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At its best, this is a season of generosity, peace, and most of all, love. It is a time to reconnect with our loved ones and strengthen our communities’ bonds. From the Thanksgiving table to the final seconds of 2009, we are expected to treat our neighbors with the utmost respect and love. Thankfully, this time around, the season of love does not have to end on January 1st.
On February 14th, we will reimagine Valentine’s Day by celebrating National Standing on the Side of Love Day. Congregations across the nation will participate in a day of worship and practice works of love.
National Standing on the Side of Love Day empowers each congregation to take action on issues that matter locally, and to pursue strategies that are effective and meaningful to each. We also ask for three simple things from you. Take a picture of you standing on the side of love, send us the picture, and take a collection to provide this campaign with essential resources to effect positive social change and justice in your community.
I know this is a busy season, so I thought I’d give you a heads up about Valentine’s Day Reimagined before December flies by. In the weeks ahead, I have two office parties, a Hanukkah party, and then I’m off to Minnesota to spend solstice and Christmas with my fiancé’s family. As I remember the many blessings in my life during this season, the privilege of managing this remarkable campaign and working with all of you will be at the top of my list (and I’ll be checking it twice).
Jason Lydon is the Congregational Director of the Community Church of Boston
On Sunday November 22nd I had the opportunity to attend a vigil and rally outside of South Bay Detention Center in Boston, Massachusetts. As the congregational leader of the Community Church of Boston, I brought seven members of my congregation to join with nearly a dozen religious and secular organizations to stand with immigrants who are being targeted by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement).
We gathered together in prayer, filled with love and righteous anger. Outside the jail speakers imparted the horrors of our current immigration policies. Inside the windows of the jail, we could see prisoners waving to us, making signs with their names, pleading for support and justice. After a short gathering we marched around the jail chanting:
Stop the raids and deportations, immigrant justice now!
Open the doors and let the people out!
What do we want? Amnesty!
When do we want it? Now!
After marching around the jail, we walked up a bridge to get a better view of the wing where the ICE detainees are held. As we looked out to them, continuing our chants, holding the Standing on the Side of Love banner, we could read in one window, “Free Us” and another said “Keep Fighting.” This clear call for action was put in the window with toilet paper. As we were reaching in, the people behind the walls were reaching out. One of our crew had a visit scheduled for during the rally. She reported back to us that the other visitors were inspired and moved by our presence, even highlighting their delight with the “Standing on the Side of Love” banner.
Love must be the inspiration behind this work.
When I was able to quiet my body and listen to my heart, I could tap into the overwhelming feelings of love. Love that I have for the people locked up; love that I have for the families of those impacted by our violent immigration policies; love that I have for our movement struggling for transformation; love that I can send to those in power that they may make different choices to stop this cycle of harm.
South Bay is just one jail and the 22nd was just one day but we can find strength in knowing that indeed, we will be back!
The event was sponsored by our New Sanctuary Movement Coalition and we partnered with Interfaith Worker Justice and the Resist the Raids Coalition. Over 60 clergy, seminarians and leaders gathered from First Church UU of Jamaica Plain, Arlington Street Church UU of Boston, Brighton-Allston Congregational Church, Church of the Covenant, Boston, First Parish Church in Cambridge (UU), Paulist Center, Saint Cecilia Parish, Back Bay; Saint Monica–Saint Augustine Parish, South Boston, and the Unitarian Universalist Church of Medford. We are starting a visitation program and we plan to visit an immigrant in detention once a month while continuing our vigils.
You can download additional pictures from the event here.More >
Rev. Amanda Poppei is the Senior Leader at the Washington Ethical Society, a member of both the American Ethical Union and the Unitarian Universalist Association.
It turns out my best ice-breaker with a rabbi these days is, “So, how do you feel about same-sex marriage?”
Just 15 months into my leadership at the Washington Ethical Society—my first settlement after seminary—I’ve been trying to get to know other clergy in DC, beginning the process of building interfaith relationships, and mostly just figuring out which minister goes with which church! But my goal to build interfaith community has gotten a huge boost in the past six months as I’ve joined with DC Clergy United for Marriage Equality, an interfaith coalition led by Rev. Rob Hardies from All Souls Church Unitarian, Washington D.C., and Rev. Dennis Wiley from Covenant Baptist. We’ve been working to support marriage equality here in the District, and we can see our goal in sight: the City Council has taken the first vote to support full equality (11-2!) and has a second, confirmation vote before it goes to the mayor to sign it into law.
Somewhere early on I was charged with reaching out to the Jewish community—which is how we get to the ice-breaker I’ve been using when I call up the synagogues in town and ask their clergy to join our coalition. The response has been tremendous, and the new relationships I’ve built are exciting. The payoff was especially meaningful at an interfaith celebration in November, when people of faith from across the District came together to raise their voices in song, prayer, and some good old-fashioned shouting, calling for equality for all District residents. We heard that night from choirs, church members, ministers, and two rabbis, all saying the same thing: that their religion was one of fairness, of respect, and of love.
Speaking of love, guess who else was there that night? Standing of the Side of Love t-shirts blanketed the audience, the banner beckoned people in, and the volunteers welcome the congregation and helped everyone find a seat in the packed sanctuary. In his welcome, the pastor of the historic Methodist church which hosted the celebration picked up on the perfect line he’d read on some yellow t-shirts on his way in and told the whole crowd that he was standing on the side of love, too. It was just the right thing to say that night, as we celebrated faith, marriage, and the dream of a world where all people have the right to live and love as their hearts lead the way.
Below is video from Soulful Voices for Marriage Equality, an event sponsored by DC Clergy United for Marriage Equality.More >
Rev. Allison Farnum, Minister, Unitarian Universalist Church in Ft. Myers, FL, reports on Dec 6th CIW Walk for Farmworker Justice
Compañeros, compañeras, students, youth, families, people of faith gathered in solidarity with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) in the Campaign for Fair Food Sunday Dec. 6th, in Lakeland, FL. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers is a community-based group that works on creating humane conditions and fair pay for those who harvest the fields of Immokalee, Florida: tomatoes, oranges, watermelon. You may remember them from a time when you boycotted Taco Bell or McDonald’s or Burger King. All of these major fast-food retailers have come to the table and made agreements with CIW to pay an extra penny per pound for the tomatoes they buy. Moreoever, they agree to a code of ethics stating that signed-on retailers will not buy from growers who have abuses and slavery in their fields.
And Lakeland? Lakeland is the corporate headquarters for Publix Supermarkets, (the 4th largest privately-owned company in the United States, recently reported in Forbes Magazine). Publix purchases some of their tomatoes from two large Florida tomato growers who have had documented cases of slavery in their fields. CIW has asked Publix Supermarkets to come to the table to talk about the tomatoes they buy. Publix has responded with silence and surveillance, not the friendliest of gestures. The biggest disappointment is that Publix has a green initiative as well as an image of caring about its surrounding community. Yet as Publix officials turn their backs on slavery in the fields, turn their backs on poverty, the more Publix seems disingenuous. As time passes, the real agenda of cold, hard cash becomes as plain as a tomato ripens red.
Que haya justicia! or May there be justice! the gathered cried out. Renewing our energies in la lucha, the struggle, we celebrated with music, dance, and speeches, including social activists Kerry Kennedy and Stetson Kennedy. After a year of victories for the CIW, still this struggle seems so daunting. As children of workers and allies gathered on the stage, I wondered how many more struggles and actions and rallies would their futures hold. How many more large corporations will they have to face, saying, “Look at me. I have dignity. I am worthy of your respect.”
As we think about eating ethically, forget not the hands who picked the food, the lungs who breathe the pesticide, the backs who haul 32 lb tomato buckets at 40 cents a load. Visit Interfaith Action of Southwest Florida’s website to learn more about the tomatoes at supermarkets near you. And looking at the bigger picture, as the Standing on the Side of Love Campaign reminds us, know your community and make relationships that support those who are constantly struggling to be shown respect, to be humanized- you will render yourself more human and worthy of respect in the process. We will make our presence known as allies and supporters of the tomato pickers and stand on the side of love.More >
At the end of September, my partner and I celebrated our tenth anniversary together. In that time, we’ve endured job searches, health scares, buying a house, and starting to plan a family. We’ve stuck together through seven years of seminary education (not an easy feat—ask any minister you know) and a move to the largest metropolitan area in our nation. Upon arriving in New York in 2007, we were told that it was only a matter of time before our home state would allow us to marry one another. Unfortunately, we’re still waiting.
Earlier today, the New York State Senate put our dream of a Hudson Valley wedding complete with full legal recognition on hold indefinitely. By a surprisingly large margin, our Senate defeated a bill to enact marriage equality here in the Empire State—a bill supported by our Governor and passed three times already by our State Assembly. Thirty-eight (of sixty-two) Senators voted “no,” including mine, who got a piece of my mind within minutes of his vote.
It’s not about politics here: in poll after poll, a clear majority of New Yorkers stand on the side of love in favor of full marriage equality. Allies on this issue come from all racial, ethnic and class backgrounds. From the rural upstate counties to suburbs to the cities, New Yorkers support my right to marry.
So many of us watched, hoped, and prayed that New York’s Senate would bend the moral arc of the universe a little more toward justice this week. Instead, New York became the latest state where fear has beaten love, where intolerance has triumphed over equality, where ignorance reigns over courage. New York became the latest place where the civil rights of same-sex couples were voted on—and the latest place where they were defeated.
I will admit: I’m tired of it. I’m tired of having my civil rights voted on. I’m tired of paying more in taxes because my partner and I can’t have our relationship recognized by our government. I’m tired of worrying with every ache and pain, with every trip to the doctor that one of us will end up in the hospital alone. Worse yet, that one of us will die before we can get married, making the survivor liable for inheritance tax on half our house’s value.
I’m also tired of being told “It’s nothing personal. I love gay people; I’m just opposed to letting them marry.” As I wrote on my personal blog last week, we’ve heard that old argument before, with different words in it. “I can’t be racist, some of my best friends are Black and Latino,” says the politician against voting rights. “I care about that interracial couple, that’s why I won’t sign their marriage license,” says the judge defending his discrimination.
For me and my partner and millions of loving, committed same-sex couples around New York State, it’s deeply personal. It hurts. A lot. And so it’s a sad day in New York for everyone standing on the side of love.More >