At the beginning of November, Jo VonRue (our Ministerial Intern here in Binghamton) and I traveled up to the Standing Rock camp in North Dakota to support the Sioux tribe. They are fighting to stop construction of the Dakota Access Pipe Line on sacred lands and which threatens their water supply.
Jo and I received unanimous support from our UU Binghamton Board of Trustees when we asked them about it on Saturday evening. On Sunday morning, during worship, the congregation demonstrated their support by responding to a Special Collection to defray the costs of the trip. We carried the members of our congregation in our hearts as we travelled the next few days to North Dakota. It took us 2 days to get there, we flew to Minneapolis and met up with other UU’s from all over the country. We arrived in Cannonball, ND Wednesday evening in time for some training ans inspiration before the Thursday event.
Over 500 clergy responded to the call to come support the Water Protectors, Unitarian Universalist clergy made up nearly 10% of that response. On Thursday morning we processed down to the water, to the bridge with its barricade. There were speeches, symbolic actions, and several of us were invited to cross the bridge and say prayers near the barricade.
I heard Rev. Peter Morales (UUA President) say “you can pretend to care, but you cannot pretend to show up.” I was proud in that moment to be part of this great act of solidarity. When Jo and I went out onto the bridge we saw the scorched concrete, the scars on the side of the road, the broken glass, and the burned out vehicles chained together to augment the cement barricade – it was disturbing. I was proud to be there in support of the water protectors, and I was ashamed of what has been done in my name as a citizen.
Back home, we hosted a multigenerational worship service to share with the congregation what we experienced. We connected with other clergy from Binghamton who had been at Standing Rock and co-hosted a prayer vigil on December 4 – right at the time the news came of the denial of the easement by the Army Corp of Engineers. (The fight continues, but that was a significant victory!)
Rev. Douglas Taylor
UU Congregation of Binghamton, NY
The smell comes first
driving over the hill at Standing Rock to Oceti Sakowin
my breath catches
the voices around me go silent
as we drink in what lies before us
the rising sun begins to illuminate the camp
teepees, tents, and flags of many nations dot the landscape
of this refugee place
this war zone
helicopters, airplanes, and drones circle above
they create a noise
a buzz a constant sound
downing out my thoughts
524 interfaith clergy gather in a circle
together around the sacred fire
with the elders of the Sioux Nation
who have been praying for us to come
hoping they are not alone in the struggle
we repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery
and with a smudging by the elders
we are blessed on our sacred journey
a pilgrimage… to the bridge
processing down the hill
we can see police in riot gear advancing towards us
we cause no threat
we are peaceful
“wade in the water, wade in the water children…”
I am aware of the privilege my clerical collar
and white skin affords me
I am not scared, I know I will not be harmed
the overhead noise fades
it is quiet for the first time in months
like a truce day in a war zone
I cross the contested bridge a path over the mighty Missouri River
The air is filled with tension
I pray, Spirit of Life…
we are here to help protect this land, this water
guide my heart and hands
so that I may bear witness and offer strength
watch over these native people and the water protectors
as they fight the daily battle against the government forces
help them to know they are not alone, Mni Wiconi… Amen.
Reflections from our clergy who were in Standing Rock last week. For more reflections, please read the blog post by UUA COO, Harlan Limpert on Call and Repsonse.
The Advent Season offers each of us an opportunity to recognize that it is not only a season of waiting, but also a season of preparation. It’s a Both/And. This is a time for celebrating both the light and the warmth of the season of waiting to celebrate the birth of Jesus.
This Waiting Season I am challenged to focus less on the things that are not worthy of my detail-oriented micro-management and worry. Instead, I pay attention the things that really matter—including health, respect and appreciation.
This year, this day, in this Waiting Season, I am particularly mindful that I am here. NOW. I can’t just wait any more…. I have to “get busy.” Like many Unitarian Universalists, I love to question—everything. That popular expression “the answer is to question” usually works for me, but at this moment in time, in this critical season of our collective lives, I need some action. I need to live my values through my actions.
So, I took a breather to renew my spirits. And I hope that each of us will do likewise!
From there, I got to NOW! Now, it is time, for me to ease my way out of disappointment and a keen sense of loss. Please understand, this is not about partisan politics. Even though many of us are grieving at the state of the world, I’m asking us to stop wringing our hands. I’m asking us to stop with the “woe is me.” I’m asking each of us to make a conscious decision to do something to build just community by making this world a better place. Follow your passion. But do something. I challenge each of us, including myself to live our UU values through our actions.