Piedmont Park was covered with something besides pollen last week. Youths, parents, and activists marched, sang, and supported the gay and Jewish community with signs saying “God loves Glitter” and “Peace, Love, and Tolerance.” Of course, we had our Standing on the Side of Love signs! Fellow seminary students carried signs saying “God is love!”
Thursday afternoon a lot of teens from Grady High School in Atlanta and community activists converged into a wonderful counter-witness to the hate-filled messages of Westboro Baptist Church. The church members had horrible signs, “God Hates Jews”, “Fags Hate God”, and other horrible language. A youth from Grady High School found out that Westboro would be protesting at their school so she helped to organize a counter-protest. Over 800 people responded on Facebook and there were hundreds that came.
We took this moment to bring our Standing on the Side of Love signs and join other faith groups, local teens, and activist in a peaceful witness to love. I really enjoyed meeting some of the parents of the high schoolers that spoke supportively of teen efforts to organize and get their message out. One parent said, “How can I not support my daughter, when she is supporting two friends that came out in high school.” This may have been the first protest for many of these teens and they conducted themselves with good spirit and peaceful enthusiasm despite the hateful message they were protesting.
It was a great day to see the power of all ages and types of people coming together in spite of hate. It was a testament to the power of people gathered in the name of love. Even the police doing crowd control couldn’t help smiling a little.
I attended an interfaith Immigration Reform vigil and rally on Sunday, May 9th in Delaware, OH. Why tiny Delaware? Because John McCain was speaking at the commencement exercises at Ohio Wesleyan University, and we were asking the Senator to move back to his earlier position of supporting comprehensive immigration reform rather than Arizona-style drastic measures. The crowd – about 100 strong – was also very vocal about its opposition to bringing any kind of Arizona-style law to Ohio.
We carried our “Standing on the Side of Love” banner, and the folks from the Delaware Unitarian Universalist Fellowship brought their congregational banner too. Church World Services helped organize the event, and the attendees included a Methodist bishop, an Ohio Wesleyan University professor, students from the Methodist Theological School, and members of Presbyterian, United Church of Christ, Catholic and Unitarian Universalist congregations. It was a really nice mixture of people from a variety of faith traditions, all working together – effectively – in common cause.
Several speakers told their personal stories, including the mother of two-month-old Ariana. Ariana’s father was deported just before Mother’s Day, leaving a devastated young mother and grandparents to care for the newborn – one more example of a family torn apart by our country’s unjust and inconsistent immigration laws.
The great Dorothy Day once said, “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. A pebble case into a pond causes ripples that spread in all directions…No one has the right to sit down and feel hopeless. There’s too much work to do.”
Those of us gathered here are like those pebbles. We spread justice in all directions when we stand on the side of love with immigrant brothers and sisters, when we stand on the side of love with those who society rejects. With the help of God and one another, let’s take our love out into the world, send our ripples out in all directions, and know that we can make a difference. Amen.
In retrospect, I wasn’t nearly as articulate or as poetic as I would have liked, but I meant what I said. This event confirmed again, for me, that we need one another. If we are serious about changing our society and healing our world, Unitarian Universalists need the United Church of Christ folk and the Methodists and Church World Services and others. And they need us. I believe that the progressive elements in our various faith traditions are called to stand together on the side of love as we work to build the Beloved Community. We are all in this together.
Rev. Joan Van Becelaere is District Executive of the Ohio-Meadville District of the Unitarian Universalist Association.More >
The message below went out to Standing on the Side of Love supporters. Sign-up for these emails here.
Immigration in the United States isn’t about what happens on Capitol Hill, it is about my neighborhood.
Not long ago, the Virginia county in which I serve as minister, enacted among this country’s strongest mandates for local enforcement of federal immigration law. County law enforcement officials were deputized to check the immigration status of any citizen, just like in Arizona.
In a short time, my neighbors began to fear one another and the police. Children living on the same block with different national origins started to wonder if they should even play together. Law enforcement officers feared that they would be rendered incapable of doing their jobs underneath the additional burden.
I know that local enforcement of federal immigration law tears communities apart. I have seen it with my own eyes, and both my neighbors and I are still afraid.
But change is possible.
Neighbors and law enforcement officers spoke out and our local mandate was challenged in court. In the end, the mandate was moderated in compliance with federal law. Now, our community is slowly healing.
Rev. Nancy McDonald Ladd
Bull Run Unitarian Universalists
Throughout most of my life, I wasn’t much of a demonstrator. I was raised to be a quiet kid who followed all the rules and tried her best never to make trouble. I used to associate marches and rallies with extremism and fanaticism, and anything that smacked of groupthink made me nervous. But since moving back to the East Coast and joining First Parish in Cambridge, I’ve found myself attending these events with greater frequency and looking at them with new eyes. Trying to effect change means breaking the rules—it’s often hard, scary, and lonely. It’s important for us to know we’re not alone, and it’s important for us to speak for those who cannot. There is power in numbers.
So it was an amazing experience to be with my fellow justice-seekers last Saturday as we joined with thousands of immigrants, workers, and allies to march from Everett City Hall to Chelsea City Hall and onto LoPresti Park in East Boston. Boston and Chelsea are both sanctuary cities and part of Welcoming Massachusetts with Everett’s city council considering the resolutions. A sharp contrast to the situation in Arizona, where an anti-immigrant bill was just signed into law by the governor. It was a beautiful May Day and the sun shone throughout the four hour march and rally. People lined the streets cheering and waving and motorists honked their cars, raised their fists and blew us kisses. Our contingent, which included other UUs from congregations in Medford, Jamaica Plain, Wellesley, and Community and Arlington Street Churches, was carrying a large banner proclaiming Standing on the Side of Love with Immigrant Families. We were continuously greeted with applause, cheers, and smiles. Members of Interfaith Worker Justice and the New Sanctuary Movement marched with us as well as other folks who joined up on the spot. I was so proud to be in the company of so many wonderful, beautiful, and courageous people.
At the rally, our minister, Rev. Fred Small, said, “Love knows no borders. Love is one. And we are one—all of us: one people, one life, one heart (full remarks here).”
And Fred, along with the Rev. Alan Juárez, pastor of Iglesia Cristiana Nueva Vida, spoke a litany, in part praying for Arizona immigrants, “Pero en especial queremos recordar a nuestros hermanos y hermanas en Arizona que están pasando por la peor discriminación racial y penalidad en la historia del Estado de Arizona. And especially for our brothers and sisters in Arizona living in fear of arrest and prosecution under racially discriminatory legislation (full litany here).”
As the daughter of immigrants myself, it meant so much to be standing with my faith community in solidarity with the immigrant community. It’s especially in hard times that people on the margins get scapegoated and so it’s more important than ever to get the message out that what we need now is policies that help people, not harm them. So yes, call me a fanatic—for justice. Call me an extremist—for compassion. Because love knows no borders; that’s why my congregation is standing on the side of love with immigrant families.More >
Rev. Fred Small delivered these remarks on May Day after marching with thousands of others through Everett, Chelsea and East Boston.
I am Rev. Fred Small, Senior Minister of First Parish in Cambridge, Unitarian Universalist, a multifaith, spirit-filled congregation devoted to love and justice. This September my church will welcome as our new Associate Minister Rev. Lilia Cuervo, our first Latina minister. I bring greetings also from the Unitarian Universalist Association and its president Rev. Peter Morales, our first Latino president.
Soy el Reverendo Fred Small. Soy el Ministro Decano de la First Parish en Cambridge, Unitaria Universalista. Somos una congregación con muchas creencias, llena del espíritu y dedicada al amor y a la justicia. El próximo septiembre damos la bienvenida a la Reverenda Lilia Cuervo como nuestra primera ministra latina. También traigo saludos de la Asociación Unitaria Universalista y de su presidente, el Reverendo Peter Morales, nuestro primer presidente latino.
Unitarian Universalists stand on the side of love, because love does not take sides. Love knows no borders. Love is one. And we are one—all of us: one people, one life, one heart.
Los Unitarios Universalistas toman partido por el amor, porque el amor no toma partidos. El amor no conoce fronteras. El amor es uno. Y nosotros somos uno—todos nosotros: un pueblo, una vida, un corazón.
Rev. Small and Rev. Alan Juárez, pastor of Iglesia Cristiana Nueva Vida, spoke this litany:
We invite you into a moment of silent reverence:
Por todos los inmigrantes que murieron tratando de cruzar la frontera
For immigrants who have lost their lives trying to cross the border
Por los obreros que han muerto en accidentes de trabajo
For immigrants injured on the job because of unsafe conditions
Por los soldados ciudadanos e inmigrantes que han muerto durante la guerra
For immigrant citizens and soldiers who have given their lives for this country on the battlefield
Queremos también recordar a todos los estudiantes jóvenes inmigrantes que son el futuro de nuestras comunidades y a quienes todavía se les niega el acceso a la educación universitaria en Massachusetts
For young immigrant students still struggling for access to higher education in Massachusetts
Las familias que sufren las consecuencias de las redadas que conduce la migra en nuestras comunidades
For immigrant families suffering the consequences of ICE raids in our communities
Los obreros que están demandado Justicia en los Supermercados Shaws
For the workers demanding justice from Shaw’s Supermarkets
Las victimas de desalojo y embargo que han perdido su propiedades
For all the homeowners and tenants who are losing their homes in the foreclosure crisis
Pero en especial queremos recordar a nuestros hermanos y hermanas en Arizona que están pasando por la peor discriminación racial y penalidad en la historia del Estado de Arizona.
And especially for our brothers and sisters in Arizona living in fear of arrest and prosecution under racially discriminatory legislation.More >