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The Rev. Shelley Page inspires a march for peace in Ogden, Utah.
The New Zion Baptist minister told the crowd that he was inspired to do the march because an unknown clergy colleague had called him expressing solidarity. He felt it was a sign from God that now was a time to stand together, as a new beginning, to address these issues. When I met him for the first time in person today, he embraced me like a long lost friend, and told me that my call made the difference, gave him heart. (The Lively Tradition, December 6)
Karen Johnston tells the story of arriving, with an elderly fellow protester, in the back of a state police cruiser at a “rally about too many Black and Brown men dying at the hands of police officers.” (irrevspeckay, December 8)
At a different protest, Cindy Pincus has a different experience with the police—a nasty head wound—but plans to continue protesting..
I’m returning to the protests tonight (Monday night, as I write). Every life is made in the image of the Divine and violence to any body is violence to everybody. Just because I was hit, doesn’t mean I will be the last one and I certainly wasn’t the first. Police brutality and indiscriminate violence is a blight on the great American experiment of freedom. As Unitarian Universalists, we are called to participate in that experiment time and again and we have and will always be warriors of peace and justice for all. (UUSF, December 10)
The Rev. Meg Riley tells the story of her “guerilla grandma” protest strategies, and concludes that “too many White people are simply stewing in blogs and news accounts and Facebook updates and feeling helpless.”
If that’s you, Grandma is speaking now, so listen up: This isn’t a time to sit home with your feelings. This is a movement! With the reins securely in the hand of young Black leaders, in Minneapolis and in Ferguson and in countless other cities, do what you can to support whatever they’re doing—go to their events, give them bail money if you have it, tell them how inspiring they are—and meanwhile deploy your own identities and skills, whatever they are.
You’ve read enough; you know what happened. Now act. Find a buddy to support you. Think creatively about how to speak out in unlikely places. (Huffington Post, December 9)Strategies
The Rev. Scott Wells pushes back against UU preferences for protests over policy-making.
What do we have to gain by (what amounts to) an exercise in collective holiness? Less, I contend, than we have to offer by participating constantly in the nitty-gritty of public policy.
And I think we avoid this opportunity because we have grown unaccustomed to political power, and perhaps find it awkward or distasteful as a religious people. And if that’s the case, we need to get over that. So many people view governance and public policy with suspicion, but in doing so surrender their power to those who are left claim it. (Boy in the Bands, December 10)
Kenny Wiley is a moderate protester, marching “with ‘radicals’ as well as (relative) conservatives.”
It is often said that we have to work together for this movement to work. Indeed. But “working together” doesn’t mean silencing anyone who disagrees with us. Working together doesn’t mean men silencing women. Working together doesn’t mean older civil rights activists running over younger ones. Working together doesn’t mean white people taking the mic or otherwise telling black folks how to respond.
Working together means understanding not just how each of us is disadvantaged but also how we are privileged. Working togethermeans knowing when to talk, and when to listen. Working together means having hard conversations. (A Full Day, December 11)
Crystal St. Marie Lewis has a message: Stop derailing the discussion.
I suppose if I could say something to a large group of people about the current outcry against police brutality towards Black people, I’d say that this issue is not to be conflated with other challenges in the Black community. The issue of violence against Black people by the police is an epidemic unto itself and deserves the undivided attention it’s receiving now. (Window on Religion, December 8)
Responding to pushback some UU ministers have received about speaking out about racism, the Rev. Tom Schade writes an imaginary newsletter column.
It is not the duty of a UU minister to represent all views in the congregation. It is not the duty of a UU minister to facilitate the discussions between opposing views in the congregation on the vital issues of the day. It is not the duty of a UU minister to argue every point with every congregant. It is not the duty of a UU minister to be above the fray. . . .
In today’s context, it is the duty of UU ministers to lead congregations into the social movements against racism, even if it makes some members of those congregations angry or uncomfortable. The call of conscience and the demands of religious conviction are often disruptive of our comfortable opinions. That’s the point of having them. (The Lively Tradition, December 5)
The Rev. Dr. Cynthia Landrum explains why we are not waiting for Rosa Parks.
Michael Brown’s tragedy isn’t the wrong tragedy to wake this country up—it’s exactly the right tragedy, because for whatever reason, it did wake people up. We don’t need more unarmed black men to die, and we don’t need to wait for Rosa. (The Lively Tradition, December 9)
Kim Hampton writes, “While we are talking about #blacklivesmatters, we need to expand that to also include #blackbodiesmatter too.”
The treatment of these black men’s bodies by those in authority/positions of power is shameful and is just another manifestation of this society’s thinking about black people.
Anthony Pinn wrote: “Black bodies are complex signs that represent something both appealing and repulsive for the society in which we dwell.”
There’s something to that, I think. (East of Midnight, December 8)And everything else
Responding to this week’s news about the United States’ use of torture, the Rev. Amy Zucker Morgenstern commits to a new practice.
Whenever I hear or read the term “waterboarding,” unless it’s clarified by “as the CIA calls it” and replaced in subsequent uses by an accurate term, I’m going to write to the source in question and tell them their job is to give us news, not Newspeak. (Sermon in Stones, December 10)
Drawing on the metaphor of childbirth, Liz James writes about “the blood-spattered pause.”
The moment when you are up to your neck in it and there’s no going back, but suddenly you stop. In life, it is too easy to mistake this moment for cowardice. You can’t quite finish coming out of the closet, or you can’t leave the job with the horrible boss even though you’ve set everything up, or you can’t quite speak all the truth to power you were hoping to, and you suddenly become . . . frozen.
It is not cowardice. You were not mistaken. You are not too tired, or not adequate to the task. This is not the beginning of self doubt or failure.
It is just the blood-spattered pause. (Rebel with a Labelmaker, December 11)
James also shares a personal update about her health—along with her physican husband’s advice about living with a difficult diagnosis:
Life is not a countdown to “dead.” It’s a count up from “born.” There’s only one real diagnosis, and we’ve all got it. And it’s not a license to wait. It’s the reason to stop waiting. (Rebel with a Labelmaker, December 8)
Christine Organ has a guest post in The New York Times, writing about why her family goes to church.
For our family, the right-decision-for-us-for-now means listening to a few grumbles from the back seat on the way to our liberal-in-a-suburban-kind-of-way Unitarian church. It means a family prayer before dinner, learning about other faiths and talking about what we might believe. (Motherlode, December 7)
We could start from our deep shared values, and consider the question, “What will Unitarian Universalist ministry need to look like if it is to be relevant in the 21st century?” and then create a process that selects for and supports that vision instead of continually repainting the language and adding knobs and widgets (or milestones and competencies) to a model whose baseline assumptions about the people entering ministry are rooted in the wealthy Anglo-Saxon Protestant norms of the early 20th century. The world has changed. Can we? (The Sand Hill Diaries, December 8)
Being spiritual and religious means going to church
A Unitarian Universalist parent describes why her family is bucking the broadening trend of religious people spending their Sundays doing other things besides going to church. For this mother, church is necessary to help her children develop a sense of spirituality. (The New York Times - 12.7.14)
Tim DeChristopher connects faith, activism
Environmental activist and Unitarian Universalist seminary student Tim DeChristopher talks about the vital role that spirituality plays in activism, especially in its power to connect people who have been alienated by the institutions they oppose. (truthout.org - 12.8.14)
UUs deeply involved in racial justice protests across country
The Rev. Cindy Pincus, intern minister at First Unitarian Universalist Society of San Francisco, Calif., recounts the violent blow she says she received from a police offer while participating in a protest in Berkeley. (Huffington Post - 12.8.14)
Other stories of racial justice demonstrations:
“Ogden ‘peace march’ marks reaction to police shootings” (Standard Examiner - 12.7.14)
“Local protesters continue police-killings demonstrations” (The Philadelphia Tribune - 12.9.14)
Holidays, UU style
Members of the Common Ground Choir, affiliated with the Unitarian Universalist Church of Oak Cliff in Dallas, Tex., sing protest songs at various peaceful demonstrations. They joined others after Thanksgiving outside the local Walmart to support a Black Friday protest for better jobs. (Oak Cliff BubbleLife - 11.28.14)
Members of the lay-led San Juan Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Farmington, N.Mex., caught the attention of their local media when they introduced the Unitarian Universalist holiday tradition of Chalica in their congregation. (Daily Times - 12.7.14)
Minister led congregation through period of impressive growth
Although the members of Fox Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Appleton, Wisc., will be sad to see the Rev. Roger Bertschausen go, they will remember the safe space he created for spiritual growth within the congregation. (Post-Crescent.com - 12.8.14)
UUs participate in vigils across the country
Leaders of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Annapolis, Md., opened their doors for community members to come together and express their emotions in response to the controversial decision not to indict police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Mo. (Capital Gazette - 11.25.14)
Members of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Mankato, Minn., participated in a peaceful demonstration at a local holiday light display after the grand jury verdict in Ferguson. (keyc.com - 12.1.14)
Attendees at South Valley Unitarian Universalist Society in Cottonwood Heights, Utah, lit candles in remembrance of Michael Brown of Ferguson as well as Darrien Hunt, a man from Saratoga Springs who was shot by police officers in September. (Deseret News - 11.26.14)
Minister sees churches as a place of racial healing
The Rev. Manish Mishra-Marzetti of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Cherry Hill, N.J., acknowledges that he did not initially understand the profound cultural significance of Michael Brown’s death, but now that he does, he hopes churches like his own can help promote cross-racial understanding. (Courier-Post - 11.29.14)
Fighting racism is a spiritual imperative
The Rev. Marisol Caballero feels a spiritual imperative drives her ministry at First Unitarian Universalist Church of Austin, Tex. She hopes that in fighting racism through her work in her church, she can achieve her personal goal of helping to create a truly multicultural faith tradition in Unitarian Universalism. (LatinoUSA - 11.28.14)
Grieving the loss of a pet from a generational perspective
The Rev. Eliza Blanchard offers spiritual care for animal caregivers as a part of her Unitarian Universalist ministry. She explains that the increasing candor in mourning animals stems from the tendency of the Baby Boom generation to make their personal needs widely known in public. (The Boston Globe - 12.3.14)
Updates on the demise of two UU church buildings
The final pieces of the historic Murray Universalist Church in Attleboro, Mass., will soon be removed. The church originates from 1885, but the congregation, now called Murray Unitarian Universalist Church, resides in a building at a different location. (The Sun Chronicle - 12.5.14)
Members of Oak Ridge Unitarian Universalist Church in Oak Ridge, Tenn., agreed to sell their church building to make way for a new Kroger shopping center and have since moved to a new building. Their former building is now being demolished as construction begins on the shopping center. (Oak Ridge Today - 11.23.14)
Enraged by the grand jury’s failure to indict Eric Garner’s killer, the Rev. Dr. Victoria Weinstein challenges “the intellectual condescension of white liberals.”
[To] sit back in the armchair because we’re too tired of reading articles does not honor the witness being borne by the African-American community right now. Perhaps taking to the streets is not your style, or is not possible for you. For many white folks, the longest and most important distance to travel in our claims to be an anti-racist, justice-seeking people may be from our heads to our hearts. Our longest march may be the one that takes us down from the dais of competitive debate and rational inquiry to the common ground of listening, witnessing, mourning and embracing.
Put down the newspaper and the computer. There are caskets going by. (PeaceBang, December 4)
Kim Hampton writes, “As someone who has been trained for the ministry, I am supposed to be all about preaching healing, reconciliation, and redemption. Yet right now the last thing I need or want is to heal or reconcile. There is no redemption to be had in this slow genocide.” (East of Midnight, December 1)
Hampton also writes that now is not the time for UUs to quote Martin Luther King, Jr, and suggests other sources. (East of Midnight, December 4)
Liz James recounts a conversation with her sons, Anthony and Eric, about police violence toward black men.
“Who is Eric Garner?” asked Anthony . . . .
I quickly recounted the story ending with “and then he died.” I didn’t even get to the part about the lack of indictment when I looked over to see my son looking at me with blank horror, and beginning to shriek. His whole body crumpled, and he slid onto the floor, sobbing with this horrible sick sound coming from his gut. I picked him up and carried him to the couch, trying to reverse what I had done.
“Mom.” Eric said. “He doesn’t know the world is like that. You have to be careful.” (Facebook, December 4)
Doug Muder asks, “This time, will the outrage matter?”
If we want anything different to happen this time, I think we need to re-establish the notion that there is an objective truth to this matter—the kind that persuades the uncommitted and converts some of the opposition—and that objectively, the system did not work. More than that, we need to argue that the reasons it did not work are not specific to the details of the Brown shooting; the same reasons will continue to endanger innocent people until something changes. (The Weekly Sift, December 1)
Claire Curole pushes back against people who want to argue away the racism in these incidents.
It’s not about the individual data points, the litany of names and places that are but a sample of those incidents of police violence against men of color, particularly Black men. I hear other white folks argue sometimes that this one or that one wasn’t really about that—and what it most reminds me of are the people who argue against anthropogenic climate change by coming up with a perfectly plausible reason why this time or that time it wasn’t so. I want to pound on the pulpit and yell some. It’s not about the data points, but the pattern they reveal when viewed at some remove: like a Seurrat or a Monet, all dots and splotches up close, but caught in a glance from the far end of a gallery the image jumps out, water lilies, or a fine walk in the park. (The Sand Hill Diaries, November 30)
The Rev. Krista Taves draws connections between clergy and cops—both positions of authority, both held to a higher standard, both facing strong criticism when they fall short.
I keep looking for some indication that some cops understand that the protest they face, at its roots, is not about being anti-police. None of the actions and the criticism, even the angriest of words, are about being anti-police. It is actually being very much FOR the police. What it is against is the abuse of power and authority. When we call the police to a higher standard, when we ask for their policies and procedures to change, when we ask them to reconsider the way they make choices, when we ask them to welcome accountability, we are wanting them to become the fullest manifestation of what they are supposed to be, servants of the community. (And the stones shall cry, December 4)Canaries in the ministry mines
The Rev. Dawn Cooley addresses the ongoing controversy at Starr King School for the Ministry, suggesting that “Strapped Student” step forward and accept responsibility.
I ask you, Strapped Student, I ask you as someone who has no affiliation with SKSM but who sees that there is indeed much dysfunction in this whole messy situation, I ask you to please look into your heart and imagine coming forward. Find someone you trust who knows you and will have your back, or find a lawyer to speak through. Come forward so that these two students can continue on with their lives, so that the burden of their futures is lifted from you, and so that you can do the work you really wanted to do in revealing those documents.
It won’t be easy. Ministry rarely is. (Speaking of, November 22)
The Rev. Tom Schade publishes a two-part series by an anonymous seminarian, questioning whether the fellowship process creates bold leaders—or timid, compliant ones; and also suggests in a third post that “seminarians are the canaries in the coal mines of ministry.”
Seminarians are afraid to speak up because we want to be granted preliminary fellowship. Those ministers in preliminary fellowship are afraid to speak up because they want to achieve final fellowship. And once ministers are in final fellowship, they are so deeply immersed in their careers, the plight of struggling seminarians falls down the list of priorities in the face of the sheer volume of things demanding immediate attention. (The Lively Tradition, November 28 and 30)
Liz James writes that ministerial formation should be hard, but the current process is the wrong kind of hard.
We are being trained to be martyrs. We are told we must accept unreasonable workloads and unreasonable financial burden, or be seen as whiners. This system skews Ministry to be filled with people who are either independently wealthy or delusionally optimistic about debt. And, once we are trained, we are financially shackled and unable to take risks and be creative. A pulpit in debt is not a free pulpit. We get stuck when we look for solutions, because we cannot squeeze money out of people and organizations that don’t have it to give. The only solution left, then, is to think radically and creatively about making the whole thing less expensive. (Free Range Seminarian, December 3)Lighter fare
The Rev. Nori Rost shares her “acts of kindness” Advent calendar practice. (sUbteXt, December 4)
The Rev. Adam Eliot offers a guide to making Christmas gifts. (The Burbania Posts, December 3)
The Rev. Jeff Liebmann provides a guide to holiday conversations. (uujeff’s muse kennel and pizzatorium, December 1)
The Rev. Amy Freedman suggests seven ways to savor the holidays. (Amy Freedman, December 1)
Suzyn Smith Webb shares a practice for “making yourself happier, starting right about now.” (Loved for Who You Are, December 1)