Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Super Bowl and Souper Bowl of Caring


Brady's locker, with Ganesh (photo found here).
Okay, I'll just cut to the chase here. I'm a huge New England Patriots fan. What a Super Bowl that was, huh? Unbelievable.

I was interested to learn that Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has Ganesh in his locker ("remover of obstacles" from the Hindu tradition). Who knew?

But as much as I enjoy watching football, at the end of the day, it's just a game. The Super Bowl is the most watched television show in the United States, but that doesn't make it the most important thing happening, of course. One of the most important things happening is that there are people right here in this country who need some help getting by. That's why the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Andover participated in the Souper Bowl of Caring on February 1.

According to the website, this was the 25th anniversary of the Souper Bowl of Caring, which was created in 1990 when a simple prayer (“even as we enjoy the Super Bowl football game, help us be mindful of those who are without a bowl of soup to eat”) inspired a youth-led movement to fight hunger. Since then, millions of dollars have been raised for soup kitchens, food banks and other charities in communities across the USA.
The UUCiA collection went to the Merrimack Valley Food Bank, which (according to the website) has been transporting, storing and distributing food to disadvantaged members of the community since 1991. 

Considering that we decided to do this only days before the Super Bowl, our collection was pretty successful! We'll have to do it again next year, perhaps with an earlier start!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Catching up... Carnism

I have been remiss in posting lately. I apologize. I want to write something about Black History Month, and "30 Days of Love", and even the Patriots winning the Super Bowl! But right now, I just want to share a video: "Beyond Carnism and toward Rational, Authentic Food Choices". It's a TEDx talk by Melanie Joy, who explains the psychology behind eating some animals, but not others.  It is about 19 minutes long, 2 minutes of which are difficult to watch because they "make the unseen, seen". (You can forward through that if you need to; it is hard to watch.) This TED talk explains the ideology of carnism. People tend to think that vegans and vegetarians have a certain ideology or belief system that keeps them from eating meat, and that is true. But as this talk explains, those who eat meat are also operating with a certain ideology/belief system. I don't expect that you will watch this and become a vegan or vegetarian overnight; I don't assume anything about your reaction to it. I just ask that (if you are willing) you watch the video and think about it.

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Monday, January 12, 2015

"Have a Nice Day: The Dy-No-Mite Spirituality of the 1970s"

Preaching under disco ball, with roller skates!
We had a lot of fun at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Andover this past Sunday with a worship service about the 1970s. I attempted to tease out the spiritual, theological, and philosophical issues in my sermon (in two parts) "Have a Nice Day: The Dy-No-Mite Spirituality of the 1970s". You can listen to the sermon here.

To the left is a picture of me in my 70s outfit -- polyester shirt with big pointy collar, and a vinyl jacket from the era (Sears & Roebuck!)... bell bottom jeans... and roller skates! I'm under a disco ball. I'm pretty sure I'm part of a very small subset of clergy persons who have ever preached under a disco ball wearing roller skates!

Below are more pictures from the day, which included special decorations...

One of our members proudly displays ERA swag fom the 1970s... The smiley face was on the cover of our bulletin.

Just part of the special 70s display. Notably missing from the photo: an awesome lava lamp.

Two talented members perform "Love Will Keep Us Together". Note special 70s facial hair grown just for the day!

A disco ball hanging from a beam of our lovely sanctuary...

The UUCiA choir rehearses their number for the day, "Dancing Queen". Such fun! (There's that lava lamp...)

Friday, December 5, 2014

Black Lives Matter

From https://www.facebook.com/BlackLivesMatter
We are in the midst of the Christian season of Advent, a time of expectant waiting for the birth of Jesus celebrated at Christmas. There are many wonderful things about patience and the spiritual discipline of waiting, but one thing that we need not wait for is justice. As Anne Frank put it, “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” 

Last night there were historic protests in Boston and in cities around the USA after the failure to indict in the choking death of an unarmed Eric Garner in New York (following so closely after the failure to indict in the shooting death of an unarmed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri). As these massive protests show, many of us are ready to change our country for the better, and we don’t need to wait a single moment longer. This isn’t just a protest; it’s a movement – a movement to end police brutality against African Americans, and ultimately a movement to end institutionalized racism. 

To my regret, I missed last night's action in Boston; I am "down for the count" with sinusitis. I did follow along on social media -- and tweeted and posted about it, aka "clicktivism". I also watched the Boston tree lighting ceremony on TV... there were a LOT more #EnoughIsEnough: We Are The Ones, Justice For Eric Garner protesters than folks who were there for the ceremony. It was surreal to watch the tree lighting ceremony on TV -- watching ridiculous things like the Patriots cheerleaders in sexy Santa suits dancing to "Jingle Bell Rock" -- when this huge protest was happening, and they weren't even mentioning it... when this massive movement is afoot and they just ignored it with "the show must go on" stuff! As if a Christmas tree is more important than racism and police brutality and thousands of people rising up! (On WCVB Channel 5 news, they actually said the protesters "didn't take away from" the tree lighting celebration. Are you kidding?)

I was able to go to the November 25 rally and march in Roxbury, after the Ferguson grand jury decision was announced. That was a big event with a great turn-out, too. But last night's action? Amazing. Even bigger than the November 25 action -- much bigger! Boston was "shut down" with all the protesters. New York City was too. And cities all over this country. It gives me hope. May we be a part of this movement, and stand on the side of love on the right side of history.

If you want to see the reading and sermon from the November 30 service “A Faithful Response to Ferguson”, click here.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Another Armistice Day...

Yesterday I participated, yet again, with Veterans For Peace's "Armistice / Veterans Day for Peace" in Boston. (Picture of part of the group marching below...) We had an excellent turnout, including The Leftist Marching Band and folks from the peace community.

Photo by Howard Rotman, November 11, 2014, Boston.
I had the honor of providing the opening "words of peace". I shared the words of UU ministerial colleague Rev. Chris Antal. When he was a chaplain serving in Afghanistan, Rev. Antal shared these words on Veterans Day in 2012. He received an official reprimand for these words...

I shared them because I think they are brave and brilliant, and there's no way I could possibly improve upon them.

A link to Rev. Antal's piece, "A Veterans Day Confession for America", is here.

Veterans Day is always hard for me, as I posted about last year. I am grateful to be able to spend the day with like-minded peace activists.

This year I also discovered the poetry of Karen Skolfield, a 1989 Panama veteran. She was a guest reader, and shared "Backblast Area Clear" and "Army SMART Book: On Being Lost". You can read some of her excellent poetry (including "Army SMART Book: On Being Lost") at this link.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Earned Sick Time is a moral issue...

Go to http://yeson4ma.org/ to learn more!
Many faith-based organizations that I respect are asking people of faith and people of conscience to Vote Yes on 4: Yes to Earned Sick Time. Some of these faith-based organizations are the Merrimack Valley Project, UU Mass Action, and MCAN (among others). I will be joining others from the Merrimack Valley Project (MVP) on election day (Tuesday, November 4) to knock on doors and get out the vote!

I see voting Yes on 4 as the right thing for a Unitarian Universalist to do. It fits in with our Seven Principles; particularly the first principle, "the inherent worth and dignity of every person"; the second principle, "justice, equity and compassion in human relations"; and the fifth principle, "the right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large".

I signed on the the MCAN "Faith Statement on Question 4 on Earned Sick Time". Here is the interfaith/ecumenical statement:

"Our faith traditions teach that work is more than a way to make a living; it is a way of being co-creators with God in bringing the world to its fulfillment. It is a way of growing, sharing and enhancing one's own life and that of one's family and community.

"But for many in our Commonwealth, work has been stripped of its dignity. Poverty wages, sparse benefits, and uncertain work hours are just a few of the daily indignities that many face. For them, work not only fails to enhance their lives and their families and communities -- it diminishes them.

"That's why faith communities across Massachusetts are supporting Question 4 on Earned Sick Time as an important moral and family issue. In today's economy, so many are struggling to balance work, family, and life's challenges. It is our shared responsibility to ensure that all families be able to deal with the inevitable reality of a personal health issue, a sick child, or family illness without fear of losing their job or facing other repercussions.

"Yet in Massachusetts, one of the wealthiest states in the country, nearly one out of four workers reporting being fired, punished or harassed for taking a sick day to care for themselves or their ill loved ones. When employers fail to give sick time, they act as if the workers only matter when they are productive. They fail to see that workers are people, created in the image of God, deserving of dignity.

"No person should have to choose between their family or their job. No person should have to go to work sick because they cannot afford to miss a day's pay.

"This fall, we commit to speak to the people in our congregations and communities in support of Question 4. Our faith calls us especially to reach out to those who are unlikely to vote this year because they have lost hope, because they have not found a reason to expect the leaders they elect to make things better for their community. We will pledge to stand with them, to see their problems as our problems, and to help them find the power and hope to get to the polls to vote directly for Earned Sick Time.

"Leadership is not just about whom we elect. Leadership is about us as a people and how we stand in faith together for the good of us all. It's how we demonstrate our love for each other.

"We as faith communities across Massachusetts pledge to assume our mantle of leadership in this moment and demonstrate love for all of God's people."

For some secular encouragement, The Boston Globe also encourages readers to vote Yes on 4. Read their piece here. To quote from the Globe's October 25 editorial: "QUESTION 4 on the November ballot is a sweeping measure that would provide all Massachusetts workers the chance to earn sick leave — in many cases, with pay. If passed, the referendum would put Massachusetts in line with a handful of forward-thinking cities and just two other states, California and Connecticut. The measure is a welcome opportunity for the Commonwealth to lead, and voters should approve it.

"The ballot measure, promoted by labor unions and endorsed by some business groups, hospitals, and economists, would allow workers to earn up to 40 hours per year of sick leave — an hour of leave for every 30 hours they work. This leave could also be used to care for a sick child, spouse, or parent. Workers for companies with 10 or fewer employees would earn unpaid leave; workers for companies with 11 or more employees would be paid for their time off. The measure would apply to part-time workers as well, and would affect nearly one-third of Massachusetts workers — about 900,000 people, many of them in low-wage jobs. It would allow home health care workers to receive the benefit, as well, by classifying them as state employees for the purposes of the law."

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Climate Change Summit, and What's Possible

This past Saturday, I went to a wonderful Climate Change Summit organized by UU Mass Action.We heard from Clean Water Action, Mothers Out Front, and 350 Massachusetts. It was a great day to start thinking about what we can do, together.

I had the honor of sharing some closing words. I excerpted words from "What’s Possible," a short film shown at UN Climate Summit in New York this past September. You can watch the film here:




Part of the words I shared from "What's Possible" (written by Scott Z. Burns) were: 

"One day we will wake up to find that the energy that powers the alarm clock
came from the breeze through the trees the night before.
And we will go to work that morning riding the rays of the sun.
It will light our cities and power our businesses.
It will warm our homes and cool our workplaces.
It will reduce sources of conflict, and fuel our economies.
It will connect us all.

....

We have every reason in the world to act.
We can’t wait until tomorrow.
This is our only home.
You can choose today to make a world of difference."