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:

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.