Taking the Side of Love

UU Fellowship of PlattsburghWhen a member of the UU Fellowship of Plattsburgh, NY came to the board of trustees and asked that they make a public statement regarding Syrian refugees, they decided to write a letter to the editor to their local newspaper. They were all greatly dismayed by the things presidential candidates and governors were saying about baning Muslims from our country and from being settled in certain states. Nancy Lewin and Kathy Sajor began the draft statement for the 12/10 Board meeting. It was circulated among Board members and others so that the final statement reflected the input of many concerned members. They hoped that it would be run in the “In My Opinion” column but were initially told that only “experts” were printed there which they were not, and that the paper might print it on the Religion page, but even that presented them with some conflict. In the end, the board was greatly pleased that it was printed on the editorial page and on New Years Day.

The text of the letter is below:

In My Opinion: Taking the Side of Love

Friday, January 1, 2016

We’re living in what feels to be the most dangerous of times.

Images and words swirling through the media overwhelm our senses with ideological and bloody conflict — images of horrific carnage at home and abroad.

Our very foundations feel shaky, unpredictable and unreliable.

Millions of people have been set adrift, their homelands unlivable because of war, natural disasters, poverty and persecution.

Civil society seems on the verge of breaking down, with violence erupting instead of dialogue about differences.

We may feel totally disoriented with the upheaval of what we have come to know as our world. We can be confused or feel like we are losing our compass of order or control.

There are forces at work that intentionally fan the flames to ignite fear and unleash passions. These are the weapons of terrorism.

We are meant to react by forgetting our moral codes and following “leaders” who impose their personal versions of order.
Terrorism takes many forms: It might come from people with weapons in hand or strapped to their bodies, but it can also arise from a well-groomed person armed with words that ignite fear and hatred.
In the end, it has similar effects — directing us away from our humanity.
These are clearly dangerous times. However, crises are also magnificently rich opportunities for change — doors open for transformation.
What if we do not allow ourselves to be cowed into submitting to fear and hate?
What if we filter out the angry talk that fills our media and listen, instead, to our higher selves?
What if, when confronted with challenge, we choose to act with bravery, honor, inspiration, compassion and love?
We are not powerless. We can choose to embrace change as an opportunity to exercise our best selves and aspire to the greatness of those who came before us.
Living in a land of immigrants, how contradictory is it for us to deride or demonize the “homeless tempest-tossed” that liberty invites to its golden door?
How can we, whose origins arose from those seeking religious freedom, now invoke a religious litmus test?
And how do we respond to images of boatloads of people adrift in the seas, children washing up on shore, families turned away at borders and train stations?
If we are truly alive as human beings, not numbed by language that stokes our fear, we respond with open hearts, open minds and helping hands. We lift our lamp beside the golden door. We do not judge people by class or religious affiliation.
We can see ourselves in the stories of each of these families searching for safety from a war-torn home.
This is the moment we can act as one people sharing this one planet. Our fate is interconnected, our future is together.
Muslims, Catholics, Jews, Christians, Buddhists, humanists, atheists — we are all in this together.
As Unitarian Universalists, we believe in the inherent worth and dignity of every person.
We believe in justice, equality and compassion in human relations.
We believe in the right of conscience and the use of the democratic process.
We believe in the goal of world community with peace, liberty and justice for all.
We respect the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.
We invite others to join us in action.
Let’s stop tuning in to the constant drumbeat of fear-inducing and hate-inspiring words and images and listen instead to those truths that reside deep within, where we have unity of mind, heart, spirit and the will to act.
Let’s stand up to fear and support the processing and resettling of refugees desperate to save their families from chaos and destruction.
Let’s construct a better course for this world with an ethically healthy foundation based on respect for each other and the principle of freedom.
And let’s unify our efforts and build a global community with peace, liberty and justice for all.
The trustees of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Plattsburgh are Ursula Jones, Jerry Bates, Henry Morlock, Julia Giltz, Kathy Sajor, Jeff Hornibrook, Nancy Lewin and John Neuhaus.

Here is a link to the newspaper website post.

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30 Days of Love 2016: Towards Racial Justice

The Standing on the Side of Love Campaign is excited to share that Thirty Days of Love will be back in 2016 observed from Saturday, January 16 through Sunday, February 14, 2016, culminating on the 7th Annual National Standing on the Side of Love Day! Thirty Days of Love 2016 will lift up the ways Unitarian Universalists and many of our partner organizations are building and organizing by taking bold, courageous action for intersectional racial justice and thus it is titled 30 Days of Love: Towards Racial Justice.

This year Rev. Elizabeth Nguyen, Leadership Development Associate for Youth and Young Adults of Color at the UUA, and Carey McDonald, Outreach Director at the UUA, are acting as the inaugural 30 Days of Love hosts.

In their role, Elizabeth and Carey will provide a short video reflection for each of SSL’s weekly messages. Centered around the themes of gratitude and wonder, it is the hope that the content of 30 Days of Love feeds and inspires you. This week’s video is below.

The Standing on the Side of Love website has a number of resources available – from discussion guides, worship materials, resources for Share the Love Sunday, videos, articles and blog posts for yourself, your congregation or your community and small group ministry.  Are you and your congregation involved with Thirty Days of Love? SSL would love to hear about it at [email protected].

You can follow the weekly blog posts at the SSL website.


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A Faith Formation Rite of Passage for 4th and 5th Graders

firstlighteditedSince 2004, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Amherst, NY has been offering a special and highly successful program for 4th and 5th graders.  First Light recognizes a first step in the development of a child’s Unitarian Universalist Identity. Each child signs up with an adult mentor—usually a parent—and together they explore in depth each of the Seven Principles, honoring the fact that parents are their children’s primary religious educators. Each month, after completing a packet at home (with fun activities and thought-provoking questions for discussion) in collaboration with their mentor, including the creation of an art project illustrating the principle, the group of students meet with their facilitators to share and discuss further. Thus, they begin to build the foundation for their own UU identity.

P1030782The curriculum was originally developed by UU Amherst members Hella Jacob and Scott Harrigan by adapting and augmenting materials from the out-of-print The UU Kids Book authored by Barbara Marshman, Ann Fields Brotman-Marshfield (now both deceased) and Charlene Brotman. It is being shared under a Creative Commons License.  The class is team-taught by 2 adults, and they charge a small fee ($30) for materials.

The program concludes with special rite of passage ceremony during a Sunday morning service, and the graduates are encouraged to light the chalice in the main sanctuary, in recognition that they now appreciate understand its meaning.  Each child is also presented with a lasting token (a UU medallion or necklace). This program takes place at the age when many children in the Christian faith are making their first communions, so the children often wear fancy clothes to celebrate the occasion.

The congregation is happy to share this program with others. You can download the curriculum from this link, but please read the Creative Commons License first.


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