Universalists to identify traces of the Doctrine of Discovery that linger in our movement, in our communities, and in our lives, and work to eliminate them.
Now the UUA is offering seed grants of $500 to $1,000 to Unitarian Universalist congregations, groups, and organizations for projects that teach about, repudiate, and mitigate the current-day effects of the Doctrine of Discovery. Successful proposals will describe plans for education, reflection, and action opportunities; outreach to partners in indigenous and/or interfaith communities; and have broad and/or long-range impact. It is hoped that providing seed funds will inspire Unitarian Universalists to dig deeply into this work. Indeed, the queries coming in regarding the grants indicate that this is already happening!
To apply, learn more about the General Assembly resolution and the Doctrine of Discovery. Read the application requirements. Then, submit a letter of application by April 5, 2013. Grant recipients will be notified by May 1, 2013. For more information, contact Gail Forsyth-Vail at firstname.lastname@example.org.More >
We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to pass compassionate, comprehensive immigration reform. Our plan is for a massive mobilization of our community and partners to hold visits with members of Congress during the in-state district work period from March 25-April 5.
Join the Standing on the Side of Love webinar on Wednesday, March 13 at 8pm ET for an informative presentation on meeting with your federal representatives.
Congress will likely pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) legislation this year and whether it is compassionate in addition to comprehensive depends on how much we and other faith communities influence the outcome.
We asked you to commit to doing an in-district advocacy visit, i.e. neighbor-to-neighbor meeting, with your members of Congress. In-district visits are one of the most effective ways to ensure that your voice is heard.
More than 30 congregations have already signed up to conduct visits and several UU State Advocacy Networks are making plans for these as well. We’ve also heard from UU leaders of congregations participating in interfaith community organizations that are visiting their Members of Congress. Please call now and make an appointment to meet with yours ASAP. It’s easy to make an appointment to speak with your legislators, and a small group from your community can have a real impact.
Never done a lobby visit before? No worries! We can help walk you through the process. This call will also be informative for folks who are comfortable with advocacy, but want a refresher, along with some up to the minute details on where we currently stand with compassionate immigration reform.
Join the Standing on the Side of Love webinar on Wednesday, March 13 at 8pm ET and you’ll learn everything you need to set up and conduct and effective advocacy visit.
Speakers: Unitarian Universalist Association Witness Ministries and Standing on the Side of Love staff and leaders from UU congregations, UU state networks, and districts.
See our step by step guide on how to set up a district advocacy visit, talking points, and more at www.standingonthesideoflove.org/CIR.
With your help, people of faith will play a key role in ensuring that immigration reform is compassionate, and reflects the worth and dignity of all people. Commit to doing an in-district lobby visit today!
Love keeps families together, love respects the inherent worth and dignity of all people, love has no borders.
Standing on the Side of Love
PS: The first 50 congregations to sign-up will receive a packet of Standing on the Side of Love goodies to support their work–click here to register your in-district visit today!
The message above went out on Tuesday, March 5, 2013 to Standing on the Side of Love supporters. You can sign-up for these emails here.More >
Our second annual Thirty Days of Love campaign, a period for intentional action, service, education, and reflection, ran from January 19 to February 17, 2013. During this time, we engaged in a “spiritual journey for social justice” to reinvigorate our work for the Beloved Community.
During the first week, we honored legacy–beginning our Thirty Days of Love with a commitment to sustained action and service, anchored in our commemoration of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. For the second week, we thought interfaith, uniting with those from different backgrounds who share our common goal of a more just world.In the third week, we moved beyond borders, exploring how we can break down arbitrary geographical, sociological, and psychological barriers to achieve a more loving society. Then, we celebrated Valentine’s Day—our National Standing on the Side of Love Day, a holiday of social justice—by sharing the love that speaks to our core values. Our month-long journey culminated with Share the Love Sunday.
Check out all of the amazing love actions that took place across the country (and world!) this month!
Thirty Days of Love 2013 by the Numbers
- 1,801 people took the pledge to participate in the Thirty Days of Love.
- 2,574 messages were written to members of Congress.
- 15 Courageous Love Awards were presented to community love heroes.
- 161 people registered for our webinar on challenging anti-Muslim bigotry.
- 119 individuals joined our network to respond to violence with love.
- 46 groups registered public witness events or service projects.
- 3,701 people viewed the “We Are the Love People” video.
- 59 people signed-up to get involved in the Black & Pink pen-pal program.
- 15 individuals submitted original prayers, mantras, or meditations.
- 180 works of art were submitted for our “Love Mural.”
- 93 people RSVP’ed for our online closing worship service.
- 43 congregations registered Share the Love Sunday worship services.
- Dozens of people submitted photos of their Thirty Days activities. View the full album here.
For this year’s Thirty Days of Love, there were several congregations that really went above and beyond, engaging wholeheartedly in this spiritual journey for social justice. These congregations organized a month chock full of love activities, from service projects and worship to “rolling vigils” and a Standing on the Side of Love Trivia Night.
UU Fellowship of San Dieguito, Solana Beach, California
UUFSD dedicated their Thirty Days of Love to the issue of immigrant justice. The congregation hosted a forum on immigration entitled “Border Angels — Border Realities — Immigration Today,” which featured Enrique Morones of Border Angels as the keynote speaker. The forum also included a photography exhibit displaying Border Angels’ work on the border and with immigrants in our communities. This event garnered coverage in the local newspaper—The Del Mar Times.
The congregation presented a number of Courageous Love Awards over the Thirty Days to UUFSD members or community partners who have demonstrated acts of courageous love in dealing with issues of marginalized communities, including Enrique Morones, and also engaged in a period of advocacy around comprehensive immigration reform.
UUFSD’s children and youth were also involved in the congregation’s Thirty Days of Love. The Religious Education (RE) classes painted stones to place in the nearby Holtville Cemetery for the 10,000 unidentified people burried there who died crossing the border. The older youth then took a field trip to place stones on graves at Holtville and do water drop-offs along the border.
To kick off the congregation’s Thirty Days celebration, Rev. David Miller preached a sermon entitled “What Does Love Have to Do with It?” Here’s an excerpt:
At least for the next 30 days, I ask you once again to consider this question, what is the most loving thing I can do right now, and sure, run it through your head, but then run it through your body and run it through the deepest place in your heart, for alone none of us can save the world, but together in love, there are so many possibilities waiting to be born.
Throughout the month, Rev. Miller also sent daily thoughts on love, compassion, or justice sent to the congregation.
First Parish Cambridge, Massachusetts
First Parish Cambridge UU members, along with minister, Rev. Fred Small, and ministerial intern, Kenneth Wiley, attended the City of Cambridge Celebration and Remembrance of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. together, wearing their Love shirts and pins. Kenneth Wiley and leaders of the Social Justice Council and Transformation Team participated in the program, reading from Dr. King’s speeches and writings. This year’s keynote speaker was Maria Elena Letona, former director of First Parish’s partner Centro Presente, an immigrant rights organization. She spoke on the urgent need for humane inclusive immigration reform and talked about Dr. King’s commitment to ‘welcoming the stranger.’
Leaders of the congregation’s Immigration Task Force and Transformation Team and Prison Justice Group , who were all at the event, are connecting efforts to stop mass deportation of immigrants and mass incarceration of African Americans and other people of color. First Parish members are reading The New Jim Crow together as part of the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Common Read program. In the coming months, they will bring partners who are working to end mass incarceration into the congregation and involve more of our folks in those efforts for creating Beloved Community.
First Parish Cambridge is also honoring Tina Chéry with a Courageous Love Award. Chéry is an African American woman who lost her son to violence and has dedicated her life to non-violence and creating more opportunities for youth. She founded both the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute and Mothers for Peace in Boston.
All Souls UU Church, Kansas City, Missouri
All Souls UU in Kansas City and the Missourians Against the Death Penalty co-hosted an event featuring Mike Farrell (BJ Hunnicutt from M*A*S*H*), who presented his experience as an advocate for abolishing the death penalty. All Souls was also a co-sponsor of the second annual MLK Youth Marade (Parade with a Mission). All Souls members marched in partnership with a number of local faith, community, and youth organizations.
The congregation also hosted one of the Thirty Days of Love‘s most unique activities: a Standing on the Side of Love trivia night! “Trivia on the Side of Love” provided an opportunity for participants to learn more about key social justice issues while also building community. Questions focused on a range of topics, including LGBTQ issues, immigration, UU history, sports, art, and music.
First UU Church of San Antonio, Texas
Leaders at the First UU Church of San Antonio organized five different service and advocacy opportunities over the course of the month. Here are a few of their great activities:
- 45 First UU members marched along with over 100,000 San Antonians on Martin Luther King Day
- 21 folks volunteered at the Food Bank, Haven for Hope – the city’s homeless facility, or with the Bexar County Detention Ministries.
- Engaged in advocacy on immigration and reproductive justice.
- 40 members took part in a film viewing and discussion of “Broken on All Sides,” a film about the need for prison reform.
- 34 members attended the first of four session of the “Living the Welcoming Congregation” workshop, continuing the conversation about how the congregation can be welcoming to people of all sexual orientations and gender identities.
For their Standing on the Side of Love worship service on February 10th, four group representatives told personal stories about how their organizations are Standing on the Side of Love and the affect it has on those they help. The congregation that day raised $1,900 for Healthy Futures Alliance, of which they are a member. Those funds will support the Texas Women’s Healthcare Coalition as it advocates for the return of state funding for the health care of low-income women. They also presented a Courageous Love Award to the C.O.P.S./Metro Alliance, for its 30 years of activism in the community as it encourages the City to provide better services for education, infrastructure, work-force training, and treatment of resident non-citizens.
However, First UU’s advocacy work won’t end with the Thirty Days of Love. The congregation applied for and received a Standing on the Side of Love matching grant to continue supporting the Healthy Futures Alliance’s work to restore state health care funds for low-income women.
UU Community Church of Augusta, Maine
We featured the UU Community Church of Augusta in one of our Thirty Days of Love daily action emails for their work to honor Esther Attean and Denise Altvater, Passamaquoddy tribal members, for their work on the Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
The Augusta congregation also presented two additional Courageous Love Awards. Amy Kinney, an artist, teacher, and mental health advocate, was honored on the Day of Dismantling Fear, Shame, and Stigma around issues of Mental Health. Dale McCormick, the new co-chair of the Maine UU State Action Network, received the award for her years of service: standing up and speaking out, fighting for jobs, women, housing, health care, a sustainable environment, human rights, and equality for women and the LGBTQ community.
Members of Unitarian Universalist Community Church of Augusta Maine also made in inspiring “love tree” with all of their “commitment statements” as part of worship service kicking off the Thirty Days of Love.
UU Church of the Shenandoah Valley, Stephens City, Virgina
During the week of Valentine’s Day, the UU Church of the Shenandoah Valley conducted ”rolling vigils” to support marriage equality at different locations in the area each day. Church members held signs and handed out white “tie-the-knot” ribbons to support the freedom to marry. “People should be able to love whom they love openly and without fear. This isn’t a protest, it’s a public witness for a very important cause,” said Rev. Paul Britner.
The actions garnered media coverage in both the Northern Virgina Daily and the Winchester Star as well as a spot on the local TV news. Rev. Britner also shared this heartwarming story from one of the events:
“I just came from our 5th event, which was on the sidewalk in front of a shopping plaza, which includes a Mexican restaurant called Poblano’s (similar to Chipotle). The owner brought out small cups of hot soup for everyone (about 22 people) and let us know that his mother just married her partner of 24 years in Maryland. What a great story!”
First Parish Bridgewater, Massachusetts
First Parish Bridgewater is partnering with Messiah Baptist Church in Brockton (an African American congregation) to engage together the study of The New Jim Crow, under the leadership of Rev. Michael Walker, pastor of Messiah Baptist.
First Parish is also getting their children involved in this work by participating in a “Cradles to Crayon Pajama Drive” for homeless children. Some of our children and adults took the pajamas collected to the Cradles to Crayons site and then work as volunteers at the site sorting donations. For the kick-off of this event, folks came to church that Sunday in their pajamas. Rev. Anita Farber-Robertson reports that it was fun, colorful and engaging.
Additionally, Rev. Farber-Robertson preached on Standing on the Side of Love in a sermon entitled “Love Is the Spirit, Service Its Gift.” Here’s an excerpt (you can read the entire sermon here):
“This is one of the wonderful things about a church whose spirit is love. We can look across the interfaith chasms, and see that we are not alone. We can look across nationalities, orientations, colors and contexts and know that we are not alone. There are others in our world, in our country and in our community who know that justice is what love looks like in public and service is what love looks like in action.”
First UU Church of Richmond, Virginia
One of the keystones was the annual Marriage Equality Valentine’s Day Witness event, which attracted a large contingent of UUs and other people of faith. As usual, the clerk of the Richmond Circuit Court, the Hon. Bevill M. Dean, accepted the applications from the four couples who applied for marriages licenses, to be held in a file with others from previous years, and those from other states where same-sex marriage is legal, until such time as he can approve them. A report on the action even made it all the way across the country to the San Diego LGBT Weekly.
The team also held a food drive, setting a goal of 1,000 pounds, but collecting well over 1,200! A group of Richmond youth attended a screening of the movie Remember the Titans, and had a chance to ask questions of one of the members of the team.
Honoring Courageous Love
One of our favorite parts of the Thirty Days of Love is the tradition of presenting Courageous Love Awards to community love heroes. We already told you about the celebration in Baltimore, but here are a sampling of some of the other honorees:
Kandahar Crossing UU Fellowship, Afghanistan
We recently learned about the Kandahar Crossing UU Fellowship, on the Kandahar Airfield military base in Afghanistan, from an article in UU World. And guess what? They presented a Courageous Love Award last month! “Tariq,” an interpreter, was honored for six years of dedicated service to the U.S. military mission in Afghanistan, at great personal risk. The fellowship is also supporting Tariq through his visa and resettlement process.
Mission Peak UU Congregation, Fremont, California
Fremont human rights activist Moina Shaiq was honored with a Courageous Love Award by the Mission Peak UU Congregation. Shaiq, a native of Pakistan and a resident of Fremont for 27 years, has an number of distinguished accomplishments, including sitting on the Human Relations Commission for Alameda County; founding the Muslim Support Network, which assists Muslim seniors in accessing social services and peer socialization; being named Woman of the Year by State Senator Ellen Corbett in 2008; and much more.
Rev. Jeremy D. Nickel said of the occasion, ”The city of Fremont is a beautiful expression of the American dream. We are a diverse group of people who live and work together, and the promise of our country is on display everyday here, where over one-hundred and sixty languages are spoken in the homes of just over 200,000 people. Moina Shaiq is one of the most important bridges among cultures in Fremont, helping us find our way forward, together.”
Witnessing for Justice
Witness is another key component of our Thirty Days of Love tradition. We’ve already shared stories from Michigan and California on our blog. Check out some of the other great events that happened this month:
UU Church of Boulder, Colorado
Members of the Boulder UU congregation did something pretty unique for the Thirty Days of Love–a “Love is a Many Splendored-Thing” Mall Walk! They took their LOVE to the Pearl St. Mall in downtown Boulder to show everyone their support for love, equality, and justice.
The congregation’s young adult group also put together an ongoing project to celebrate the diversity of love in the church and community! They asked members of the congregation to bring in photos of their family or the people you love and/or create a sign telling the community and the world your thoughts on love and the power of love. Using these pictures, they created a mural of love photos on display at UUCB. We can’t wait to see what the result is!
UU Fellowship of the Emerald Coast, Valparaiso, Florida
For many years, a Confederate flag and racist signs have stood in Fort Walton Beach on a busy thoroughfare across from the Lowe’s and Walmart stores. Community members have endured these slurs, recognizing the vacant lot’s owner’s rights of free speech.
Members of the UU Fellowship of the Emerald Coast started talking about it on Facebook and named themselves “Fort Walton Beach Stands United Against Racism.” They picked a date to have a legal demonstration against racism yet honoring the right of the lot owner to express his opinions. Approximately 60 people turned up to raise voices of love with flags and homemade signs from many local groups including the UU congregation, the ACLU in Pensacola, the local Democratic party, and the black Christian churches.
According to Rev. Rod Debs, “A high point was seeing so many willing to help hold our banner, hold our SSL signs, and the chorus of car and truck horns joining our cheers. Many seem to be offended and embarrassed by the offensive signs and symbol, waving for so long in our community of such rich diversity.”
Unitarian Society of New Haven, Connecticut
On February 14th, thirty UUs and friends from the Unitarian Society of New Haven partnered with residents of the Waverly TownHouses in New Haven to take part in the “Million Moms March for Change” calling for commonsense gun control legislation, currently under consideration in Connecticut. A crowd of 5,500 people gathered on the Capitol steps in Hartford to support the legislation and several UU congregations were represented, carrying our signature yellow banners and placards.
Salt Lake City, Utah
Jamila Tharp, and her wife Michelle Hasting, and daughter, Abigail, organized a Valentine’s Day action on marriage equality in Salt Lake City in including a “Standing on the Side of Love” rally, engaging all three local UU congregations and several other faith groups.
A number of same-sex couples applied for marriage licenses on at the Salt Lake County Government Center. Though the couples were all denied marriage licenses because Utah state statute prohibits same-sex marriage, the event garnered some impressive coverage in the Salt Lake City Tribune.
Ten-year-old Abigail said of her involvement, “I guess why I’m doing this is I think it’s just sad that my moms are recognized as different than anyone else. And I don’t want to be the person who sits at home in front of the TV and waits for someone else to do something. I want to do it myself.”
Burton Community Church & Vashon Island Unitarian Fellowship, Vashon-Maury Island, Washington State
These two congregations in Washington State organized a Valentine’s Day event for couples to renew their vows in honor of the recently-passed marriage equality legislation there. Here’s a description from the local newspaper:
“Islanders wishing to get married or renew their vows will have the opportunity to do so on Valentine’s Day, when two island faith communities will host Let’s Get Married, an All-Island Marriage Equality Celebration.
The event is open to anyone who would like to make such a commitment, but same-gender couples, many of whom have been waiting a long time to get married, are especially welcome, organizers say. Rev. Bruce Chittick of the Burton Community Church and Rev. Carmen McDowell of the Vashon Island Unitarian Fellowship will perform the ceremonies for free.
Both pastors note they are pleased to offer such an event and came up with the idea — McDowell’s brainchild — following the fall Shelter the Flame gathering and the legalization of same-sex marriage in Washington.
‘We’re so excited, and we wanted to say thank you to the island for being such a supportive community and standing on the side of love,’ McDowell said.
Conejo Valley UU Fellowship in Newbury Park, California
Conejo Valley UU Fellowship hosted a staged reading of the play “8,” which chronicles the landmark federal trial over California’s Proposition 8 on the issue of same-sex marriage. The Fellowship was selected by the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AMFER) and the grassroots organization Broadway Impact to stage the Conejo Valley presentation.
UU Church of Cheyenne, Wyoming
Rev. Audette Fulbright of the UU Church of Cheyenne celebrated the Thirty Days of Love by writing a letter to the editor on marriage equality which appeared the Wyoming Tribune Eagle. Here’s an excerpt:
“It has rarely been easy to achieve equality where it has not yet existed, but at each step of the way we have proceeded with persistence and we have always moved forward into a more just and equal day. It is time once again to move forward and live more fully the principles of our democracy.”
Lobbying for Change
We recently reported on a UU Mass Action lobby day, but others around the country also used the Thirty Days as an advocacy opportunity. Here are their stories:
UU Congregation in McHenry, Illinois
Members of the UU Congregation in McHenry and of Parents & Friends of Lesbians & Gays (PLAG) gathered for several reinforced lobbying visits in support of marriage equality and the Religious Freedom & Marriage Fairness Act in Illinois. The event was covered by a reporter and photographer from the local daily newspaper, the Northwest Herald. Toni Weaver of PFLAG and Patrick Murfin, chair of the congregation’s Social Justice Committee made opening statements and presented a petition followed by heartfelt personal testimony by many of the others. Further visits to other legislators are planned as the bill rapidly advances in the legislature.
Last November, Minnesota became the first state in the United States to vote down a proposed constitutional amendment banning marriage for same-sex couples. Now, groups like Minnesotans United and the Minnesota UU Social Justice Alliance are hoping to turn that victory into a successful campaign for full marriage equality.
As such, advocacy groups organized a Valentine’s Day “Freedom to Marry Rally” in the state capitol. According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, “more than 1,000 people who spent part of Valentine’s Day singing, shouting and, as the big, orange banner on the third-floor railing said, ‘standing on the side of love.’” Local UUs were out in force–see the whole album of photos from the event here.
As they have done for the last three years, Unitarian Universalists witnessed before the Kansas House Committee on Federal and State Affair in opposition to new legislation proposed by Secretary of State Chris Kobach to add state criminal penalties against undocumented immigrants. There were ten UUs in attendance from the Topeka and Lawrence congregations in their “Standing on the Side of Love” yellow T-shirts. Participant Jacob Kipp reports, “We were greeted by many friends from other faith communities who have been with us in the past to witness against such proposed legislation.”
Love for All Ages
The Thirty Days of Love isn’t just for adults. There are tons of ways that Love People of all ages can get engaged. The following congregations came up with tons of innovative ideas to get multigenerational participation in the campaign.
UU Fellowship of Midland, Michigan
At the UU Fellowship of Midland, Rev. Jeff Liebmann and Rev. Dr. Vicki Wiltse put together a completely intergenerational service as an homage to Mister Rogers. Rev Liebmann explains, “As a little backstory, I spent most of my life in Pittsburgh, and once even had lunch with Mister Rogers. So, he was a big influence on me in learning to work with young children as a minister.”
Here’s a little excerpt from the “sermon” (which involved puppets!)–you can read the whole service here:
Hello, chalice flame. You are certainly burning bright today. One thing you are certainly good at is helping us all see that we are all important. Another thing of worth in our lives that we celebrate in worship is our belief in the worth and dignity of every person.
Oak Ridge UU Church, Oak Ridge, Tennessee
ORUUC‘s Circle of Young Adults planned the congregation’s “Share the LUUV” service. Members of the group took turns testifying to love and sharing stories of compassion in hopes of bringing the community together.
Monte Vista UU Congregation, Montclair, California
The upper elementary and middle school classes at the Monte Vista UU Congregation had a session on “Standing on the Side of Love” during the Thirty Days of Love. They discussed the bigotry that different groups have experience throughout American history and then made posters about tolerance.
UU Society of Amherst, Massachusetts
A group of 17 Coming-of-Agers from the UU Society of Amherst talked about social justice as a spiritual practice. This is part of a larger curricula that helps youth discover their personal values and preferred spiritual practices while exploring Unitarian Universalism as a faith system. On this night, they met with Karen G. Johnston, Candidate for the UU Ministry, who has been working on immigration justice issues with their congregation and her home congregation, the Unitarian Society of Northampton & Florence. This group talked about Standing on the Side of Love and its history, and then discussed the social construction of borders, viewing maps of North America and their shifting borders, and how this fits with immigration justice.
UU Church of Worcester, Massachusetts
The children of the UU Church of Worcester met with the Robin Caracciolo, Director of Religious Education, to talk about “Standing on the Side of Love.” During the Children’s Chapel, kids lit a candle for people who needed love and spoke of the areas where they would like to help. “What Do I Stand Up For?” was the theme of the day and children spoke about standing up for LGBTQ rights, animals, people who need friends, people who are hungry, and families who are homeless. They watched YouTube videos depicting children in action–doing outreach, standing up for people and things that needed attention. The group also sang the song “There is More Love Somewhere”… but they changed the lyrics to “There is More Love Right Here!”
Finally, each child wrote their name on a fabric heart, and either drew a picture or wrote what it was that they stood up for. The congregation plans to put all these hearts together into a “Standing on the Side of Love ” quilt which will be displayed in the church.
UU Church of Rockford, Illinois
The religious education classes at the UU Church of Rockford stood on the side of love this month by writing their leaders thank-you Valentines for supporting the rights of our LGBTQ siblings to marry. Click here to watch a slideshow of photos from their project.
Bringing Love to MLK Jr. Day
Our Thirty Days of Love kicked off with the theme “honor legacy.” What better way to honor legacy than by celebrating Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day? A number of congregations did just that by bringing love to their local MLK Day festivities and service projects. Check out more MLK Day photos on our Flickr page.
UU Congregation of Hillsborough, North Carolina
Members of the UU Congregation of Hillsborough took part in the local Martin Luther King March for P.E.A.C.E., carrying their UUCH and Standing on the Side of Love banners. The congregation also held a Standing on the Side of Love-themed multimedia worship service. Super cool!
UU Church in Anaheim, California
For MLK Day, the UU Church in Anaheim participated in a service project called Anaheim Counts! Anaheim Counts!’ goal is to give full and accurate statistics on Anaheim’s homeless population so the community can create more effective strategies to address the issues that the homeless and at-risk face everyday. Anaheim Counts! is coordinated by the Anaheim Poverty Task Force, an interfaith coalition of which the UU Church in Anaheim is a founding member, and is being conducted in partnership with the City of Anaheim.
Cedar Lane UU Church, Bethesda, Maryland
The Sharing Connection Circle at Cedar Lane UU Church provided and served breakfast for 80 members of Military Police 273rd Company at the Washington, DC Veteran Affairs (VA) Hospital, where they were completing health status interviews. They had been deployed to Afghanistan for 10 months.
Sierra Foothills UUs, Auburn, California
In honor of MLK Day, the Sierra Foothills UUs hosted an interfaith worship service and service project–planting a public garden. The event garnered coverage in an Auburn Journal article entitled, “Churches, community collaborate in spirit of Dr. King.” You can watch a video recording of the event here.
UU Congregation of Phoenix, Arizona
The UU Congregation of Phoenix also hosted several service projects, though in honor of Valentine’s Day instead. The program for the weekly UUCP Community Night involved three service projects to assist the migrant community. They contributed a large number of needed items (blankets, children’s toys, water bottles, etc.) to Puente, one of their Arizona Immigration Ministry partners. Puente will distribute these things to families who need them, especially families of migrant detainees. Children and adults then drew pictures and wrote letters to migrant detainees through the Restoration Project. The children also assembled baggies of food items and juice for distribution by Los Samitanos in Tucson. The mission of the Samaritans is to save lives in the Southwestern desert by providing food, water, and medical assistance to people attempting to cross the desert on foot. Organizer Sandy Weir says, “It was fun to combine the outreach with celebration of ‘National Standing on the Side of Love Day.’”
Sharing the Love through Worship
Another cornerstone of the Thirty Days of Love tradition is Standing on the Side of Love-themed worship. Several congregations are did some really creative activities with that topic. Check it out:
UU Fellowship of Elkhart, Indiana
At the UU Fellowship of Elkhart‘s “To Seek the Truth in Love” worship service, congregants were were invited to bring their cell phones and tablets to church to live tweet the service.
Here are a few of the results:
Unitarian Universalist Association Chapel, Boston, Massachusetts
At the Unitarian Universalist Association HQ in Boston, UUA staff celebrated the Thirty Days of Love during their weekly chapel service. Rev. Marshall Hawkin preached a sermon entitled “Love: A Love Story,” bearing the description: “With the Thirty Days of Love still fresh in the rear view mirror, join us for an ode to love, that vaguest and yet most essential of notions—at times mushy and sentimental, but always crucial to being fully human. PLUS, the service culminated with a surprise wedding of a UUA staff member to his partner!
UU Congregation of South County, Rhode Island
The possibility of marriage equality legislation passing in Rhode Island has been making the news recently. As such, the UU Congregation of South County dedicated their Thirty Days of Love service to the state’s marriage equality movement. State Senator Susan Sosnowshi, sponsor of the state senate’s version of the bill, shared the pulpit and and after the service addressed the congregation on effective legislative ministry. All who were present were asked to sign an “action pledge” to contact their legislators and ask them to vote in favor of the Equal Marriage bill.
UU Church of Columbia, Missouri
At the UU Church of Columbia, members and friends gathered on MLK Day Weekend for education and worship. On Friday evening, a group watched Michelle Alexander’s presentation on her book The New Jim Crow. Then on Sunday, Rev. Molly Housh Gordon delivered a Thirty Days of Love sermon entitled “The Solid Rock of Dignity.” Here’s an excerpt (you can read the entire sermon here):
A quick look at history tells us that the ‘othering instinct’ seems to be written into human society. There has never been a time or place without oppression.
And a look inside tells us that whether by nature or nurture, social influence or careful teaching, this same assumption seems written into our hearts and minds as well, much as we might wish otherwise.
And yet. And yet. We declare justice possible. And yet in that same history and in us, there is a steady stream of worth and Love, an ongoing story of transformation and redemption.
UU Church of the Highlands, Meadowview, Virginia
At the UU Church of the Highlands, a small lay led congregation in Southwestern Virginia, Kathy Knotts led her second annual worship service dedicated to spreading the message of love, this time with an emphasis on loving our immigrant neighbors! You can listen to an audio recording of both the 2012 and 2013 services here.
Beacon UU Congregation, Flagstaff, Arizona
Rev. Susan Manker-Seale of the Beacon UU Congregation led a Beatles-inspired “Love, Love, Love” worship service in honor of the Thirty Days. The program description reads, “The Beatles had it right. But people still struggle, after thousands of years, to understand what it means to love one another. The Unitarian Universalist Association has suggested we take some time from January 19 through February 17 to dedicate ourselves to Standing on the Side of Love. Let’s explore some of the things we might do, how we might shift our own awareness, how we might better accept one another as loving, compassionate, ethical beings.”
UU Church of Long Beach, California
During its February 3rd services, the UU Church of Long Beach, under the leadership of Rev. Mitra Rahnema, took a special collection for the Justice for Dreamers Scholarship, a church-sponsored college scholarship for undocumented high school seniors planning to attend a college or university next year. Thanks to the generosity of church members, friends, and the larger community, two students will receive scholarships of $3,000 each to fund their college dreams. The scholarships will be awarded during services on May 26, at which time the recipients will share their stories with the congregation.
Standing on the Side of Love with Natural Disaster Survivors
The East Coast has experience a lot of intense weather in the past six months. Check out how these congregations are responding:
UU Fellowship of Falmouth, Massachusetts
The folks at the UU Fellowship of Falmouth planned a program called “Groundhog Days on Cape Cod” to commemorate the middle of winter as part of their Thirty Days celebration. On February 6th, they held a fundraising dinner to support housing and energy assistance for low-income families with some Standing on the Side of Love-themed entertainment.
Then, Winter Storm Nemo hit the Northeast very hard on February 8-10. Volunteers from the congregation went to work for community agencies and the congregation’s ”Caring Committee.” In Falmouth, the community shelter had supplies for 30-40 people, but there were 217 people in the shelter on February 10th. On February 14, members of the congregation gathered for a Valentine’s Day lunch to recognize and thank the fellowship members who helped their neighbors during and after the storm. Rev. Peter Morales, president of the Unitarian Universalist Association, visited the Falmouth fellowship several days later. Eight congregations from southeastern Massachusetts were represented, more than a hundred people were present, and the group sang a rendition of the “Standing on the Side of Love” song with Peter.
UU Congregation of the Susquehanna Valley, Northumberland, Pennsylvania & Unitarian Church of Staten Island, New York
The UU Congregation of the Susquehanna Valley partnered with the Unitarian Church of Staten Island to send support to the people who were hit hard by Superstorm Sandy last October. The adults in the congregation have been raising money to send gift cards and the kids are taking part in a letter-writing campaign to Staten Island kids.
This month, as part of their Thirty Days of Love observance, UUCSV expanded its letter-writing campaign into seven communities along their stretch of the Susquehanna River by placing mailboxes in community libraries. The signs for the mailboxes – and all of the publicity – are in both English and Spanish. A huge number of people most severely affected on Staten Island are undocumented immigrants, and UUCSV hopes that their letters will help all kids, no matter their (or their families’) race, creed, or immigration status. The congregation has been inspired to continue this program after the Thirty Days of Love, and will soon start a program with ESL teachers in the Valley.
Last Sunday I joined hundreds of Unitarian Universalists and tens of thousands of other concerned citizens at the largest ever gathering in the United States on climate change: the Forward on Climate Rally. One of the major demands of the day was urging President Obama to not approve the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.
Before the estimated 40,000 participants encircled the White House, we heard a number of inspiring speakers, including Bill McKibben of 350.org, Michael Brune of the Sierra Club, Chief Jacqueline Thomas of Saik’uz First Nation, and Crystal Lameman of the Beaver Lake Cree First Nation.
Many oppose the pipeline because of the threat that extracting all that oil presents to the climate. Others oppose it because of the threat of a major spill from the pipeline and the potential for increased air pollution from refineries processing the tar sands in impoverished communities. While I share these concerns, my principal focus is the effect approving the pipeline will have on the First Nations people whose health and way of life are currently at risk from the impacts of tar sands development. If the pipeline is approved, the rate and extent of extracting oil from the tar sands will increase dramatically. Already people living downstream and downwind are suffering from an increase in rare forms of cancer. Fish in the Athabasca River are often visibly deformed and unsafe to eat.
Mikisew Cree First Nation leaders believe that water pollution from tar sands development may be linked to an increased incidence of cancers found in the population of Fort Chipewyan located directly downstream from the most intensive tar sands development. In 2006, these concerns were brought into the public eye when Dr. John O’Connor, who serves small First Nations communities in the regions where the are sands are extracted, reported a high number of cases of unusual cancers, particularly a rare form of bile duct cancer called cholangiocarcinoma. Despite these and other alarming findings, the Canadian government continues to deny these illnesses are a result of extracting oil from the tar sands. Concerns have also been raised that the amount of water being withdrawn from the Athabasca river system will threaten fish populations and the health of the Peace-Athabasca Delta.
In the face of this denial, First Nation leaders have been forced to turn to the courts to assert their constitutionally protected rights. According to Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation: “The federal government is neglecting its environmental responsibilities and ignoring our concerns. When the government fails to engage with First Nations about our concerns, and fails to respect our rights, these things have nowhere to go but the courts.”
It is because of these concerns that I am standing on the side of love with First Nations people in Canada, and adding my voice to theirs in opposition to the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. While the rally might be over, our work continues. Learn more about our work on environmental justice here.
This post was written by Rev. Craig C. Roshaven, Witness Ministries Director at the Unitarian Universalist Association.More >