Unitarian Universalists from all around the country left General Assembly filled with loving kindness and wanting to work for justice.
Imagine the almost 4,000 Unitarian Universalists who gather in Phoenix. We sing, worship, learn, grow, and keep vigil for Immigration Justice and build Beloved Community.
Beloved Community was Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s favored words for the global vision in which all people can share in the wealth of the earth.
At Justice General Assembly we glimpse beloved community as people from identity groups who are often invisible are visible in leadership roles ~ youth, people of color, LGBTQ people, people in scooters.
Beloved Community grows when we hear each other’s stories.
We meet on holy ground whenever we listen respectfully, lovingly with people different from ourselves.
We are invited to be caring in our speech, to speak differences respectfully, give listeners and ourselves dignity.
As we listen with our hearts open, we grow to say, “I see you. I love you.”
So much goes on in each human life. Some people’s pain is visible, others invisible.
We hold all of us in compassion.
Nearly 4,000 UUs sat in silence.
We sang “May I be filled with loving kindness…
may you be filled with loving kindness…
May we be filled with loving kindness,”
and we practiced kindness toward one another.
These messages were given over and over.
To build the world we dream of,
we start when we practice it in our communities,
embody it in our meetings, in our care for one another.
Let go of always trying to direct, lead or solve.
Be willing to follow.
Be willing to partner with others.
Listening is as important as speaking.
At Justice General Assembly UUs partner with and learn from non-Unitarian Universalists who lead work in Phoenix for immigration justice.
As we learn about immigration, the stories are complex; we remember human beings have always moved and migrated for opportunity, some out of desperation.
Moses and his people migrated into the Promised Land. Jesus and his family fled persecution, migrating into another country. We remember the pilgrims and this country’s Thanksgiving story and the migration stories of our own families and the families of our friends.
Investigative reporter and Public Radio host Maria Hinojosa offered the Justice GA Ware Lecture. Maria Hinojosa named facts of detention centers, dormitories without windows, no clean drinking water, no books, no television, poor food and health care, dirty, stained prison clothes, maggots, lice, bedbugs, rats, sexual assaults by guards.
A detained woman she met told her of women forced to strip down and wait lined up for showers.
The woman felt like she was in the movie Schindler’s List.
This in the United States of America.
Our hearts break open to the suffering.
Hinojosa asks, as demographics are shifting in the U.S., as there becomes what’s sometimes called “the browning of America,” should white Americans be afraid of becoming a minority? Only, she says, if minorities continue to be treated as they have been.
Leaders like Starr King School President Rebecca Parker lift up affirmations to ground work for social justice in the goodness of this world. Universalist social justice activist Clarence Skinner called us to “accept the world for the joyous place it is supposed to be.”
Affirm salvation as a possibility here and now. Seek joy in living simply so others can simply live.
Universalist leader Gordon McKeeman, who was a member of this congregation while he was President of Starr King School, said
“Universalists believe all of us are going to end up in heaven so we might as well learn to get along with each other now.” Begin here.
Affirm the interconnection of all life.
Community is where we become whole.
We affirm the possibilities of each person, the inherent worth and dignity.
Each of us has power and gifts to give.
When you feel valued, you want to contribute. We were invited to cultivate kindness and humility, to look around and smile at one another. Let’s try it here, now.
I invite you to rise as you are able and look kindly at one another.
Unitarian Universalists believe in the power of love.
Love grows our capacity to discern what will enable the thriving of life… when to remain silent, when to speak, where to act.
Former President of the Unitarian Universalist Association Bill Sinkford named what you, too, may experience. There is social justice work that is empowering and energizing and there is work that is depleting. Discern where and how to spend time and energy. Give your energy where you also receive.
We must open to suffering. Grieve. “Blessed are those who mourn.”
Feel all you are feeling; moving with it grows our faith. We will come through to a new place, able and ready to act.
We must open to beauty. In Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Divinity School Address, he affirms that beauty rekindles the fires of religion. Beauty is life-saving, sustains us.
Beauty supports our work for justice, brings to birth Beloved Community.
In the World We Dream About people would not fill their days with shame and guilt, with blame and endless meetings. As people make justice and live in beloved community, they would share meals, sing, dance, play, mourn, laugh, celebrate. It’s not just doing, but being kind, being present. Rehearse Beloved Community now.
The UUA anti-racism curriculum Building the World We Dream About, says religious educator Mark Hicks, generates joy and love, not guilt or shame.
The workshops guide us in having conversations without harming another.
The question is always, “What am I learning about myself?”
Each of us looks at our self rather than pointing at others.
We look to what we can do.
Make every encounter sacred.
Move from a thing oriented society to people oriented community.
We build on our strengths.
This last year this congregation offered the curriculum Immigration as a Moral Issue, led by Elisabeth and Katherine Jay. Children participated in the children’s immigration curriculum. Along with those programs, we had a world map where each person could mark their family’s migration stories. We shared a heritage potluck meal.
A group of people read and discussed The Death of Josseline, groups watched the documentaries Lost in Detention and Crossing Arizona and other films on immigration.
Immigration was the topic of Several Sunday services.
The two of us and other members participated in Borderlinks learning serving trips to the Tucson AZ and Nogales, Sonora border.
A group of our members met with Unitarian Universalists in Walnut Creek to explore sharing immigration justice work.
A core group participate in the monthly Interfaith Vigils at the West County Detention Center.
Such a lot of strength to build on.
This coming year Natalie DaSilva and Linda Jackson will lead our UUCB Immigration Justice Group. Such good news!
We want to partner with interfaith and community organizations and other UU congregations in relationship building and justice work.
We plan for learning and serving experiences.
We want to offer the 24 session Building the World We Dream About workshops.
There is so much from General Assembly to share.
Attend today’s forum and hear from Justice GA participants.
In the days ahead, ask them about their experiences.
We also have cards for you this morning with resources for learning, activities, and commitments you can make.
Such a lot of strength to build on.
This week twelve of us, UUs, representatives from the city of Richmond, neighbors, the mother, grandmother, and brother of 19 year old Emmanuel Miranda gathered at the corner where he was shot and killed last Friday.
I do not know the immigration status of the people in the circle.
This was an interfaith, bi-lingual gathering.
We held the hands of the grieving, the angry, the fearful and prayed for safety, the end of gun violence, and the tragic loss of this life.
We are learning how to be present to one another in compassion.
At Justice GA, Rev. Nate Walker playfully asked us to imagine UUs presence at heated city council meetings and rallies. Imagine people breathing a sigh of relief. “The UUs are here.” Picture UUs with the reputation for being kind, being present, offering calm, centeredness, peace, loving kindness. Imagine, he said, your presence as the one to curb aggressive impulses. “Ahhh,” the UUs have arrived.
Last Saturday night thousands of Unitarian Universalists board buses to ride to the outskirts of Phoenix to Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s Tent City.
We wear golden yellow standing on the Side of Love T shirts, wave love posters and pennants.
On the bus ride we sing, over and over, “When I breathe in, I’ll breathe in peace.
When I breathe out, I’ll breathe out love.”
We sing continuously like you might a chant at a monastery.
We have heard that supporters of Sheriff Joe are at Tent City to counter our vigil.
We want to exit the bus centered in the spirit of love.
We want to be ready.
We talk, look at and move with one another in peaceful and loving ways.
We walk from the buses to outside the barbed and razor wire fences of the Tent City where undocumented people are held.
We walk by people protesting our presence and armed deputy sheriffs mounted on horses. We keep singing. We breathe in peace and breathe out love.
Buses keep arriving and people flow like a river of yellow and gold.
A local Baptist pastor speaks. He says the animal shelter just down the road keeps the dogs in air conditioned, clean rooms and that Tent City keeps people like dogs out in the Arizona heat.
The names of the 129 people who died in U.S. detention centers this year are read.
We let in the suffering and the loss, feel the sadness.
Under the night sky, the stars, and crescent moon, in the desert heat, we lift candles in the air and hold moments of silence.
UUA President Peter Morales tells us we look beautiful, all those tiny lights held up in the night sky.
We sing, we shout. We hear testimonies and speeches. Our hearts ache for the families separated, for the inhumane treatment of human beings.
Inside the detention center, our voices are heard. We shed tears, let out cheers.
We are one body wanting justice and filled with loving kindness.
Some of us who attended Justice GA say a shift has happened.
We look at people around us differently, with an awareness of our common humanity.
People want to do justice, love kindness and go humbly on the journey and share it with you.
Let us come to know each other’s stories, suffering, fears, joys, names!
Then we can sing, create, build, collaborate, laugh, cry, pray, act.
We will stumble. When we fall short, we can hold each other.
Respond with compassion.
Stay connected even when we let each other down.
Open our hearts. Open our arms.
Be community. Call each other beloved.
Copyright © 2012 Revs. Bill and Barbara Hamilton-Holway. All Rights Reserved.
Worship at UUCB
Sundays in December
September—May Worship at 9:00 and 11:00 a.m.
Summer Worship at 10:00 a.m. May 18 - August 31
December’s Theme: “Stories”
Sunday, December 7: The Last Straw - an Intergenerational Worship service that features the epic journey of Hoshmakatu the Camel who is called to carry the gifts of the Magi. Hoshmakatu is an old camel who was never particularly thoughtful or generous of spirit. Come to learn the interesting reasons why he goes and the life-changing things he learns on the way. QUESTION: We all get 'set in our ways' from time to time. What has the power to get us to live lives larger than we previously thought?
Sunday, December 14: Holiday Wars - Every year just before Christmas religious conservatives announce there is a 'War on Christmas!' Christmas, they claim, is being dishonored and shortchanged because it isn't allowed to reign supreme over other religious holidays. But there is something we all lose in this holiday hoopla. This is an open letter to conservative talk show host Bill O'Reilly. QUESTION: Is there tension between Christmas and other cultural winter holidays and, if so, what is at the heart of that tension?
Sunday, December21: The Straight Skinny on the Fat Man in Red - Who is Santa Claus? St. Nick? The jolliest of all Christmas ambassadors? What have we been told about him and what's really true. What's important for us to know as we try to separate fact from fiction? QUESTION: Does a story have to be 'factual' in order to be 'true'?
Wednesday, December 24 – 5:00 p.m. Christmas Eve Family Service - In this family friendly traditional Christmas Pageant, we will ALL get a chance to participate and celebrate the great journey to Christmas. Everyone is welcome to come participate (dress in costume) to bring to life the story of a holy family travelling with shepherds, donkeys, wise men, stars, angels, cats, penguins, and even aardvarks.
Wednesday, December 24 – 10:00 p.m. Christmas Eve Candlelight Service - In this beautiful and moving service we will enjoy lessons and carols where we will learn to see ourselves in each of the characters travelling to Bethlehem. Come, follow a star and travel to this place of good cheer where love and hope is born.
Sunday, December 28: To the Other Side - Liberals are pretty much alike everywhere, in Transylvania and in the US: stand on the side of love, represent the countercultural opposition to oppression in society, sing songs like Come, Come, Whoever You Are. And we are pretty serious about it. In the closeness of the New Year, we see even clearer now: the most important things in life meet us unprepared, and we still have to respond to them, immediately. It’s not the preparation, but our presence that makes the difference, the courage to get into the storm, to the other side.
Rev. Dr. Szabolcs (Szabi) Czire is a core faculty member at the Protestant Theological Institute in Kolozsvar (Cluj-Napoca), Romania. He teaches Biblical studies, hermeneutics, meditation-relaxation, and religious sociology. He is currently a research scholar at Starr King School for the Ministry
After his seminary graduation in 1996, he was minister for three years in a small congregation in South Transylvania. He spent 1999-2000 study year at Meadville Lombard Theological School in Chicago. In 2005 as a “Emily Sharp Scholar,” he visited Oxford and Manchester in the UK. He completed his PhD dissertation in 2007 on historical Jesus research. He also has a BA in sociology.
Sundays in November
November’s Theme: “Calling”
Daylight Savings Time ends at 2:00 a.m. Sunday, November 2. Set your clocks back 1 hour on Saturday!
November 2 - Lost in Translation - Have you ever been 'called' to something important but missed the 'call' because you didn't understand what was being asked? What was at stake? Being able to hear, understand and interpret what the world is asking of us is of critical importance if we are to figure out how to become integral and necessary to the future. QUESTION: How is careful listening and 'understanding' (rather than 'agreement') important in personal and spiritual growth rather than just 'getting our way.'
November 9 - Power vs. Force - All that happens in life is made possible by energy flow and distribution. This includes everything we do as human beings. But do we ever stop to notice the kind of energy we're bringing to each situation? Is it compelling energy or coercive energy? This is a service where we get to stop and take stock of the energy we're experiencing and the energy we're offering. QUESTION: What is the difference between 'Power' and 'Force' in terms of the energy we use to make changes and shape our life?
November 16 - The Rope - Family Systems talks about how people work together to do two things: maintain stability and establish connection. But sometimes, when an individual in the system - or the system itself - is called to something greater than stability, it can be hard. This service is about answering the call too important to ignore. QUESTION: In what ways have we gotten 'stuck' in our lives and how do we get 'unstuck' so that both we - and others - are able to grow?
November 23 - Music Sunday - You Are The Music! With Bryan Baker, Luminescence Choir and more!
November 30 - I Said ‘Yes’ to Life - Sometimes, life’s challenges feel so overwhelming that we may want to say “no” to the world; to close ourselves off, or shut our surroundings out. When our energy feels completely drained, where do we find the strength to answer our life’s deepest call?
A graduate of Starr King School for the Ministry, Abbey Tennis now serves as the school’s Interim Advancement Director. Before entering the ministry, she was a lay leader for fifteen years, serving as a youth on the UUA board of trustees, working in the UUA’s Youth Office, and as a member of the continental UU Ministerial Fellowship Committee. Abbey had the honor of keynoting at the 2008 UU Allies for Racial Equity (ARE) conference, and she recently interned at All Souls Church in Washington, D.C. Her previous career included climate change policy work and professional facilitation.
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