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."

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

A Church that Celebrates LGBTQ "Coming Out"!

At the UUCiA...
I'm so happy to be part of a congregation that celebrates LGBTQ "coming out"!

Please join us  at the UU Congregation in Andover on Sunday, October 12 at 10:30 a.m. for "A Shout Out for Coming Out!" with guest Debra Fowler. Saturday, October 11, is National LGBTQ Coming Out Day, and this year we celebrate the 26th anniversary of this event. As summarized by The Human Rights Campaign, "Coming out STILL MATTERS. When people know someone who is LGBTQ, they are far more likely to support equality under the law. Beyond that, our stories can be powerful to each other. Every person who speaks up changes more hearts and minds, and creates new advocates for equality."

Come celebrate with readings, stories and songs and remember how far we’ve come and be reminded of how much remains to be done. Deb Fowler is a filmmaker and co-creator of “Through Gay Eyes”. She has been teaching English Language Learners at Lowell High School since 2005. Please join us!  Directions here.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The People's Climate March... amazing day.

My view of the interfaith group, People's Climate March.
On Sunday, September 21, I had the amazing experience of participating in the People's Climate March in New York City. What a huge crowd! What an incredible day!

I marched with the faith-based contingent, which was huge in and of itself. It was amazingly diverse. Unitarian Universalists were well represented (I went on the UU Mass Action bus to and from), but all traditions were represented. There were Protestant Christians, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Pagans... on and on. It was beautiful to behold. UU lay leader Peter Bowden made a great video of the faith-based contingent, which you can see at this link.

There were different counts of the number of marchers, as always. On the day, the number 310,000 was thrown around, but after the fact the estimate seems to be something like 400,000. Incredible.

Revs. Lara Hoke & Wendy Bell, ready to make noise.
Before the march, the organizers made the request for us to "make some noise". I hadn't played my trumpet in quite a while, but I dusted it off just for the day. My friend (Rev.) Wendy Bell of the Harvard UU Church brought her bagpipes, which she just recently started to learn (she sounded great!). So the 400,000 of us made sure that we were heard, as well as seen. (And now I can attest that, while trumpets are loud, bagpipes are much louder!)

It was heartening for so many people, from so many different backgrounds and perspectives, to come together to let the world leaders know that it is time -- past time -- to take real actions to alleviate global climate change. It was an honor to be a (small) part of that.

For a very quick video summary of the event, click here.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Year starts off with Bread & Roses Festival in Lawrence

UUCiA table at the 2014 Bread & Roses Festival
The 2014-2015 "congregational year" for the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Andover (UUCiA) started off with us having a table at the 30th Annual Bread and Roses Festival in Lawrence yesterday.

We had a wonderful time meeting lots of great folks.

In addition to offering info about the UUCiA and Unitarian Universalism, we created a wish tree. We folded origami versions of

Friday, August 15, 2014

Racism, Militarization of Police, Solidarity with Ferguson

From http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-08-14/ferguson-erupts-after-michael-brown-shooting/5670532 (more photos there)
It's hard to know where to begin when attempting to respond to the tragic shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager, by police in Ferguson, MO. So many others have already written thoughtful pieces that I would like to link to a sampling of them:

From the New York Times: "In Wake of Clashes, Calls to Demilitarize Police"

From an op-ed in the NYT, written by folks from the Friends Committee on National Legislation: "Get the Military off of Main Street: Ferguson Shows the Risks of Militarized Policing"

From an op-ed in the Huffington Post religion section: "What White People Can Do About the Killing of Black Men in America"

From Bill Moyers/Tom Dispatch: "The Criminalization of Everyday Life"

From Mother Jones: "How Did America's Police Get to Militarized?"

From Bill Moyers/AlterNet: "Not Just Ferguson: 11 Eye-opening Facts about America's Militarized Police Forces"

From The Daily Banter: "Two Americas: Ferguson, Missouri Versus the Bundy Ranch, Nevada"

From The Concourse: "America Is Not for Black People"

From Think Progress: "The Racist Housing Policies that Helped to Fuel Anger in Ferguson"

Really, I could go on and on. Racism -- institutionalized racism -- is nothing new in America. It has been called the "original sin" of the USA. The militarization of police, however, is a relatively new phenomenon. It is alarming. Put institutionalized racism and militarized police together, and it is a formula for tragedy and injustice.

I'll close by sharing a piece in the Huffington Post by (UU minister) Rev. Meg Riley, called "Up to Our Necks"

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A "Just and Lasting Peace"

Quakers at the 2014 St. Pat's Peace Parade in South Boston.
My heart breaks, along with so many others, at the war in Gaza. My heart breaks, and I feel helpless. What can we do? What should we do? There are no easy answers. This is not a new problem.

This past Sunday, I worshipped with the local Quakers, as I sometimes do when I have a Sunday "off". I love the Religious Society of Friends, and feel a strong affinity with them. I suppose the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, because when my father was deciding which religion was for him back in the 50s, he was drawn to both the Unitarians and the Quakers. Ultimately, he became a Unitarian Universalist (after the 1961 merger of the Unitarians and Universalists). But it was a close call! And I totally understand.

There are a few things about the Quakers that I really love. I love that they are a "peace church" with a strong stand against war. I did not always feel this way; I am a Navy veteran, after all. But nowadays, I sometimes find myself wishing that the UUA were a "peace church".

In any case, the Quakers -- and specifically the American Friends Service Committee -- have put an enormous amount of energy into thinking about the issues of war and peace.  I appreciate both the commitment to peace and the thoughtfulness.  At this time, I find it helpful to read the AFSC piece on "Principles for a just and lasting peace between Palestinians and Israelis" (linked here). Perhaps you will find it helpful, too.