#UUWhiteSupremacyTeachIn Fall 2017 Dates Announced

In the last few weeks, Unitarian Universalists have responded alongside interfaith and activist partners with love and resistance to overt white supremacists in Charlottesville and across the country. In April, May, and June, 682 of the 1,038 UU congregations–and 32 other UU communities–held UU White Supremacy Teach-ins.

Through public witness, education, and introspection, our faith is coming to understand that fighting white supremacy means both resisting its most blatant forms “out there,” and disrupting its systemic manifestations within.

The first round of teach-ins brought moments of triumph, awkwardness, fierce debate, powerful revelations, joy and pain for Unitarian Universalists of color, and much more. The Teach-In team again calls our siblings in faith to action to continue the work of growth and learning. On Sunday, October 15th or Sunday, October 22nd, join together with UU communities nationwide in Part Two of the UU White Supremacy Teach-in. Our power and reach are magnified when we come together.

The Teach-In Team is collaborating on building three different “tracks” for congregational lay and clergy leaders in which to situate their communities. Some UU churches lean towards being intellectual, academically inclined places; others are full of activists, and still others are places that “love church,” but are hesitant to enter the waters of the social justice and most are a mix of all three. In the coming days, an assessment tool will be forthcoming, which will help those planning your congregation’s Teach-In to choose a track. Webinars, Sunday morning worship, children’s chapel, religious education, high school youth, and other resources, lesson plans and more are coming soon, friends. You can find the resources on the Teachin website, uuteachin.org.

Some ask, “Why give up another Sunday for ‘social justice work’ and ignore spirituality?” For us, the answer is clear: for the oppressed, there is no such thing as separating social justice and spirituality. Combating overt white supremacy and white supremacy culture is a theological endeavor for our faith–from the top of the UUA, to each individual in every congregation and community. We treat it as such—and on October 15th, 22nd, and every day between now and then, we call on you to join us. Register your congregation’s participation today at the Teachin website.

In faith,
Aisha Hauser, Christina Rivera, Kenny Wiley, and the UU White Supremacy Teach-In Planning Team- consisting of religious educators, lay and ordained clergy and UUA staff

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UUA Names Two Books as this Year’s Common Read

Each year, a committee of the UUA selects a book to be the Common Read. Having one common book that individuals and congregations can read together along with a study guide can build community in our congregations and our movement by giving diverse people a shared experience, shared language, and a basis for deep, meaningful conversations.

The challenges, the call, and the opportunity of this moment in Unitarian Universalism and in the broader US American society are compelling. Unitarian Universalists must be prepared and willing to look inward, examining, exploring, and acting to dismantle white supremacy culture in our association, in our congregations and groups, and in ourselves.  At the same time, we must be prepared and willing to look outward and act to lift up Unitarian Universalist values in the political and civic challenges of our time. After much deliberation, the Common Read Selection Committee has chosen two books for this year’s Common Read:

  • Centering: Navigating Race, Authenticity, and Power in Ministry, edited by Mitra Rahnema (Skinner House, 2017), centers the stories, analysis, and insights of a number of Unitarian Universalist religious leaders of color as they explore how racial identity is made both visible and invisible in Unitarian Universalist communities. Centering offers help with the inner work of today’s Unitarian Universalism
  • Daring Democracy: Igniting Power, Meaning, and Connection for the America We Want, by Frances Moore Lappé and Adam Eichen, (Beacon Press, September 2017) lifts up the importance of democracy itself. It examines the anti-democracy movement that led to the Trump presidency, then offers a vision and call to action to save the democracy we thought we had and to take our civic life to a place it has never been. Daring Democracy provides a vision and practical guidance for advancing our justice-making work in the public square.

We invite you to make time to read both, and to work with others to organize discussion groups in your UU community.

In addition to providing a study guide and a way on the UUA website for congregations to share their events related to the Common Read, this year we have a special opportunity to involve the authors of Daring Democracy in a conversation. UU religious leaders are invited to meet Frances Moore Lappé and Adam Eichen, co-authors of Daring Democracy, hosted by the UUA and Beacon Press from 11 a.m. to noon (Eastern) on Wed., Sept. 20 at 24 Farnsworth Street, Boston, MA and via live webcast.

Learn more about the Common Read program and the books selected at the UUA website. You can also find past Common Reads and their resources. Past common reads include The Third Reconstruction, Just Mercy, Reclaiming Prophetic Witness, Behind the Kitchen Door, The New Jim Crow, Acts of Faith, and The Death of Josseline.

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Defending our Freedom of Religion for All

“People say, what is the sense of our small effort? They cannot see that we must lay one brick at a time, take one step at a time.” I remember these words of Dorothy Day as I think about the work we must do- all of the small and large steps we must take –  to end hatred and bigotry in our nation.  And the small victories that we celebrate, such as the recent cancellation of the ACT for America anti-Muslim rallies.   The cancellation of these anti-Muslim, Islamophobic rallies is one small step toward building the inclusive, welcoming society we dream about.

The city of Columbus, my home, and our nation are at their best when we come together from all faith traditions, all ethnicities, all backgrounds to support one another in creating a positive future for our children and ourselves.   We know that we can do better when working together to address the issues that hold us back from the promise of progress.

ACT for America was originally scheduled to gather in Columbus on Sept. 9.  This rally and others like it have been cancelled, mostly likely in consideration of assured counter-protests by people like me.  ACT for America is now one of the largest anti-Muslim groups in America.  They falsely claim that American Muslims cannot be loyal US citizens and that they want to impose religious law on all Americans; Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, Jew and others alike.   This would be a huge surprise to the Muslim Americans who serve faithfully in our military, in our state and local governments, in the US Congress and more.   Years ago, bigots said the same thing about Roman Catholics, like President John Kennedy, and Catholic canon law.  They were wrong then and they are wrong now.

ACT for America is one of many hate groups that are trying to force us to give up our bedrock, historical American commitment to freedom of religion. All the while, the hide behind twisted claims of freedom of speech designed to cover over destructive hate speech.

As a Unitarian Universalist minister, I trace my own religious ancestry back to the Pilgrims.  Freedom of religion is etched into the deepest DNA of this religious heritage, and it is etched into the foundational DNA of our nation.

We know we can do better.  We know we can bring together the strengths of all of our people and all of our faith traditions to address the many social issues we face today.  Only by realizing that we are truly stronger together can we truly make our city, state and nation the land of love, peace and progress that my Pilgrim ancestors and we dream about.

We need to stand up together to put an end to hate.  Together, we have that power. As Dorothy Day also said: “A pebble cast into a pond causes ripples that spread in all directions. Each one of our thoughts, words and deeds is like that. No one has a right to sit down and feel hopeless. There is too much work to do.”

Rev. Joan Van Becelaere
Columbus OH
Executive Director, UU Justice Ohio and CER Congregational Life Staff

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Love Resists Assists Congregations In Social Justice Work

Have you heard of the Love Resists Campaign? The Love Resists Campaign is activating people of faith and conscience to resist the criminalization of our neighbors and communities, and create a safer, more just, welcoming, and sustainable world. The campaign offers a prophetic approach to responding to this political moment in the United States, helping to build the wider movement of resistance. That approach includes powerful principles to ground your justice work which, together, help us live up to who our values and principles call us to be – expand sanctuary, grow solidarity, raising your voice.

We recommend you visit the Love Resists website for ideas, resources and examples for how you and your congregation can participate in the campaign.

Sections of the website include:

  • An About Us section that describes the principles of the campaign, its values and the sponsoring and supporting organization. This campaign was created by the UUA, the UU Service Committee, the UU College of Social Justice and Standing on the Side of Love.
  • Sign your name to the Declaration of Conscience to commit to putting Unitarian Universalist values into action to resist hate, fear and bigotry. Get regular email updates, opportunities and stories from this joint initiative of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) and the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC).
  • A section on Expanding Sanctuary.  As people of conscience, we declare our commitment to translate our values into action as we stand on the side of love with the most vulnerable among us. Find how you can act in solidarity by promoting sanctuary, safe spaces for people under threat.  Includes examples for policies, lists of sanctuary communities you can connect with, and resources to help you learn more about this action.
  • Recommendations for Expanding Solidarity. People of faith and conscience know now is the time grow relationships of solidarity between those who are being targeted because of their identities and those who identify as their allies. This solidarity is most effective when we listen to and make central the leadership, insights, and experiences of people who are most threatened by a history of injustice and the current political climate.
  • Spiritual Centering resources for those working towards justice. As the long arc of the universe bends towards justice, it is our spiritual and moral center that keeps us grounded. In this section, you will find wellsprings of hope, inspirational words and stories, and prayers and meditations to carry with you on the journey.
  • Tips for Leading Congregations as they navigate these decisions and this work. Religious communities and congregations are rising up to take action all over the country. People of faith and conscience know that we cannot remain silent when our values are threatened, and that we must work together to push back. Here are key resources for people who are in a professional or lay leadership role in congregations, to help them mobilize their community through the Love Resists Campaign to raise their voice, grow solidarity and expand sanctuary.
  • Find Love Resists Updates for current actions and calls for what are current issues that need immediate attention due to the issues being taken up by Congress and the President. The current action involves the possible cancellation of DACA.

How can we as Unitarian Universalists adequately respond to the challenges to our communities? We say #LoveResists.




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