The message below went out on Sunday, January 22, 2012 to those Standing on the Side of Love supporters who signed up for daily Thirty Days of Love emails. You can sign-up for the 30 Days of Love emails here.
So many UU congregations have invigorated their social justice programs using the Standing on the Side of Love frame; and there are even a number of non-UU congregations that are proudly marching under the Standing on the Side of Love umbrella.
Organizing, including congregational organizing, is rooted in shared values and expressed in stories as a public narrative. Placed in the context of the present moment – a moment punctuated with the Arab Spring and the Occupy Movement – these shared values and our public narrative give direction and force to our efforts.
Today’s action is the following:
Gather after services, or plan another time, when your congregation can discuss your Story of Us and Story of Now. We have created a “Story of Us Story of Now” Guide to help you with the process. You can find this resource, and others, here.
Don’t forget — we want to hear your congregation’s story! Please share it with us at any point over the coming weeks. Click here to share your congregation’s story.
At the end of the Thirty Days, we will honor one congregation that shares their Story of Us with a free Standing on the Side of Love banner.
For those of us who are not affiliated with a congregation, today is still an ideal day to think about your story of us & now. For instance, who is your “us”? What communities do you feel you belong to? Remember, the “Story of Us, Story Now” Guide can certainly be used beyond congregations.
Finally – are there ways you could feel more connected to the Standing on the Side of Love community?
We hope this weekend is one of sharing, community, relaxation, and great meaning.
Standing on the Side LoveP.S. If you want to dig even deeper, The New Organizing Institute also has a great video resource for telling a Story of Us & Now: http://neworganizing.com/content/toolbox/story-of-us-and-now
P.P.S. Hopefully you didn’t miss this great story from Rev. Jake Morrill in Oak Ridge, TN with reflections about his community’s story of us and now.
The message below went out on Saturday, January 21, 2012 to Standing on the Side of Love supporters. You can sign-up for these emails here.
On January 10, this was one of the things on my “to-do” list: “Write Susan Leslie — community organizing resources.” As you probably know, Susan’s the Director of Congregational Advocacy at the UUA. The congregation I serve in Oak Ridge, Tennessee is part of a conversation getting started in our community for how things could be better for more people. I wanted Susan’s advice. I needed some help. Incredibly, on that very same day, I received a Standing on the Side of Love email from Susan, with a whole host of resources of the kind I’d been wanting. One of these was called, “The Story of Us, the Story of Now.”
To see why it so excited me, and to consider using this resource yourself, please click on this link.
Oak Ridge is a small city of 29,000 just outside of Knoxville. In recent years, what was once an enclave of mostly-white, middle-class employees of the federal facilities located here — an oasis of comfort — Oak Ridge has changed. While growing richer in diversity of class and race, Oak Ridge has steadily become a city with arising level of poverty-based suffering, without the resources or the strategies yet to meet it. For many, a sprawling, empty mall in the center of Oak Ridge, owned by an out-of-town developer, has become a symbol of decline. For congregations in town, the closing of Trinity United Methodist a few years ago, seemed to agree.
But within Oak Ridge, just like in your own community, there is also great resilience. And so, a couple of years ago, Oak Ridgers, led by another Methodist church here in town, organized a free medical clinic in the building where Trinity had once been. Soon, the clinic was serving the enormous, unmet medical needs in our community. Over at our Oak Ridge Unitarian Universalist Church, a few members organized the “Stone Soup” ministry, which offers free meals and a pantry to the hungry among us.
The habit in my city, as it may be in yours, is for different congregations to do their own ministry. But there is also a tradition of pulling together. For years, congregations have worked together to uphold the “Ecumenical Storehouse,” a ministry that provides furniture and housewares to those who need it. And for years, congregations have upheld “Tabitha’s Table,” over at Robertsville Baptist Church. The Unitarian Universalists have been in the thick of both. Still, for the most part, as in most communities, each congregation tends to do its own thing.
But, in recent months, something new seems to be stirring. Those inspired by, and involved in, the Free Medical Clinic are wondering how else that sprawling old building that used to house Trinity could serve the community. Two small congregations–a progressive Baptist congregation of mostly white people and an Apostolic congregation of mostly Latinos–have moved into the space. Now, ORUUC’s “Stone Soup” ministry looks likely to relocate, so we serve folks up there, where they’re already showing up for free medical care; a craft-fair fundraiser in December will help prepare the Trinity kitchen for community ministry. There was an uplifting, interfaith Thanksgiving service at Trinity that brought together five congregations. And then, on New Year’s Day, more celebration and fellowship with a city-wide choir-fest at ORUUC.
As we, of different congregations, have begun to wonder together, our conversations have often widened out from the question of how we could develop ministries of service together based in the old Trinity building. Some of us have begun to wonder whether congregations could coordinate in broader ways. Could even, perhaps, challenge the norms of the city that leave so many without access to basic services like enough food. And besides working in isolation, one of the norms, of course, is for congregations to “do-for” in ministry instead of the harder work of “doing-with.”
To do things differently is never easy. But these new conversations inspire me with a sense of possibility. What’s more, the Standing on the Side of Love resource, “The Story of Us, the Story of Now”— which you can click on here — fills me with actual hope.
It fills me with hope because I serve a faith that says that what will save us — the power of love — lies waiting already within us, between us, and all around us. And I have seen how sharing stories can bring forth that love, can bring forth creative, sustainable cooperation that might not have otherwise been possible. This can happen by gathering people in the same room. But the collective visioning process I found in “The Story of Us, the Story of Now” invites people to share stories with more intention, to likely far greater effect. That’s why, in the coming weeks, leaders of congregations in Oak Ridge will gather to deepen the conversation that we have started.
On behalf of the Standing on the Side of Love campaign, I invite you to embark on a similar conversation in your community. Click here to download the Story of Us, Story of Now guide so you can schedule a time to put it to use in your congregation and community.
In the coming months, I look forward to telling a new story about things in Oak Ridge. And I look forward to hearing the new stories already welling up where you live.
Jake Bohstedt Morrill
Rev. Jake Bohstedt Morrill
Oak Ridge Unitarian Universalist Church
The message below went out on Saturday, January 21, 2012 to those Standing on the Side of Love supporters who signed up for daily Thirty Days of Love emails. You can sign-up for the 30 Days of Love emails here.
Love is not concerned
with whom you pray
or where you slept
the night you ran away
Love is concerned
that the beating of your heart
should kill no one.
On occasion, I’m taken aback by the incendiary rhetoric I see posted to the Standing on the Side of Love blog or to our Facebook page comments section. The name-calling can be rabid, caustic. It’s not difficult to understand where it’s coming from. When Rick Santorum spews more homophobic rhetoric and Sherriff Joe Arpaio is accused of yet another flagrant human rights violation, we are appalled, angry, and often personally aggrieved. It’s really tough for some of us – myself included – not to lash out in kind, using our words as weapons to express our frustration.
One of the reasons I love this campaign is that it’s about more than just our public witness, and the way we show up. I believe this campaign affects us individually. It has the power to change us. And I know this, because this campaign has changed me. Over the past 20 months, as my professional activism has moved through – and continues to move through — a new prism, a prism of love, I have developed a new mindfulness that what I say, how I feel, and what I do affects everything. Sometimes it’s still more difficult for me to open my heart to love than to choose the angry, defensive path. But as a result of Standing on the Side of Love, I am far more mindful of my words and actions than ever before in my life. For that, I give great thanks.
Today’s active reflection is about the power of our words:
When was the last time you spoke (emailed, etc.) unlovingly to someone?
What about the last time you spoke or wrote cruelly about someone?
What about people in your lives vs. strangers?
In each case, what was the root of your anger?
How can you remind yourself to promote more respectful rhetoric online, in your personal and professional interactions, and with yourself?
Share your answers with our community on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/SideofLove.
The two answers that inspire the most likes will win a free t-shirt, hat, or tote bag – your choice.
Today, I carry with me the 2nd Unitarian Universalist principle: “We affirm and promote justice, equity and compassion in human relations.”
Being the Change,
Standing on the Side Love
P.S. Thinking about the importance of words in our lives also got me thinking about broader issues about language in society, for example, how the press often uses “illegal” instead of “undocumented.” Check out this article from a few weeks back in the New York Times, “What if We Occupied Language.” I’m curious if it speaks to you as well (pun intended). An excerpt:
What if we transformed the meaning of occupy yet again? Specifically, what if we thought of Occupy Language as more than the language of the Occupy movement, and began to think about it as a movement in and of itself? What kinds of issues would Occupy Language address? What would taking language back from its self-appointed “masters” look like? We might start by looking at these questions from the perspective of race and discrimination, and answer with how to foster fairness and equality in that realm.
Read the full article: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/12/21/what-if-we-occupied-language/
Click here to read some of the beautiful coming out stories we received in response to this post.
I came out of the closet in 1994, almost 18 years ago. The year I told family and friends I was gay, I also gained about 75 pounds to give myself some extra protection from the cruelty of the world, and to cradle the shame of being gay. My battle with food began when I was younger; but it wasn’t until I was also struggling with depression, drug abuse, and compulsive spending that my eating became truly out of control. After college, and a lot of personal work, I dropped the weight and adopted a much healthier lifestyle. For the most part, I have maintained a stable weight ever since. But I am, and will always be, a compulsive eater.
This term has little resonance with people. Folks understand bulimia and anorexia, but compulsive eating is a foreign concept, or something they equate with going overboard during the holidays. Trust me – it’s not. Honestly, I prefer not to talk about it, or to try to explain to people what it means to be “abstinent” from compulsive eating, or what a “trigger food” is. But there are times when I discover a shared bond with someone – a friend, an acquaintance – who also lives with food addiction and struggles, as I do, to overcome compulsive eating and remain present in their own life. So, I come out of the closet to them as a compulsive eater, and I share my experiences with them to let them know they are not alone.
Today’s action is about “Coming Out” and sharing our personal struggles:
“Coming Out” about our own struggles and challenges is an act of Courageous Love. Consider the broader definition of “coming out.” By sharing our vulnerabilities and our authentic selves—whether or not what we are disclosing is identity-based—we can help others on their own path.
Sharing something personal to help others is so brave, and receiving that story is a special gift. Today, share something that might help or inspire others.
Share your inspiration with our community on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/SideofLove.
For each of the questions we pose this week, the two responses that inspire the most FB ‘likes’ will receive a free t-shirt, hat, or canvas bag.
Some of the bravest examples of “coming out” I can think of involve DREAMers – undocumented youth hoping for a brighter future and advocating for passage of the DREAM Act; or the well-publicized story of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas; or those young LGBT people who sue their school for the right to take a same-gender romantic partner to the prom.
Today, will you consider sharing a part of yourself?
Being the Change,
Standing on the Side Love
P.S. Check out some highlights of how congregations kicked off their Thirty Days of Love by commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day: http://www.standingonthesideoflove.org/blog/kicking_off_30_days_of_love_in_mlk_spirit/
The message below went out on Friday, January 20, 2012 to those Standing on the Side of Love supporters who signed up for daily Thirty Days of Love emails. You can sign-up for the 30 Days of Love emails here. More >
Michigan UUs were part of a “Gay Families Matter” rally January 18th on the steps of Michigan’s Capital in Lansing. The Standing on the Side of Love Banner, brought by UUs from the First UU Congregation in Ann Arbor, was up front and center as part of this rally.
The rally, attended by at least 200 people, was designed to protest a new law passed by the Michigan legislature and signed by Governor Rick Snyder that took away health care and other domestic partner benefits for state employees. As important as that issue is, the rally was also a demand for respect for Michigan’s gay community and their allies. One of the leaders of the rally also emphasized how important it is that straight allies go public on behalf of LGBT rights.
This week the Michigan UU Social Justice Network published its new Interfaith LGBTQ Toolkit. To start using it, go to: www.uujustice.org. This Toolkit went to the printer today and will be mailed to 400 faith groups this month.
Randy Block, Director
Michigan UU Social Justice Network