Monday, December 5, 2016

Interfaith Vigil in Solidarity with Standing Rock

Yesterday, there was an interfaith prayer vigil in solidarity with Standing Rock. The vigil was planned by clergy from Andover and North Andover, with many different congregations participating. (See the press release, below, which is also cross-posted on the Merrimack Valley People for Peace website. MVPP also held a vigil at the same time in Andover.)

The interfaith vigil was held outside of North Parish, right next to the North Andover Commons. Rev. Lee Bluemel of North Parish made a "live video" on Facebook of the vigil, which you can watch below. I am the first speaker in the video, and I shared a little about my experience at Standing Rock in early November. Other vigil speakers and song leaders included Rev. Will Green of Ballard Vale United; Laura Howell of the Great Pond Sangha; Aldebran Longabaugh-Burg, Assistant Director of the Center for the Study of Jewish-Christian-Muslim Relations and member of Havurat Shalom; Pat Scanlon of Veterans For Peace, and more. Rev. Bluemel also spoke.

Press Release 2/12/2016 

Interfaith Prayer Vigil to Be Held in Solidarity with Standing Rock

Clergy from Andover and North Andover have planned an Interfaith Vigil in Solidarity with Standing Rock. The prayer vigil is meant as a show of solidarity in the ongoing struggle to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline from endangering the water of the Standing Rock Sioux. The Dakota Access Pipeline is a $3.7 billion project to deliver crude oil from the Bakken field in western North Dakota southward to Illinois. In recent months, there has been a militarized police response to the water protectors who are protesting the placement of the pipeline through Standing Rock Sioux heritage lands. 
Chief Arvol Looking Horse, Keeper of the White Buffalo Calf Pipe Bundle, has called for an Interfaith Day of Prayer in solidarity with the nonviolent water protectors of Standing Rock on December 4. “Many clergy and lay leaders will travel to Standing Rock for the day, but for those of who can’t make the trip to North Dakota, we can be in solidarity closer to home,” Said Rev. M. Lara Hoke of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Andover. “That’s why Andover and North Andover clergy decided to hold a local vigil.” The interfaith vigil will take place on Sunday, December 4 at noon outside North Parish in North Andover (190 Academy Road).
Merrimack Valley People for Peace (MVPP) will hold a vigil at the same time at Shawsheen Square in Andover. “It is past the time the US and big companies stop their aggression against Native Americans,” says MVPP President Brian Quirk. “The Standing Rock people are protecting, not only their own sovereignty, but white people's water downstream. Besides being fair, it is in our interest to stand with them. I wish the Federal government would do the right thing,” said Quirk.

Rev. Will Green of Ballard Vale United Church in Andover said, “Psalm 24 teaches us that ‘The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it.’ Therefore, our covenant with God calls on us to protect water, to defend land and to be respectful stewards of all creation. But in addition to the witness of sacred scripture, like the Psalms, we also learn what to do and how to act from the witness of people like the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. We have been invited to participate in this vigil of solidarity by people whose leadership we follow and whose example we respect. All who are able to respond to this call are welcome to join us.”


Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Andover
Rev. M. Lara Hoke

North Parish, North Andover
Rev. Lee Bluemel

Merrimack Valley People for Peace
Brian Quirk

Monday, November 21, 2016

The Time to Stand with Standing Rock is NOW

Photo from
Something heartbreaking happened at Standing Rock last night. Police tear-gassed water protectors, used the noise gun, rubber bullets, and a water hose (in sub-freezing temperatures) on the bridge on highway 1806 – the same one I talked so much about when I returned from my own brief trip.

The mainstream media is saying little about what happened last night – and for the most part interviewing the sheriff and getting his side of the story, which is quite different from the water protectors’ story.

The fight to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline got a bit lost in the fallout from the election, but it might be more important than ever to get President Obama and the government to intervene now, as soon as possible, to stop militarized police actions against the Standing Rock Sioux and to reroute the pipeline so that it does not go through Sioux territory, threatening their water supply and going through their heritage sites. 

Here are some actions you can take now (among many suggestions that I have found out there):

1. Write to the White House:
Write to the Governor of North Dakota:
2. Sign ACLU's petition to demilitarize the Standing Rock protests.
3. Call the authorities to stop the harm being done to people at Standing Rock:
North Dakota National Guard: 701-333-2000
North Dakota Governor's office: 701-328-2200;
Morton County Sherriff: 701-328-8118 & 701-667-3330;
Obama: 202-456-1111
Army Corps of Engineers: 703-614-3992
ND Emergency Management: 701-667-3307
4. Contact your Representatives in Washington, ask them to do everything in their power to end this situation by stopping the DAPL (Dakota Access Pipeline) from going through Standing Rock. Go here to find the contact info for your representatives:
5. Donate to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe:

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Becoming a Beloved Community of Resistance
Listen here.
Like so many, I have been reeling since the election results came in from November 8, into the wee hours of November 9. If you want to listen to the "podcast" of my sermon ("Post-Election Prophecy") from November 13, you can listen to it here.

If I had known how the election was going to turn out, I might have named the sermon something else. I might have named it "Becoming a Beloved Community of Resistance." (I have since discovered a book by Robin Meyers named Spiritual Defiance: Building a Beloved Community of Resistance. It is on my "to read" list!)

A "neighborhood love note" at the UUCiA.

On November 13, I offered safety pins and chalk as possible ways to be in solidarity with marginalized communities. A couple of things have come to my attention about using chalk to write "Neighborhood Love Notes" like the ones you saw as you walked into the building last Sunday. Rev. Ashley Horan (creator of the Neighborhood Love Notes project) wrote up some "best practices." If you want to read Ashley'sentire note, including "best practices", it can be found here. I will continue to write "neighborhood loves notes" at 6 Locke Street, and I hope you will add to them!

As I mentioned on the 13th, the safety pins are meant to be a way to show that you are in solidarity. They are meant to be worn if you would take the risk of trying to intervene -- hopefully to de-escalate a situation of harassment that you are witnessing. Wearing the pin does entail risk in the sense that these situations have the potential to become volatile. All of us know that it's "the right thing to do" to stand up for a someone who is being harassed or targeted for hateful behavior, but of course whether or not we will have the courage or ability in the moment is hard to know in advance. Wearing the safety pin is a reminder to be

our best selves, to push ourselves in these challenging situations should we encounter them. Some would say that if you choose to wear the pin where it can be seen in public, it is incumbent upon you to follow through to try to help. Your goal is not to confront the harasser/attacker; your goal is to ensure the safety (physical and emotional) of the person being harassed/targeted. Often, this will look like talking with and connecting with the one being harassed and ignoring the attacker; then getting yourself and the one being harassed to a safer space. If possible, you would then want to help the person get some support around them if they are still shaken or in some level or shock or distress. (To see a short video with a quickdemonstration, click here.  For a longer, more comprehensive video on various techniques by Caitlin Breedlove of Standing on the Side of Love, click here.) For some of us, it might not feel safe to wear the safety pin in public. Some might choose to wear the pin under their clothing, where it is not visible to the public, simply as a reminder. The wearing of these safety pins might be a short-lived phenomenon; it’s hard to know. But having a plan for when you see harassment or an attack is a good idea, regardless.

According to SPLC's Hate Watch, "
Between Wednesday, November 9, the day after the presidential election, and the morning of Monday, November 14, the Southern Poverty Law Center collected 437 reports of hateful intimidation and harassment." Many people in marginalized communities (including people of color, immigrants, Muslims, LGBTQ persons, disabled persons, and others) are feeling less safe. Please know that if you, yourself, are feeling unsafe, there are people who would like to be there for you. Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey has set up a hotline to report bias-motivated harassment, threats or intimidation: 1-800-994-3228. This number is for Massachusetts residents to use; you may also fill out a civil rights complaint online. Read more here.

May we be our best selves, which sometimes entails risk. May we be our best selves, which means having each other's backs. Know that you are loved, and you are not alone.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Reporting back from the sacred struggle of the water protectors at Standing Rock

I shared this reflection on Sunday, November 6, 2016 at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Andover. The title of the reflection is: “Sacred Struggle: Reporting Back from Standing Rock.” It's my attempt to report back from answering the “clergy call” to show solidarity and bear witness to what is happening at the heart of the Standing Rock Sioux struggle to protect their water — the effort to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline. Here, the reflection audio is combined with the visuals used at the service on November 6.
Click on picture to see and hear the presentation, or go to this link.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Clergy Call to Standing Rock

This week, I will join clergy from all different faiths in responding to a clergy call to go to Standing Rock to support the protectors trying to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline.

I am proud of, and grateful to, the Board of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Andover, which voted unanimously in support of sending me -- and to the entire congregation for their support as well. I will be reporting back.

View the statement of UUA President Rev. Peter Morales at this link.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Coming Out Day Service: "Coming Out and Being Safe"

Photos from
This Sunday, October 2 at 10:30 a.m., join us at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Andover for a worship service in honor of National Coming Out Day. The service is "Coming Out and Being Safe". Service details: Guest speaker Polly Laurelchild-Hertig heads up the LGBT Asylum Support Task Force, an organization based in Worcester that provides safe haven and support for the basic human needs of those seeking asylum. The asylees have left their home countries (Jamaica, Uganda, Saudi Arabia, etc.) because of persecution and life-threatening situations simply because of their sexual identities. They arrive here with nothing, are unable to work initially and this task force assists them with all of the bureaucratic requirements as well as providing food and shelter. We also expect to hear directly from one of the asylees. Please join us! Facebook event page is here.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Moral Monday comes to the Massachusetts State House

Moral Monday at Mass State House, September 12, photo by James O. Michel
Yesterday, I had the privilege of participating with hundreds of people of faith (including many clergy persons) in a Moral Monday event in Boston. We all went to the Massachusetts State House with a set of moral demands for our government.

We hope to bring about a moral revolution in this Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and in the USA. Here's an article about the day.

The Moral Monday movement started in North Carolina under the leadership of Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II. Read about the national movement at this link.

There will be more Moral Mondays in Massachusetts to come. Stay tuned.