Friday, November 20, 2015

We are people of faith. Let's act like it!

This is my first post since the tragedies in Paris, Beirut, and Baghdad. It has been a hard, sad week on many levels. The atrocities committed by the terrorists are truly heart-breaking. Terrorists are lost souls, in my view, who are driven to commit evil acts in their state of despair. The acts are indeed evil and despicable. I find it helpful to think about what could possibly drive human beings to commit such heinous acts. This article ("Nobody Is Born a Terrorist", pointed out to me by a congregant) is a decent place to start thinking about it: link.

But aside from the terrorism, I have been saddened this week by the response of many Americans. The Xenophobia and Islamophobia in response to the tragedies has been sad indeed. Fear never brings out our best selves. It is sad that many are trying to use the terror acts as reason to turn away Syrian refugees who are in desperate need. Have we forgotten that they are trying to escape violence and evil themselves? It is sad that many are driven by fear to consider the kinds of positively anti-American responses that led the USA to send innocent Japanese people (including US citizens) to internment camps during World War II. (No -- I haven't literally heard anyone suggesting internment camps yet, but some of the possible "solutions" hint in that direction.) Many Americans are people of faith; many consider themselves to be good Christians. Well... it's time to start acting like it!

Here are some memes that I saw on social media this week that I did appreciate. Considering the life and ways of Jesus always helps to give me clarity on social justice issues, and these times call on those of us who value his teachings to live them.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Armistice Day

Robert Funke and Lara Hoke, photo by Howard Rotman.
Yesterday I had the honor of providing the Opening Words at the Smedley D. Butler Brigade of Veterans For Peace's Armistice Day event in Boston.

It was a rainy and blustery day, so it was a truly intrepid group who showed up!

Every year, I struggle with Veterans Day (as I wrote about in this blog post). But it is good to be among fellow veterans who feel much as I do.

When our VFP chapter comes together with all of our flags, we make an impressive sight!

Lara Hoke and Nicole Waybright, photo by Howard Rotman

From the National VFP page:

"Each year, Veterans For Peace chapters across the nation meet in major cities to celebrate and remember the original Armistice Day as was done in 1918, at the end of World War I. On this day, the world came together in realization that war is so horrible we must end it now. We invite all to join us in our effort to celebrate Armistice Day and the idea of ending all war."

To learn more, visit: VFP Armistice Day

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Hearing at State House: "Don't Let the Proverbial Fox Guard the Literal Hen House"

I am an advocate for animal welfare and animal rights. I'm on the Board Unitarian Universalist Animal Ministry, and I recently became a Faith Outreach volunteer / Faith Ally / Faith Advocate for the Humane Society of the United States.
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Tomorrow, Wednesday, October 28, there is an important hearing at the Massachusetts State House. See the Facebook event page.  From the FB event page:

"*Please don’t let the proverbial fox guard the literal henhouse*

"We need you to join us in Boston and stand against the attack on MA farm animals on October 28 at 12:30 pm!

"Factory farming lobbyists are trying to push a deceptive bill through the legislature. Their goal is to undermine the ballot measure that would ensure pigs, hens, and calves have enough space to stand up and extend their limbs. Locking animals in cages so small the animals can barely move is cruel and inhumane. Animals need you to join us at the state house to stand up against this attack.

"You won’t need to do anything besides attend the hearing of this dangerous bill. We will be distributing stickers to wear. See you Wednesday!

"Please plan to allow plenty of time for parking, getting through security, and navigating the building.

"The hearing is currently scheduled to be in Hearing Room B-1 at the Massachusetts State House on Wednesday, October 28 from 1-5 pm. You can attend the hearing for the duration or only a few hours. Please join this Facebook page and RSVP to Matt at If you need help day-of, please text Matt at 202-746-3803.

"For more information on this bill, visit:

"To take action, visit:

"For a full list of the bills being heard on Wednesday at 1 pm, visit:"

Hope to see you at the State house!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Happy National Coming Out Day!

Tomorrow, Sunday, October 11 is National Coming Out Day! Happy Coming Out to LGBTQI folks everywhere!

The Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Andover had its National Coming Out Sunday a week early, on October 4, with a wonderful guest speaker, seminarian Renee Manning. Hear her moving sermon "Universal Love" at this link.

The UUCiA has been a Welcoming Congregation since 1994 -- 21 years! You can read about our celebration of hitting 20 years as a Welcoming Congregation from last year's post on this blog here.

Be who you are. You are beautiful.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

100 Women, 100 Miles: Dignity for Immigrants

The vigil outside of the York County Detention Center
Last Tuesday, September 15, I had the great honor of participating in the opening vigil and first leg of the “100 Women, 100 Miles” pilgrimage from a detention center in York, Pennsylvania to Washington, D.C. and the visit of Pope Francis. I was there with the organizations We Belong Together, PICO, Juntos, National Domestic Workers Alliance and others aiming to share the stories of migrant women. The vigil and pilgrimage are meant to echo the Pope’s message for migrant dignity and to lift up the hardships immigrant women and their families face in this country. The pilgrimage, which ended yesterday September 23 in Washington, D.C., included clergy and people of faith (including UUs and Standing on the Side of Love folks) who believe that compassion for immigrants is a core aspect of their respective religious traditions.
Lara Hoke, Guillermina Castellanos, & Wendy Von Courter from UU Marblehead at the lunch break.

We have many immigrants in the Merrimack Valley, and of course Lawrence is known as ‘Immigrant City’. I’m thrilled that the City of Lawrence recently passed ordinances that are compassionate toward immigrants (“Safe Driving” and “Lawrence Trust” ordinances). I hope Andover and the rest of the Merrimack Valley will follow suit. And I hope that this ‘100 Women, 100 Miles’ pilgrimage has drawn more people’s attention to the plight of immigrants, and to their humanity.

Walking in York, PA (photo from We Belong Together FB page).
It was a privilege to be a small part of of the 100 Women, 100 Miles pilgrimage – to participate in the opening vigil and to walk with these brave women on the first day of the pilgrimage. I grew up not far from York, Pennsylvania, and being at the first part of the vigil, starting at the detention center in York, had special personal meaning for me. It was incredible to hear parts of the amazing stories of the immigrant women who were walking. I am in awe of their courage and determination.

Pope Francis is giving a strong message of dignity for the migrant peoples of the world. It makes sense that Pope Francis would preach this message of love, compassion, and welcoming for migrants.  Some have noted that the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament are in many ways the story of wandering, migrant people. And hospitality and kindness to strangers is one of the primary virtues held up in these scriptures as well. 

This past Sunday, September 20, I preached on this topic ("'We Belong Together': Immigration and Love without Borders"). You can listen to that (live) recording at this link

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

UUCiA tabling at the Bread & Roses Heritage Festival

UUCiA table yesterday. I'm in the middle. Photo by Richard Hudak, UUCiA President.
Members and friends of the UUCiA had a great time tabling at the Bread and Roses Heritage Festival in Lawrence yesterday! We always see lots of friends from Merrimack Valley People for Peace and other local community and activist organizations, which is great fun. I saw some of my buddies from the Smedley D. Butler Brigade of Veterans For Peace. I saw friends I met at Occupy Boston and from lots of local activism. It was a great day!

As last year, we met lots of Unitarian Universalists from near and far. UUs from Haverhill, North Parish, Reading, Groton, Arlington Street Church, Brookline, Cambridge and more came to say hello. Such a treat!

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: