Across the country, people have been reflecting on the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Can we challenge ourselves to stand on the side of love with everyone involved in this terrible tragedy? Rev. Fred Small shared this moving reflection with us. Please feel free to share your own personal reflections, prayers, or anything else that has moved you.
Prayer for Newtown
Rev. Fred Small
First Parish in Cambridge, Unitarian Universalist
Hearing the news from Connecticut of the deaths of so many people, so many children, our sorrow is beyond words, beyond comforting.
This violence was concentrated terribly in that one schoolhouse in that one small town, and yet this violence is commonplace.
In our beautiful and beloved country, scores of people die from gunfire every day.
In Boston so far this year, 49 people have been murdered, 34 of them by guns. The youngest victim was 9-year-old Christopher Miles. The oldest was Mary Miller, age 70.
Each person precious.
Every violent death an abomination.
We are desolate. We are disconsolate. We are angry.
And so we pray.
Spirit of Life,
God of hope in our despair,
God of compassion and forgiveness,
God of many names and one abundant love:
We pray for parents whose children will never again dash through the kitchen, never slam the door, never spill jelly on the sofa, never wake in the night needing comfort, never leave home, never fall in love, never grow up.
We pray for children whose buddies will never again ask if they can come over and play, whose siblings will never again tease them about their hair or their clothes.
We pray for children whose parents or grandparents will never again pick them up, never hold them close, never tuck them in, never kiss them goodnight.
We pray for every person who has lost a lover, a companion, a friend.
We pray for every child and every adult who will never, ever forget what they experienced in that school Friday morning.
We pray for teachers who must learn lockdown drills as well as prepare lesson plans.
We pray for a culture that fetishizes violence in movies, television, videos, songs, and first-person-shooter electronic games.
We pray for a mental health system so emaciated it makes no pretense of reaching those who desperately need help.
We pray for a criminal justice system that privileges punishment over healing, incarceration over reconciliation.
We pray for a political system so corrupted by wealth and bullied by power that good people are frightened to do what they know is right.
We pray for communities where shootings and other violent acts are daily occurrences.
We pray for those abused by the slow-motion violence of poverty and oppression.
And we pray for ourselves, that we may have the wisdom and the courage to act;
to change the conditions that make these crimes not only possible, but inevitable;
and to build the Beloved Community on this earth,
in this community,
in our time.
Amen and Blessed Be.More >
“For each child that’s born a morning star rises and sings to the universe who we are.”
- Y. M. Barnwell, “WE ARE”
A star rises in hope and sings to the universe that with each child we have a chance to do better, to be better. For each candle we light there is starlight, the light of hope, the hope that we can illuminate our path, that we can brighten the future. This is no accidental imagery. These are images and metaphors that tie together generation after generation, that link us with each other. Generations have prayed that it will be better for their children, that their children will make a difference in the world. In the words of Ysaye Barnwell, “We are our grandmothers’ prayers. We are our grandfathers’ dreamings.” This is the time of the year when many faiths tell these timeless messages in story and song.
Countless traditions have these stories of optimism; the anticipation of a brighter day, the story of new life, of someone who rises to lead us forward to a place of peace and goodwill. For me, the point of these stories is not about “rightness” but instead about the underlying longing in the message. How can we love each other with all of our differences, how can we build a peaceful and sustainable world? Hope arises from our stories of birth–be it the birth of a child or the birth of the light. With the end of the season, with the unraveling of the ribbons from the presents and the trees, we revert to the familiar patterns of life that can leave our hope dormant. The breaking of these patterns takes courage–we must go beyond the borders of our comfort driven by faith in the power of love to transform injustice, ignorance, and fear.
How will you harness the transformative power of love in the New Year? Click here to find out how you, your congregation, and/or your community can get involved in the Thirty Days of Love, starting on January 19.
This year, our congregation will once again taking part in National Standing on the Side of Love Month. We will kick-off our celebration with a photo exhibit on immigration and speakers from nationally recognized immigrant justice organizations. We will provide readings and meditations for the congregation on love, compassion, and kindness. On four consecutive Sundays, we will present “Courageous Love Awards” to individuals in our congregation and the broader community who have demonstrated courage of faith and love in their actions, attitudes, and achievements. These are people who have seen new possibilities and have found ways to birth them into being. As we honor these award recipients for the work they have done, we will remind each other that we all carry this combination of hope, love, and possibility.
Please join us in participating in the Thirty Days of Love. Consider giving your own “Courageous Love Awards” in your community or congregation. Click here to learn more.
As you plan your own Thirty Days of Love, remember that “We are our grandmothers’ prayers. We are our grandfathers’ dreaming.” During the holidays and into the New Year, let us go beyond the borders of our comfort, let us have faith in what is possible, and let us never lose hope in the transforming power of love.
Rev. David A. Miller
Minister, Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of San Dieguito in Solana Beach, California
Member, Standing on the Side of Love Creative Advisory Team
PS: Not a member of a congregation or relevant community group? Stay tuned for more opportunities to participate that are geared for individuals and families!
The message above went out on Wednesday, December 12, 2012 to Standing on the Side of Love supporters. You can sign-up for these emails here.More >
Finally, all signs indicate that we will have the chance to pass humane, inclusive immigration reform in the coming months. This once-in-a-generation opportunity comes from the phenomenal work that immigrant communities, faith groups, and others have done to build partnerships and raise voices of compassion. Now that this moment is here, it’s important that grassroots migrant groups and faith communities have their voices heard–and lead the way.
Breaking Bread and Building Bridges is an interfaith campaign that will help us achieve Compassionate Immigration Reform (CIR) at the national level by building the power and capacity of interfaith coalitions at the local level. In addition to helping make CIR a reality, the campaign will help us continue to push for needed changes in local and state policies that affect migrants.
To learn more about the changed political landscape and how you can help roll out the Breaking Bread and Building Bridges Campaign early next year, join our conference call on Monday, December 10th at 4:00pm ET.
At the heart of the Breaking Bread Campaign is an activity that every faith community is familiar with – potlucks! But these potlucks are special. We ask that one congregation in your area host a potluck to which members of every faith in your community are invited. In addition to other faith communities, invite members of migrant rights organizations to Break Bread together and Build Bridges between all our communities. We suggest that you schedule your potluck(s) between January 22 and May 22, 2013.
Now is the time for us to assemble and strengthen our local coalitions. The 2012 election created a significant shift in the dialogue on humane immigration reform and the voice of the faith community needs to be part of that conversation.
Please join our conference call on Monday, December 10th at 4:00pm ET and learn how you can be a part in this critical moment. Click here to RSVP.
Yours in a Shared Faith in the inherent worth and dignity of every person,
Rev. Craig C. Roshaven
Witness Ministries Director
Unitarian Universalist Association
The Breaking Bread and Building Bridges Campaign is sponsored by the Interfaith Immigration Coalition, a broad based national coalition of 32 faith communities in which the Unitarian Universalist Association plays a leading role.
The message above went out on Thursday, December 5, 2012 to Standing on the Side of Love supporters. You can sign-up for these emails here.More >
As a native Ugandan and life-long LGBTQ activist, it broke my heart to learn that the Ugandan Parliament is poised to once again consider a bill known as the “Kill the Gays Bill” or the “Anti-Homosexuality Bill,” that proposes jail terms for LGBTQ individuals, including a life sentence or even the death penalty in some circumstances. The bill is likely to pass the Parliament if it comes up for a vote, leaving President Yoweri Museveni’s veto as the only remaining hope that this hate-filled bill will not become law.
Please speak out against this terrible bill. Sign the petition and ask President Museveni to veto the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.
About 10 years ago, when I first came out to my guardian and, later, to my closest colleagues at the Daily Monitor newspaper in Uganda, I was nothing short of terrified of losing both family and friends. As I had anticipated, declaring my love for fellow women got me my own share of homelessness, verbal abuse, and alienation, even from people I trusted the most. Abandoned as a teenager and forced into maturity at a tender age, I always believed in the transformative power of truth, because the truth, as they say, sets us free. My “coming out” story as a Pentecostal-raised Ugandan lesbian woman mirrors the stories of dozens of other LGBTQ activists in Uganda.
This draconian legislation places LGBTQ Ugandans in grave danger in a country where having an LGBTQ identity is already illegal. In addition to the death penalty, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill requires parents to report their own children and doctors to report their own patients to the authorities or risk jail time. It also undermines the strides that Uganda has made in HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention over the last decade. Originally proposed in 2009, this bill has been delayed numerous times due to the brave advocacy of Ugandan LGBTQ activists and international allies. I pray that love will once again win out over hate.
I have been involved with LGBTQ community organizing in Uganda long enough to observe how far we have come and what we have managed to achieve amidst very difficult circumstances. Earlier this year, activists held Uganda’s first Pride parade—may we continue on this path toward justice and equality for LGBTQ Ugandans. Please sign the petition today.
Ugandan LGBTQ Rights Activist
PS: A similar bill criminalizing LGBTQ people was recently introduced in Nigeria. Click here to take action and ask President Goodluck Jonathan to veto Nigeria’s bill too.
The message above went out on Tuesday, December 4, 2012 to Standing on the Side of Love supporters. You can sign-up for these emails here.More >
I am so thrilled to introduce myself as the new Standing on the Side of Love Campaign Manager. I am humbled by all of the great work this movement has already accomplished and I can’t wait to see where else we can go from here.
I want to hear from you and learn more about what you envision for the future of this campaign. Feel free to contact me anytime at email@example.com to ask questions, share ideas, or just say hi!
Together, let’s put our faith in action and stand on the side of love.
In faith & justice,
Standing on the Side of Love
The message above went out on Friday, November 30, 2012 to Standing on the Side of Love supporters. You can sign-up for these emails here.More >