Phil Wheeler is the Board of Directors President for the 1st UU of Rochester Minnesota.
Asked by a friend from Virginia if we march for MLK Day up here in the frozen north, I told her, “Yes we march in Minnesota, when its 10 below, hip deep in snow, up hill and into the wind the whole time!”"
There is some exaggeration in this description. On Martin Luther King Day, the snow was only slush underfoot; the temperature was below zero degrees only in Celsius, not Fahrenheit; and the parade route is not hilly in the sense of actually having hills. Nevertheless, more than forty UUs from the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Rochester, Minnesota, were out there, bundled up and wearing our “standing on the side of love” paraphernalia, warm yellow scarves of love made by the caring crafters of our congregation, marching and singing in memory of the heroes of the civil rights movement and in demonstration of our commitment to the unfinished struggle.
On the day before at Sunday Service were heard the stories of our own neighbors, of racial discrimination, the fate of our immigrant brothers and sisters and the struggle of a young lesbian couple whose marriage is not recognized in our state. The struggle is far from over. Dr. King’s dream, and the dream of the other heroes of the civil rights movement, is the American Dream, the dream of equal opportunity and equal justice for all.
We sometimes think of Rochester as being special, perhaps; however, our school district is fifth highest in the state in the number of low income children, and 25% of our households are paying too much (more than 30% of their income) for housing. We need to increase the supply of affordable housing and/or increase the wages of low-wage workers, and we need to avoid segregating people in poverty.
But if you ever get involved in trying to draw school attendance boundaries so as to integrate minority and low-income students in neighborhood schools, you will find that the effort meets with resistance, even when the impact on busing costs is neutral. And of course, if our neighborhoods were integrated by race and income, the effort would be needless. The notions that equal opportunity entails increasing access to affordable housing, providing for affordable housing in all neighborhoods, and ensuring that children of all backgrounds have a decent chance to succeed in school remains controversial.
I am proud to march with so many UUs, proud of our congregation’s work on social justice issues, proud that we publicly advocate for the rights of others and very glad to see that we and others in our community carry on the struggle for justice. May we keep our eyes on the prize and keep on keeping on.
Board of Directors President
1st UU of Rochester, Minnesota
Submitted by Susan Leslie, UUA Director of Congregations Advocacy
Unitarian Universalist congregations around the country observed the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday at worship services and community events. This year’s events reflected a special urgency and poignancy as they were held in the wake of the tragedy in Tucson.
First Unitarian Church, Portland Oregon, along with the Albina Ministerial Alliance, Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon and Ceasefire Oregon, sponsored a peace service on Friday, Jan. 14, at First Unitarian in downtown Portland to launch a gun-free zone initiative in the city.
Senior Minister Rev. William Sinkford read a statement from the UUA President Peter Morales:
We must rededicate ourselves to creating a culture where differences are resolved without violence, where the mentally unstable do not have ready access to lethal force … Let this weekend be a chance to come together in community, in peace, and in solidarity with each other. Whether we share the same faith, agree on the issues of the day, or face the same challenges, on this day let us stand together on the side of love.
The service was held on the same day as a memorial service for slain Rainier Police Chief Ralph Painter and during the same week that a gunman killed six and injured 14 outside a grocery store in Tucson, Ariz. “Gun Free Zone” banners, window posters, purple light bulbs for stopping gang violence, and Standing on the Side of Love placards were distributed at the service.
The interfaith event featured religious leaders from several faith traditions and gospel singer Marilyn Keller gave a moving performance.
The Bergen County, New Jersey Birthday Celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “Keeping the Dream Alive,” at Temple Emeth in Teaneck, NJ, featured the Rev. Dr. Matt Tittle, Minister of Central Unitarian Church in Paramus.
Along with members of the two congregations were various city officials and U.S. Representative Steve Rothman (D-NJ).
Rev. Tittle said:
Although we have achieved much in the past 43 years, we have not achieved as much as we could have. We are making progress, but we have not fully realized Dr. King’s dreams. We have seldom ventured to the mountaintop, and have yet to see the promised land. Last week, in Tucson, Arizona, it seemed that dreams, mountaintops and promised lands were completely out of reach as a lone gunmen killed six people and wounded a dozen more. Our dreams are too often shattered and yet we must continue to have faith and hope in the face of such extreme tragedy….From the mountaintop one sees communities building lives together. Dr. King was clear that his work was that of building a beloved community.
First Parish Cambridge MA Unitarian Universalist held “Calming the Waters: A Candlelight Vigil for Peace and Civility” on the evening of the MLK Holiday “in response to the recent violence in Tucson and Islamabad and the inflammatory rhetoric that strains the bonds of community.”
A group of forty people came to together on the front steps of the meetinghouse and lit candles in the dark, sang songs of peace, and prayed for the victims of violence, for their friends and family, and for right relations among all people, whatever our political viewpoint.
A large Standing on the Side of Love banner graced the scene.
Rev. Fred Small, Senior Minister, said:
On this day commemorating the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. we are called once again to reflect upon his dream of Beloved Community and his message of nonviolence. Dr. King believed deeply in both the possibility and the necessity of people of different colors, backgrounds, and beliefs living together in mutual respect, tolerance, and yes even love…Jared Loughner, who killed six people in Tucson nine days ago, clearly suffers from a terrible mental disorder. But he does not live in a vacuum. All of us are influenced by coarse and combative rhetoric. All of us are responsible for calming the waters. Dr. King lived his Christian faith by loving his enemies. Whatever our faith, we must cultivate compassion and nonviolence of the heart for the sake of civil society and our own spiritual wellbeing. In the spirit of Dr. King, we gather this afternoon to call ourselves and our neighbors to build and to live the Beloved Community.
The names of all those who were killed in Tucson and the governor assassinated in Islamabad, followed by the names of the men who shot them were read. After each name a gong was sounded, and participants were invited to silently pray and bless both the victims and the perpetrators of violence, “that all their souls may be held in the light, as we remember that in the eyes of God their souls are equally cherished”More >
The Freedom From Fear Award is a new national award that will honor fifteen ordinary people who have committed extraordinary acts of
courage on behalf of immigrants and refugees—individuals who have taken a risk, set an example, and inspired others to awareness or
The award seeks to honor unsung heroes who are not professional advocates. Based on nominations from people like you, awardees will receive a $5,000 cash award.More >
Reverend Kirk Loadman-Copeland is a minster at First Univeralist Church of Denver.
The message below went out to Standing on the Side of Love supporters on Thursday, January 13. You can sign-up for these emails here.
As National Standing on the Side of Love Day approaches, I ask for your urgent help for a family in our congregation who exemplifies courageous love. Unlike most married couples, Raul and Judy Cardenas live with the looming fact that their family will soon be torn apart.
Raul Cardenas is one of us — a devoted father, husband, home owner — and faithfully married for eight years to Judy, an American citizen. He is also an “undocumented worker” from Mexico with no legal path to citizenship.
In April 2011, Raul is scheduled to be deported by the Department of Homeland Security. Together, we may be able to stop his deportation.
Raul and Judy need your help! Please watch this video to hear their story, then call Homeland Security today at 1.202.282.8495 to ask that Raul’s deportation be halted.
Reverend Kirk Loadman-Copeland
First Universalist Church of Denver
P.S. Time is of the essence. Please click here to view the video and take action today: http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/1272/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=5540More >