Monday, February 24, 2014

Join the St. Patrick's Peace Parade! March with the "religious division"!

Your congregation is invited to join the

Saint Patrick’s Peace Parade

Stand on the Side of Love with the Religious/Spiritual/Faith-Based Division!

Please join us for our fourth annual Saint Patrick’s Peace Parade, the Alternative People’s Parade for Peace, Equality, Jobs, Environmental Stewardship, Social and Economic Justice.

UPDATE!  WHEN: Sunday, March 16, 2014, Assemble: 2:00 p.m. (Parade start: 3:00 p.m.)

WHERE: D Street & West Broadway, South Boston (Look for white "Vets for Peace" Flags). We walk the same route and behind the traditional Saint Patrick’s Day Parade.

There are several divisions marching in the parade: spiritual/religious/faith-based groups, Veterans groups; Peace groups; LGBT groups; environmental groups; social and economic justice groups; labor groups; political groups. Please join the spiritual/religious/faith-based division! Please Contact Rev. Lara Hoke (minister of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Andover, Secretary of the Smedley D. Butler Brigade of Veterans For Peace) at or 508-615-1686 to RSVP or for more information.

We hope that this year there will be a large religious contingent made up of congregations and other religious organizations that support peace and LGBT equality.  We believe that a parade that is inclusive of LGBT groups is in the spirit of the modern celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, where “everyone is Irish” for the day.  We believe that a peace parade is in the tradition of St. Patrick, who said, “Killing cannot be with Christ”.  Please march with us, carrying a banner or sign from your congregation or religious / spiritual organization, and messages of peace and equality!  All we need is for you to join us in standing on the side of love. Please join us if you are able, encouraging parishioners to participate.  Please post the above flyer and announce the parade in your congregation’s newsletter, bulletins, and more.

As in the past, we will step off a mile behind the “official” parade.   

BACKGROUND: Why are there two parades on Saint Patrick’s Day?

This year marks the 21st anniversary of the start of the infamous Hurley v. Irish American Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Group of Boston Supreme Court case.  Twenty years ago, the Irish American Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Group of Boston asked to take part in the “official” St. Patrick’s Parade in South Boston, but their request was denied by the Allied War Veterans Council (AWVC), the group that runs the parade.  The legal case went to the Supreme Court, which determined that a private group can decide who does, and does not, march in their parade (this is known as “the Hurley decision”, from 1995). This might sound reasonable until one considers that the City of Boston provides an estimated $400,000 in support of the parade (for the Boston Police Department, the Department of Public Works, etc.); the scale of the parade and the City of Boston’s financial support make it more of a quasi-public parade, and yet the City of Boston has no say in who can participate in the parade.  The AWVC has “exclusive control”; this group holds its meetings without public involvement or comment from the community of South Boston. The AWVC continues to deny LGBT organizations the opportunity to march. 

“Some day these walls of exclusion and division will come tumbling down, said Carisa Cunningham, the Director of Public Affairs for the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD). It will be a proud day for the City of Boston when one’s sexual orientation is not a litmus test for who can participate in a parade”

This year, once again, the Allied War Veterans Council denied the Veterans For Peace (VFP) request to join in the “official” Saint Patrick’s Day Parade.  In 2011, VFP decided to have an alternative St. Patrick’s Peace Parade in South Boston instead.  That year, the Allied War Veterans Council’s reason for denying the Veterans For Peace request was that they “did not want the word ‘peace’ associated with the word ‘veteran’.”  VFP intentionally reached out to LGBT groups to invite them to join with them. In fact, LGBT groups were the first ones that VFP reached out to and invited.  In spite of the recent repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, the AWVC still does not allow LGBT groups to march in its “official” parade.
In just three weeks time in 2011, VFP pulled their own permit and had the first Saint Patrick’s Peace Parade, which had 500 participants; garnering front page coverage and editorial articles in all of the major newspapers as well as numerous radio and television reports.  
In 2013, the Third Annual St. Patrick’s Peace Parade had close to 2,000 people, seven divisions, two bands, bag pipers, drummers, a Duck Boat, two trollies, etc. It was a grand success. Our goal is to end this last vestige of institutionalized exclusion, prejudice, bigotry, and homophobia and make this parade inclusive and welcoming to all and bring the message of peace on St. Patrick’s Day.


The parade route is about 4.5 miles and ends at Andrew Station.  Rides along the parade route are available for those who need them, but please let us know ahead of time that you may need a ride.  Come by T if at all possible as the area will be very congested. Broadway is the closest MBTA subway station.

Parking is available for participants in the St. Patrick’s Peace Parade. Vehicles must enter from the north from Summer Street onto D Street; the parking lot is at 383 D Street. Look for the lot with 40 foot white truck trailers.   Allow extra time for traffic.


From North: Route I-93 to South Station exit (20 A). Merge onto Purchase Street to light (100 feet). Make a left onto Summer Street (will pass South Station on right). Go approx. 1 mile to Convention Center. Turn right onto D Street, parking lot .2 mile up on left, (look for VFP Flag)

From South: Route I-93 – Take exit 20 toward South Station. Follow signs for Chinatown, continue straight onto Lincoln Street, turn right onto Kneeland Street, turn left onto Atlantic, south Station will be up on your right. Take a right onto Summer Street. Go approx. 1 mile to Convention Center. Turn right onto D Street, parking lot .2 mile up on left, (look for VFP Flag).

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Reporting back from Raleigh and the Mass Moral March

The signs I carried on February 8.
This past Sunday at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Andover, I reported back on my experience at the February 8 Moral March in Raleigh, NC.  I wanted to share some of my perspective here, too.

First of all, I must say, it was an incredible experience to be a part of the Moral March. What an amazing thing for so many people to come together to lift up the people of North Carolina! The estimates for the number of marchers vary.  The lowest number I've seen is 35,000 people, and the highest number I've seen is 100,000 people. I think it's safe to say that there were 70,000 people there... an incredible number of folks to come together in a state capital to say "enough". Enough of the war on the poor, the war on women, the war on LGBTQ persons, the war on the healthcare, the war on education, the war on voting rights... We were there to say to the legislators in North Carolina that it's time for moral governing! It's time to be on the side of the people and civil rights.

The Moral March was organized by the Rev. Dr. William Barber II and the NC NAACP (of which he is the president) as well as the Historic Thousands on Jones St. People's Assembly Coalition.  Like many other clergy from all different religious traditions, as well as leaders of non-profit organizations and other citizen-leaders, I responded to the call to join the February 8 march.  Specifically, in my case, I responded to the call I saw on the Standing on the Side of Love website
My view at the rally after the march.

It was a privilege to be there, and I thank the members of my congregation for their generosity and flexibility, which made it possible for me to go.

There were approximately 1,500 Unitarian Universalists participating in the march, which is an impressive turnout. We came from all over the United States, as did many others of the marchers.

As I say, the marchers came from all different religious traditions. And they came from groups as disparate as Move to Amend, Greenpeace, Planned Parenthood, Veterans For Peace, and many more.

Looking in the other direction, my view at the rally...
In addition to marching to send a message to the legislators in North Carolina, we were also there to let other legislatures in other states know that we, the people, are paying attention, and we care.  We were there to let the federal government know, too, that we, the people, are paying attention, and we care.

The mainstream media did not cover this important event as they should have. There was some mainstream media coverage, to be fair. I saw this article in the USA Today, and there were a few others, such as this article in the Washington Times. But to some extent there was a mainstream media blackout.  The alternative press did a better job. There are many alternative press articles to which I could link; a few are the ThinkProgress article; The Nation article; and this Huffington Post article (there were others in the Huffington Post as well).
I am to the right in this photo, lining up for the parade.

The mainstream media blackout reminded me of the Occupy movement and the dearth of coverage.  In fact, as someone who participated in the Occupy movement (I was a regular visitor and a sometime-participant in Occupy Boston, through Veterans For Peace and UU connections), it was impossible not to be reminded of Occupy.  First, the amazing diversity of protestors reminded me of Occupy -- the amazing range of concerns. Second, the great energy and spirit of the event. And third, yes, the lack of media coverage appropriate for such momentous occasions.

There are differences, of course, too. The Moral Mondays and the Moral March are fairly traditional protest movements, asking the government powers-that-be to change their hurtful and regressive policies.  Moral Mondays and the Moral March have some demands; basically, overturning the hateful and regressive policies that have recently been put into place.  Occupy, on the other hand, was a more sweeping protest. Occupy was talking to the government, sure; but it was also critiquing large corporations and even capitalism as it has been practiced in recent decades in this country (including critiques of "corporate welfare").  That, along with the encampments themselves, made Occupy more controversial than the Moral March. Also, Occupy famously asked "What is your one demand?" and intentionally never answered the question; the movement seemed more focused on removing the veils. One sign I saw at Occupy Boston summed it up for me: "America: This Is Your Intervention". (I am currently taking a great course at Andover Newton Theological School called "Occupy History: Leadership for Social, Economic, and Religious Transformation", which also helps me to remember and analyze my Occupy experience.)

The Moral March and the Moral Mondays are patterned on the Civil Rights Movement. You can see that connection in this promotional video for the march:

I want to close this post by sharing some footage of the march, which gives a better sense of its size, diversity, and spirit:

Friday, February 14, 2014

... and the UUA has a new logo!

Some big news was revealed yesterday: the Unitarian Universalist Association has a new logo.  You can see it pictured to the left.

The announcement "The UUA Brand Story" came out as well.

There was also an episode of "The VUU" that discussed some of the story behind the new logo; watch the last 30 minutes of the video for that conversation.

There was quite a bit of talk about this in the social networking media yesterday among UUs (and some of our non-UU friends who joined in).  It would seem (as many pointed out) that how you see this new, airy, abstract logo is a bit of a Rorschach test.  What do you see?

Rev. Tom Schade had a few posts on his blog that (along with the comments) might give you a feel of how the discussions went.  The first post he wrote was "Behold the New Logo".  This was followed by "UU Ministers discuss new logo".  The most recent of his posts on the topic (where I left a humble comment) is "Painful".  It has been interesting to read such strong reactions, leading some to speculate that maybe the tension/emotion isn't really about the logo... but more about feelings about the UUA, or authority (including ministerial authority), or what have you.

No logo is going to please everyone, ever.  I can say that this new one has grown on me over the past 24 hours. In the end, it's just a logo.  I believe that how people see Unitarian Universalism will have much more to do with how we are in our communities and in the world; then others might notice us and (eventually) the logo.

On the other hand, this is apparently "part one" of a re-branding effort, so I'm waiting with hope on what is to come.

Meanwhile, Rev. Cynthia Landrum has written "An Open Letter to the UUA", which is a very thoughtful response to all of this. I like many of her suggestions about ways that the UUA can help congregations, particularly smaller ones.

I am mindful that it took much longer than 24 hours for the last logo (shown here to the right) to grow on me.  When it was revealed in 2006 it was critiqued as looking "too corporate", and it was ridiculed with names like "the bear trap logo", "the Venus fly trap logo", and (my personal favorite) "the logo of Guadalupe".  But it did grow on me, and on many of us.

It is human nature to have an immediate reaction to a new image, maybe particularly a new logo for something that we hold dear.  Some of you will immediately like or even love the new logo (at the top of this post). Some of you will feel ambivalent or not strongly about it. And some of you will immediately dislike it. I suppose that's inevitable.  But like the great Taoist and Zen story (that I shared in my recent sermon "Beautiful Losers") puts it, "We'll see".

I remain hopeful.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Reporting back from Raleigh: The Moral March

At the Moral March, February 8. Colleague Barb Greve on the left; I am on the right.
If you've been reading this blog, you know that this past weekend I was in Raleigh, NC for the Mass Moral March.

I will be reporting back here on my impressions and learnings from the event... [Addendum: my "report back" post is here.]

But I will first offer those reflections at a worship service this Sunday, February 16 at 10:30 a.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Andover.  Join us, if you can!  After Sunday, I will post my summary here on this blog. (If you are very anxious to learn more about the event, there are many articles online; one is this post on Bill Moyers' website.)

Sunday's worship service will a "Standing on the Side of Love Sunday". We have, as many congregations in the UUA, re-imagined Valentine's Day as an occasion to celebrate a broader love for all of humanity, and humanitarian rights.  Come and be a part of it!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Joining the "Most Massive Moral Rally in the South since Selma"

Rev. William Barber II at a Moral Monday.
In a couple of days, I will be in Raleigh, NC responding to the call to clergy and people of faith to join the “Most Massive Moral Rally in the South since Selma”. 

The Forward Together Moral Movement (the broad coalition of activists issuing the call) writes, “As ministers and citizens of North Carolina… we have borne witness to a movement across our state that is resisting the immoral and undemocratic actions of our legislature and governor.  With many from the congregations we serve we’ve taken part in Moral Mondays… On Saturday, Feb. 8th, the Forward Together Moral Movement is calling on all people of faith and conscience from Southern states and across the country to join us for a Mass Moral March on Raleigh.”  

The Forward Together Moral Movement was largely started by The Rev. William J. Barber II, a Disciples of Christ minister and president of the North Carolina NAACP.  In 2013, “Moral Mondays” were held in Raleigh, NC to protest state legislation that was hurting low income residents.  Specifically, North Carolina legislation has created voter ID laws that threaten voting rights in the state. There have been harsh cuts to unemployment benefits and public school funding. There have been efforts to reject Medicaid expansion that is part of the Affordable Care Act.  There have been tax “reform” proposals that would further reduce benefits for low income residents (and that generally seem to take from the poor to give to the wealthy).
As Rev. Barber says, “We believe North Carolina is the crucible… If you’re going to change the country, you’ve got to change the South. If you’re going to change the South, you’ve got to focus on these state capitols.”

Protesters in the Moral Movement have been gathering on Mondays all year, engaging in civil disobedience – in some cases, getting arrested. Clergy and other faith community leaders have been prominent, and many of those (including UU clergy) have been among the arrested for “trespass and failure to disperse” and similar charges.

As of this writing, more than 750 Unitarian Universalists are signed up to participate in this weekend’s march and activities, and several hundred more UUs are planning to drive in from local congregations on Saturday.  I am very happy to be the UU Congregation in Andover's representative this weekend.  

On February 16, I will be leading a “Standing on the Side of Love Sunday”.  For several years now, the UUCiA has participated in the UUA’s effort to reimagine Valentine’s Day as a day for a greater love, the work of humanitarianism and justice.   I will report back from Raleigh, and we will think together about how to bring more love into the world.  

In the meantime, check back here for an update from the trip... [Addendum: My "report back" post is here.]