Friday, August 28, 2015

Reduce Farm Cruelty in Massachusetts

Recently, I had a letter to the editor published in the Lawrence Eagle Tribune. It is below as an image, or go to this link (and scroll down to find it). In November 2016, citizens of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts will be able to vote "yes" and bring some basic decency to factory farming. It's the very least we can do. The Letter:

Sunday, August 16, 2015


Today, there will be an Interfaith Memorial Service in memory of the "Mother Emanuel Nine" lost in Charleston, South Carolina. It will be at 4 p.m. at Bethel AME in Lowell. Here's the flyer:

I will be there to mourn with many others from the wider community. Please join us if you can.


On August 9, there was a community vigil on the anniversary of the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson; the vigil was held at North Parish in North Andover with many folks from various congregations in the area in attendance. Below is a picture of some of us from the UUCiA (I am to the right). It was good to be with so many others from the wider community to witness that Black Lives Matter. More photos can be seen at this link. This vigil was "held in solidarity with Standing on the Side of Love/ The Movement for Black Lives/ Ferguson National Response Network/ and ‪#‎BlackLivesMatter‬, which ... asked for vigils to be held all over the country on this anniversary, to protest police brutality and remember victims of the past year."

Silent Vigil at North Parish marking the one year anniversary of the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson.
In addition to solidarity with the movement for black lives, August has been a chance to be in solidarity with the immigrant community. On August 11, there was a hearing at Lawrence City Hall to vote on a Lawrence Trust Ordinance as well as a Lawrence Safe Driving ordinance, both of which help increase safety for immigrants (as well as non immigrants!) in the community. Many came together to advocate for these measures. Happily, both passed! Below is a picture of Pastor Victor Jarvis testifying passionately at Lawrence City Hall.

Pastor Victor Jarvis (of Dios Iglesia Ebenezer Lawrence and MVP) testifies at Lawrence City Hall.

Much gratitude for the organizations that helped to make this happen, including the Merrimack Valley Project (MVP); Centro Presente; ACT Lawrence; UU Mass Action... Here are two articles on the hearing and outcome: the article from the Boston Globe here; the article from the Lawrence Eagle Tribune here.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Upcoming Events: The Movement for Black Lives

There are two upcoming events that are an opportunity to show solidarity with the Movement for Black Lives. The first one is this Sunday, and the second is the following Sunday:

There will be a silent vigil this Sunday (August 9) at 5:00 pm at North Parish of North Andover (190 Academy Rd, North Andover) "in response to a call by the Ferguson National Response Network and the Movement for Black Lives for concerned Americans to hold local vigils on the anniversary of Michael Brown’s death in Feguson, MO." If you would like to participate, you can bring along your own sign -- or you can borrow one when you get there. After the vigil, there is a Concert on the Common (a Dixieland jazz band) if you want to bring along a picnic dinner and socialize, etc.

The second event is an Interfaith Memorial Service that will be held at the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in Lowell, MA (75 Grand Street, Lowell) on Sunday, August 16, at 4:00 pm. The service will be in honor and loving memory of the "Mother Emanuel Nine," the AME parishioners who were murdered in Charleston, SC.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

More "Faith Week" Events for SURJ (Showing Up for Racial Justice) at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Andover

For the past week or so, the Board of Directors and Social Justice Committee have been considering the UU General Assembly's “Action of Immediate Witness” on racial justice, which can be found here:

We are participating in the “Faith Week” of Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ); learn more at Faith Week is July 12-18. This past Sunday, July 12, the lay worship leader shared the recent statement of Rev. Peter Morales, President of the Unitarian Universalist Association. (You can read his statement here:

As a second early step, Lara set up a UUCiA fundraising page for the Rebuild the Churches fund. If you would like to learn more, and if you would like to make a donation, please visit:

For another early step, I ordered “Black Lives Matter” bumper stickers (see photo). They have the UUA's Standing onthe Side of Love logo in the background. I am giving them to the first folks that ask. (There are a few 5"x5", and more 3"x3".) I just asks that if you take one, you actually display it somewhere that it might be seen (e.g., your car if you have one, your lap top if you have one, your day/time calendar if you have one, etc.).

This Friday at 7 p.m., as suggested by SURJ, we will be showing the film “Fruitvale Station”.  See the Facebook event page at this link. As always, it will be free. Please bring your own lawn chair (or other portable chair) for extra comfort. The movie is based on the story of Oscar Grant. From a New York Times article: “In the early hours of Jan. 1, 2009, Oscar Grant III, unarmed and lying face down on a subway platform in Oakland, Calif., was shot in the back by a white Bay Area
Rapid Transit police officer. The incident, captured on video by onlookers, incited protest, unrest and arguments similar to those that would swirl around the killing of Trayvon Martin in Florida a few years later. The deaths of these and other African-American young men (Mr. Grant was 22) touch some of the rawest nerves in the body politic and raise thorny and apparently intractable issues of law and order, violence and race.” This film won "best movie" at the Sundance Film Festival. The film showing will be followed by a brief group discussion. Please join us.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

SURJ and WORR and Rebuild the Churches!

For those of you not at the worship service this morning, July 12, I want to share this information. Standing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ – pronounced “surge”) is co-sponsoring the national Week of Righteous Resistance (WORR) beginning today, Sunday, July 12, and ending on Saturday, July 18th.

They have asked that congregations either have a sermon or a prayer related to the Black Lives Matter movement today. This morning (at my request), the lay worship leader is sharing the recent statement of Rev. Peter Morales, President of the Unitarian Universalist Association. (You can read his statement here.)

Please give to Rebuild the Churches:

Today, as our first step in this WORR beyond sharing that statement in the spirit of prayer or meditation, I am asking you to consider giving to the Rebuild the Churches Fund. The UUCiA has its own fundraising page, which you can find at this link.

Thank you for your generosity, and your caring.

Keep checking back this week to see what other actions we might take, or what events/workshops/etc. we might participate in.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

UU GA 2015: One for the Ages

What an amazing UU Ministry Days and UU General Assembly we had in Portland, Oregon this year! Here are just a few of the highlights, from my perspective.

UU Ministry Days is always, first and foremost, a great time to catch up with old friends and talk to other people who do what you do. This year's keynote was delivered by Rev. Rob Hardies, minister of All Souls Church (UU) in Washington, D.C. He blew everyone's socks off! His talk was "Giving the World the Best of Unitarian Universalism." You can watch his talk below.

Watch live streaming video from uuma at

That evening, I attended the vespers service at First Church UU in Portland, and I was excited to see their "Black Lives Matter" banner.

The banner as I saw it that evening at First Church UU, Portland, Oregon.

Then the next day... Every year, the 25/50 Service is a highlight for me, and this year was no exception. The 25/50 service honors those UU ministers who were ordained 25 years ago and 50 years ago. Each of these cohorts elects from among its members one person to deliver a homily at this service. These sermons are consistently excellent, and moving. Rev. Gail Seavey gave the talk for the 25 year class, and Rev. Dave Weissbard gave the talk for the 50 year class. Both talks were provocative. You can watch for yourself, below.

Watch live streaming video from uuma at

Our own UUCiA minister emeritus Rev. Peter Richardson was there as part of the 50 year cohort. It was very moving for me to see him there.

Next came the Berry Street Lecture. As a reminder, the Berry Street Lecture is the longest-running lecture series in the United States. (Read a short history of this lecture series here.) This year, the speaker was Rev. Sean Parker Dennison (the first Generation Xer to give the Berry Street Lecture!). His title was "Mission Impossible: Why Failure Is Not an Option". Sean noted that we fail because of our fear of failure. Quoting Neil Gaiman, Sean said, "If you're making mistakes, it means you're out there doing something." Failure is not an option, said Sean, because failure is inevitable; it is the only way forward. You can watch, below.

uuma on Broadcast Live Free

With that, Ministry Days ended. The transition to UU General Assembly was next!

There is far, far too much to share about the GA this year, as every year. I'll share some of the workshops and talks I attended. I went to "A Way out  of No Way", a panel discussion from the Living Legacy Project of the UU History and Heritage Society. The workshop looked at what UUs did in Selma and the Civil Rights Movement of the 60s, and it looked at what UUs are doing (so far) today in the Black Lives Matter Movement. Rev. Dr. Gordon Gibson shared a meaningful perspective from his own experiences and those of others in the 60s, and Rev. Dr. Hope Johnson extolled the Living Legacy Project. Rev. David Carl Olson talked about First Church UU Baltimore's experience of "showing up" after the death of Freddie Gray.

I went to a very crowded session called "Moving from Capitalism toward an Ecological Economy", co-led by Aly Tharp and Matthew McHale. It was beyond standing room only -- some folks had to be turned away! Tharp said that the first step of creating an ecological economy is realizing that our economy is interdependent with a living system. McHale noted that while it's true that capitalism has ignored ecology, traditional communism didn’t think about ecology either. McHale noted that corporations are required by law to maximize profit for their shareholders, and that we have been focused on profit to the exclusion of thinking about ecology and living systems. He noted that the root of the word economy is "oikos" from Greek, meaning home: ecology and economy are from same root. We watched "The Story of Stuff Project" film, which I highly recommend; as the film says, we are "getting better and better at playing the wrong game”.  Tharp emphasized the importance of direct democracy, and finding solutions from the bottom up, not the top down. As for "what can we do", Tharp and McHale gave this list: 1. Radical simplicity: reducing consumer habits, reducing carbon footprint. 2. Political activism: fight for a living wage, fight for the rights of nature, fight plutocracy. 3. Grassroots community efforts: time-banks, similar to the gift economy, community choice aggregation, etc. McHale noted that we live in a land where it is legal to destroy the planet, and illegal in some cases to protect it. He said, "If it's the right thing to do, then we have every right to do" it. Tharp and McHale think that UU congregations should think about what we can do in terms of time-banking, community gardens, and more. 

The Service of the Living Tradition was Thursday evening. Rev. Dr. Marlin Lavanhar, Senior Minister, All Souls Unitarian Church, Tulsa OK, delivered the sermon. I was tired, and ended up watching from my hotel room! You can watch the service yourself at this link:

Friday was a very celebratory day the the GA as the Marriage Equality decision was handed down from the US Supreme Court! An atmosphere of joy and disbelief permeated the day. General Session of Plenary included a celebration of this historic decision. You can watch it at this link, at the start of the video:

I attended "Change the Story, Change the Future: A Living Economy, a Living Earth" on Friday afternoon. Dr. David Korten summarized his book of the same name, and Rev. Mel Hoover was there to help lead the larger discussion. Korten's main argument is that we need to reframe our worldview to get out of our current mess, particularly the global climate crisis. Korten elaborated how in our current worldview, corporate profit is held above people and all else. In a nutshell, he wants us to put not just "People over Profit" (as the slogan goes) but also "People and Planet over Profit". Korten noted that we believe that "time is money"; he argued that it should be "time is life". He said that we need to go from the story of "sacred money and markets" to the story of "sacred life and living earth". He noted that corporate capitalism is destroying the planet by basing "success" on a need for endless growth and consumption. Our current story of "sacred money and markets" puts the importance of money first, he said, but in reality, the health of the planet is primary. "We must get rid of corporate rule and reclaim democracy", said Korten. The story of "sacred life and living earth" would help us to correct our course. I was pleased to see the resonance between Korten's ideas and those of Tharp and McHale, noted above. Said Rev. Mel Hoover, "I don't know if I can win this race, but I'm gonna run it!"

A highlight of Saturday was "Partnering to End the New Jim Crow" with presenters Jo Ann Hardesty, Rev. Kate Lore, Shannon Wright, and Doug Cooper. These four are local Portlanders working on ending mass incarceration and the resulting "new racial caste system". My biggest single take-away from this panel presentation was that (as Hardesty put it) "You can be a helper, an advocate, an organizer, or a rebel", and all four roles are necessary in doing good justice work. Naturally, we can crossover in between all of these roles, changing hats as we go. Rev. Lore talked about the need for UUs to keep "showing up", but noted that we need to prioritize making relationships first (especially before trying to lead!). Lore said that because our churches tend to be made up of folks in the dominant culture, we "must get outside our walls & commit to antiracism". 

Later Saturday afternoon I attended "Building Powerful Collaboration with Native Nations for Climate Justice", a talk led by Lummi Nation leaders and allies. This led straight into the Public Witness event -- you can watch the video at this link:

The view from my Ware Lecture "cheap seats".
Saturday night was the Ware Lecture, given by a hero of mine, Dr. Cornel West (I was fortunate enough to take a class with West when I was a student at Harvard Divinity School many years ago). West is a very quotable speaker, and there are many of his words that I could share, but really you deserve -- you owe it to yourself -- to watch the Ware Lecture for yourself at this link:

Sunday is always the closing day of GA, the endgame. I always find it a bit sad. This year, however, ended with a bang in the form of our Actions of Immediate Witness (AIW) passed at Plenary. We adopted three AIWs this year -- click on each link for more information:

Then (though I was sadly not there for it) there was a "die-in" outside the Portland Convention Center to honor Black Lives Matter. Below is a picture by UU World.

Picture of "die-in" by UU World.
What a way for GA to end this year! I'm feeling proud to be a UU. Read Chris Walton's article on this at this link.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Love wins!!

We interrupt the regular schedule of this blog to celebrate -- Love wins! Marriage equality is the law of the land! I am filled with emotion and gratitude for all of those LGBTQ pioneers and allies who have been working for this for decades.

Thank you, SCOTUS, for your 5-4 decision. We'll take it!