Search Results for: Uu principles

Bible Literacy for UUs: Our Seven Principles and the Bible

bibleWe may see the UUA Seven Principles and the Bible as opposite ends of a religious and cultural spectrum. Yet two of our sources are connected with the Bible. In this series, we will focus on each of the sev?en principles along with related contemporary readings and selected Bible passages. What do our principles and sources mean to us?  How do the Bible’s teachings support or contradict our liberal values? Can we deepen our own liberal faith through considering and discussing these relationships.

Facilitator: Crystal Ross 

Eight bi-weekly sessions: Mondays 4:00 – 6:00 PM in the Chapel

9/14, 9/28, 10/12, 10/26, 11/9, 11/23, 12/7, 12/21

September’s sessions:

  • 9/14: Session 1: A brief history of the Seven Principles; the Bible as a cultural icon; the Letter and the Spirit
  • 9/28: Session 2: First Principle: The inherent worth and dignity of every person. Calvinism & Universalism; a Hebrew and Christian God who loves humankind

Bring a snack or sandwich if you like.

To sign up please contact the church office at 860-646-5151 or  uuse153@sbcglobal.net to sign up.

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April Ministry Theme

FREEDOM

“Free and Responsible”

by Marlene J. Geary

Have you ever found yourself saying “Being a Unitarian Universalist means that you can believe anything you want?”

The Rev. Liz Strong writes: “Unitarian Uni­versalism is not the freedom to believe anything or nothing. It is the freedom to reason and feel your own way to what the evidence leads you to believe. You have the freedom to form your own beliefs. [But] there are responsibilities that go with this freedom.”

The Rev. Tim Kutzmark takes it from there: “Just because Unitarian Universalism doesn’t have a rigid structure doesn’t mean there is no structure at all. Just because Unitarian Universalism doesn’t have a rigid set of beliefs doesn’t mean there are no beliefs at all. Just because Unitarian Universalism has an open embrace doesn’t mean that any belief is welcome here. Just because Unitarian Universalism affirms us as individuals doesn’t mean that our own mind is the be all and end all of religious discernment.

Our faith is rooted in radical beliefs, revolu­tionary concepts about divinity and humanity and the nature of life that reach back several thousand years. Timeless truths taught by our Unitarian and Universalist forebears are at the core of our faith. These core beliefs are anchored in this present day and age by what we call our Seven Principles and Purposes. These Seven Principles and Purposes are not inconclusive or inconsequential vagaries. They are seven specific action statements, seven specific mis­sion statements that, if we really guided our day by them, would cause us to upend our lives and upend the world around us.

The Principles are the heart of our faith. We are called not just to affirm these, which is easy. We are called to actively promote them in our home, our workplace, our neighborhood, our town, our state, our country, and our world. And if our own beliefs are not in sympathy with any of these seven—then this Uni­tarian Universalist faith is not a place for us. I can’t be here, you can’t be here, we can’t be here, and simply believe whatever we want. Our own search for truth and meaning must be guided by these seven religious principles.

My mom used to say: ‘There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.’ Well, I’d echo that and say: ‘There ain’t no such thing as a free search.’”

Principles and Mission

Unitarian Universalist Voices

Our Principles

We, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association, covenant to affirm and promote

  • The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
  • Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
  • Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
  • A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
  • The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
  • The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
  • Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

The living tradition which we share draws from many sources:

  • Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life;
  • Words and deeds of prophetic women and men which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love;
  • Wisdom from the world’s religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life;
  • Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God’s love by loving our neighbors as ourselves;
  • Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit.
  • Spiritual teachings of earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.

Grateful for the religious pluralism which enriches and ennobles our faith, we are inspired to deepen our understanding and expand our vision. As free congregations we enter into this covenant, promising to one another our mutual trust and support.

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Our Mission

Unitarian Universalist Society: East is a welcoming, open-minded, spiritual community seeking truth and meaning in its many forms. We share responsibility for building a more equitable, peaceful, and sustainable world.

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Our Vision

Unitarian Universalist Society: East will be the vibrant spiritual home to a richly diverse and growing congregation. Members and staff will share our many talents, skills, and gifts to ensure our financial strength, to nurture a soul-stretching, heart-centered, open-minded community, and to work toward social and environmental justice. Our ministry and mission will be transformative and far-reaching.

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Our Covenant

We will strive to…

  • Treat each other with respect
  • Foster an encouraging and supportive congregational culture
  • Engage each other with love, compassion, kindness and forgiveness
  • Listen with an open heart and mind
  • Speak our truths thoughtfully, openly and directly
  • Acknowledge and recognize conflict as an opportunity for growth and understanding
  • Welcome, accept and care for one another
  • Nurture generous spirits
  • Be sensitive to dynamics of power and privilege as they relate to race, class, gender, sexual orientation, ability and age
  • Be accountable to one another and honor our commitments
  • Maintain and encourage a sense of humor
  • Learn and participate in Unitarian Universalist Society: East’s established system of due process and governance

If any of the above fails, we strive for forgiveness.

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January Ministry Theme

Marlene J. Geary
Co-Chair, Sunday Services Committee

“Vocation at its deepest level is not, ‘Oh, boy, I get to go to this strange place where I have to learn a new way to live and where no one, including me, under­stands what I’m doing.’ Vocation at its deepest level is, “This is something I can’t not do, for reasons I’m unable to explain to anyone else and don’t fully un­derstand myself but that are nonetheless compelling.”

– Parker Palmer

“The challenge for [Unitarian Universalists] is to make sure we are providing evidence of what we love and serve more than secretly. Actions speak louder than words. Do we care about conventional wisdom more than justice? Do we care about keeping up with our neighbors more than enlarging those who are truly our neighbors and inviting all persons to the party? Where are our hearts leading us, not just in secret, but here, publicly?

This challenge means we are talking about vocation— a calling to something. Here we are, having cove­nanted, having promised to affirm and promote these principles and draw upon these many traditions. Here we are answering this calling, which sometimes we might struggle to define, answering this calling here, to work in this church and in this faith.” – Rev. Naomi King

The ministry theme for January is vocation. This is at first glance a more secular choice for a theo­logical theme. We’re all familiar with the definitions of vocation – a life’s work, the purpose of a group, a strong inclination toward a particular state or a course of action. The word has been connected to a divine sense of work, traced to the Christian Bible.

But I am particularly interested in the etymol­ogy of the word for this month’s column.

The first known use of the word is from the 15th century. It comes from the late Middle English vocacio (1400-1500CE). This sourced from the Latin vocare, which meant a call or a summons. And vocare came from vox, which meant voice.

And what I see from tracing the etymology is that the call grew out of the voice. The voice became the call that became the vocation. The voice is the vo­cation. Out of the vocation comes the voice.

What is the voice?

The voice is what you hear inside you that calls you to grow, think, move, change, act.

The voice is what people hear together that causes movements, protests, changes. It founds new religions. Unitarians and Universalists heard a voice that they could not ignore and they answered the call to found a new religion. From this group vocation, they created a new voice that speaks to us today through the principles of Unitarian Universalism.

At some point, you made a deliberate decision to become a Unitarian Universalist. It might have been as a child, as an adult, as a senior. But something within in you spoke and you listened. It might have taken a few steps or many, but you followed the call to find a Unitarian Universalist congregation. And here you are today, at Unitarian Universalist Society: East.

So I would ask: now that you have been called here to be a part of this faith community, how are you participating in your vocation as a Unitarian Univer­salist? What is your work within this faith? The UU Principles begin with the statement “we affirm and promote”. If you affirm, do you also promote?

This vocational work of promoting the princi­ples is a core function of our covenant together. Uni­tarian Universalism is not a passive religion. At its heart is the deep justice work of building equity and compassion in human relations. At its heart is a stag­gering goal of a peaceful world community. The voices of Unitarian Universalists are heard the world over, promoting these principles.

This is the vocation of the faith community of which you are a part. I invite you to listen to your voice and ask where your UU voice fits into that com­munity vocation. What is your UU vocation? Where is your voice heard? Where is your voice not being heard?

If you are proud of this church, become its advocate. If you are concerned for it future, share its message.  If its values resonate deep within you, give it a meas­ure of your devotion. This church cannot survive without your faith, your confidence, your enthusiasm. Its destiny, the larger hope, rests in your hands.

-Michael A. Schuler

Unitarian Universalist (UU) Parenting Discussion Series

Love our kids

Geared toward parents, caregivers, and anyone involved in the lives of children, birth to 18 years old. Lunch and childcare will be provided. Advance registration is requested.

The UU Parenting Series is a discussion forum where we come together to learn about the challenges faced by the youngest members of our community and share ideas to help them navigate the great adventure of growing up.  The Seven UU Principles are a strong foundation on which we center ourselves and our children and, as such, will inform our discussions.

All are welcome.  In order to have an accurate headcount for childcare and lunch we ask that you register in advance for each event. Please register in advance by emailing uuse153@sbcglobal.net.

Fall Event: UU Parenting Film and Discussion: Resilience

Join us to view and discuss the new documentary Resilience. Toxic stress can wreak havoc on the brains and bodies of children, putting them at a greater risk for disease, homelessness, prison time, and early death. Resilience chronicles the movement that is fighting back. Trailblazers in pediatrics, education, and social welfare discuss field-tested therapies to protect children from the insidious effects of toxic stress. Co-sponsored with Religious Education. To arrange childcare and have a head count for lunch, please register as soon as possible by contacting the church office at (860) 646-5151 or uuse153@sbcglobal.net.

Sunday 10/15, Pizza, 12:30 PM

Film & discussion, 1:00 – 4:00 PM

 

Lunch and childcare will be provided. Advance registration is requested.

To arrange childcare and have a head count for lunch we ask that you register as soon as possible by contacting the church office at 860-646-5151 or by email at uuse153@sbcglobal.net. Please include course name and date. Most programs are held at Unitarian Universalist Society: East, 153 Vernon Street West, Manchester, CT unless otherwise noted. Please let us know if you require special accommodations.

Co-Sponsored with the Religious Education Committee.

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Basis of Our Curriculum

Happy Chalice

Unitarian Universalist Principles, Children’s Version

As Unitarian Universalists we share common values which are expressed in our seven Principles
and upon which our Religious Education curricula is based.

Every person is important.

Be kind in all you do.

We’re free to learn together.

We can search for what is true.

All people need a voice.

Build a fair and peaceful world.

We care for the Earth.

Singing Children

Unitarian Universalist Sources

The living tradition we share draws from many sources including:

Direct experience of mystery and wonder;

Words and deeds of prophetic women and men;

Wisdom from the world’s religions;

Jewish and Christian teachings;

Humanist teachings using reason and science;

Spiritual teachings of earth-centered traditions.


Return to Religious Education for Children and Youth.

Basis of Our Curriculum | Religious Education Program Overview | Program Goals

Building Community for our Future | Our Children’s Covenant | Volunteers and Staff

The Unified Principles of Our Faith

On Sunday morning, January 8th, UUS:E was honored to welcome Imam Kashif Abdul-Karim, resident Imam of the Muhammad Islamic Center of Greater Hartford, into its pulpit. The text to his khutbah (sermon) is below. We were also blessed to welcome Mr. Bashir Labanga, who offered a traditional Muslim call to prayer. You can listen here:

Bashir Labanga, Call to Prayer, UUS:E, 1-8-12

Video here.

Imam Kashif Abdul-Karim

The Unified Principles of Our Faith

Islam is a religion that many people believe has its origins in the city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia. But true students of Islam know that the religion of Islam has its origins in the establishment of the creation. Muslims believe there are only two things that exist: The Creator and the creation. We believe the creator is God and the creation is Muslim. God is not in any part of the creation but the supreme creator over creation. We also believe that the creation itself is Muslim. This means the stars, the moon, the trees, human beings, all that exist is Muslim. Regardless of what we may call ourselves, be it Christian, Jew, or other, we are all Muslim. We believe this to be true because Muslim means one who submits to the will of God.

The Arabic term gets in the way. If I asked you if you are one who submits to the will of God you would say yes. But if I asked the same question using an Arabic term–are you Muslim?–many of you would say no. We are told in the Quran, the holy book of the Muslim, that everything is Muslim. “Everything submits willingly or unwillingly to God.” We believe it is in our universal nature, and in our universal origin to do so. So through this basic understanding we see a shared guiding principle. We have a universal brotherhood with all of mankind, and also a universal relationship with creation and with God. In Islam this concept is called “tawheed”. It is the basic understanding of the oneness of God and the oneness of creation. This means we must also respect the inherent worth and dignity of every person. We must respect the inherent good that God has placed in the “fitrah” nature of all of creation, this nature of excellence. We do not believe that man is inherently evil, but that he is inherently good. We do not believe in original sin or in sin that is transferable from one soul to the next. We believe no soul bears the burden of another. However we do believe we are our brother’s keepers. So we believe we should protect the inherent worth that God has established in human beings.

We must stand for justice and equity and have true compassion for one another. In Islam we believe this is an inherent right that God has established for not only human beings but for all of creation. The body has rights over us, just as the soul has rights over us. The whole of creation has rights as well. We should be environmentalist. God has established rights for water, trees, and the environment at large. We are told that we should not waste, not do anything in excess, such as cutting down trees beyond our needs, or running water wastefully.  To be reminded of these concepts, God has named himself after these attributes. We call him by 99 Names from the Quran. God is named The Just, The Compassionate, The Equitable, and The Source of Peace. These attributes are attributes that we as Muslims are told to strive towards.  The goal of God as stated in your principles and ours, are for a world community of peace, liberty, and justice for all.

 

In Al-Islam we are told in our holy book that we will all be judged by our books. Unlike many of our brothers and sisters in the Abrahamic faith we believe there is a variety of doors to God. We believe in God’s openness and diversity in faith.

God says in the Quran in Sura 2:Ayat 62:

(Y. Ali) Those who believe (in the Qur’an), and those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Christians and the Sabians,- any who believe in Allah and the Last Day, and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord; on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.

God goes further in Sura 5, Ayat 48 (Y. Ali) to stress the universal brotherhood of the prophets and the continuity of revelation:

5:48 To thee We sent the Scripture in truth, confirming the scripture that came before it, and guarding it in safety: so judge between them by what Allah hath revealed, and follow not their vain desires, diverging from the Truth that hath come to thee. To each among you have we prescribed a law and an open way. If Allah had so willed, He would have made you a single people, but (His plan is) to test you in what He hath given you: so strive as in a race in all virtues. The goal of you all is to Allah. it is He that will show you the truth of the matters in which ye dispute.

As we examine this brotherhood in scripture and in prophecy we should see the need to accept one another and encourage each other’s spiritual growth, for it brings us closer to finding the higher truths that God has established for mankind. It should also instill in us a respect for the interdependent web of God’s full creation.

I was born a Muslim by nature but I was raised as a Southern Baptist. My mother introduced me to Christianity in Rockingham, North Carolina. This is my answer when people tell me I should go back where I came from.

As a college student I had an innate passion for African American History and Social justice. I was president of the African American Cultural Center and president of the Black Student Association at UConn. All my research and courses I attached to “my people” and to social change. When I researched my history I found that my ancestors had come from the west coast of Africa. This is true for most African Americans. The most interesting finding in my research was that the slaves who came to America came to America as Muslims. This was a great surprise; I had to find why this was kept out of the general African American history books. What were the Secrets in The Quran and in The Religion that were hidden so well? I concluded it was the aspects of freedom, justice and equality that Islam taught. I found that Islam offered me a way to address social justice and to serve God. This is the essence of my faith and I’m sure aspects of my faith resonate with your faith as well.

The question then arises, if what I have said is true, why do we see so much oppression in the world from Muslims. Why do we see shariah laws that are oppressing people around the world and even Muslims? The simplest answer is illiteracy, cultural baggage being promoted over religion and the political agendas of countries being denied there humanity, having these agendas of the suffering forced upon religious leadership.

Illiteracy is as high as 70 percent in some Muslim countries. It is higher in parts of Africa and among Women. Many Muslims are unable to understand the Quran in their own languages. They can recite the Arabic by memory but many are unable to translate the meaning into a language they can understand. Many Muslims are therefore dependent on scholars and sheiks to tell them what the Quran means. So words like jihad that mean internal struggle between good and evil can come to mean “Holy wars against the infidels”. The word jihad is never used in the Quran for war. It is used to deal with internal spiritual conflict. It is used for holy wars by the prophet only during times of self defense, not aggression. A Muslim is told that he can only engage in war when he is being denied the freedom of his religion or in periods of oppression. The same founding principles were hailed by Patrick Henry when he said “Give me liberty or give me death.” These are the same basic elements found in the US Constitution that we as Americans value and for which we have sacrificed.

As Muslims we have a democratic process that was in place 1400 years ago. It is called Shura. It is a process that supports elections and voting, a process that gave women the right to inheritance, council, divorce and a voice in community life. This did not occur in America until the 1940s. The concept of democracy is a deeply entrenched Islamic principle but it is based on limited freedoms. We are free to engage in good and support good but immoral things we are not free to engage in or support. The majority is not always right in Islam, if the final vote is unjust. We see this evident in our congress and in our senate. Look at what the house has voted for in terms of healthcare, and the detainment of US citizens without due process. The majority wins but the outcomes are not just and not Islamic.

Muslims lean on Shariah law for direction. Shariah is what all people of faith lean on for guidance whether they are Muslim, Jewish or Christian. As the issue of shariah is being addressed in this country its implications impact Jews as well as Muslims. This is a common concern that Muslims and Jews could deal with together. Shariah literally means the path to the water hole. When we consider the importance of a well-trodden path to a source of water for man and beast in the dry desert environment, we can appreciate why this term could have become a metaphor for a whole way of life ordained by God. Shariah law, like all laws, is based on interpretation. When good men interpret the law it produces good. When evil men interpret the law it can produce evil. This is true in the American judicial system as well. Muslims need to understand that the application of Shariah law may have different applications in America than other places. Shariah is derived from two primary sources of Islamic law: the precepts set forth in the Quran, and the example set by the prophet Muhammad in the Sunnah. This is similar to the Jews obeying the Torah and the instructions of Moses. To deny Muslims the shariah is to deny the Muslims the Quran and the prophet.

Muslims have been part of the American fabric for 500 years. Muslims have been on the plantations of the south, merged into Native American culture, fought in the civil war, excelled in sports, entertainment and many fields of science. However, negative reaction to the flux of immigrants, racism, and the horrid pictures of 911 continue to distort the good picture of the American people and what we stand for. Terrorist will win if we stop being the America we are proud of. If we lose our morality, our element of freedom, and our appreciation for diversity the terrorists will win. Their goal was to make America a lie. We the faithful must keep the morality of the just in front. So it is our prayer that God strengthens us and empowers us to move towards his good. We ask all the people supporting the spirit of truth to help us in this work. Let us begin by asking the people to say:

Amin

 

 

February 2016 Minister’s Column

Dear Ones:

Do you have a friend or acquaintance who lives in the Greater Manchester area who you think is a Unitarian Universalist but just doesn’t know it yet? Do you have a friend or acquaintance who lives in either Hartford or Tolland County who you think would identify closely with the Unitarian Universalist principles? Do you have a friend or acquaintance who would thrive in the midst of a loving, liberal religious community? Do you have a child who has a friend who you think would like the religious education program at UUS:E? If your answer to any of these questions is “yes,” then I highly encourage you to invite that friend or acquaintance to join all of us at UUS:E on February 14 for worship and the Chocolate auction.

Unitarian Universalism has a long-standing love-hate relationship with evangelism. Because we UUs refuse to identify our faith as the one, true faith, and because we hold deep respect for other religions, we have often not felt a strong need to spread our “good news.” We’ve relied on those who might appreciate Unitarian Universalism to find us on their own. This is important: we don’t proselytize. We don’t try to impose our faith on others. We pursue interfaith relationships and value religious pluralism, rather than anxiously trying to convert others to our way of believing. However, it is also true that we have good news. It is also true that our principles can save lives. It is also true that the world needs our message of freedom, reason, acceptance, compassion and love. So why not tell others about Unitarian Universalism? Why not invite others in?

Last June the UUS:E Policy Board commissioned a “Growth Team” to develop strategies for growing our congregation specifically, and for growing Unitarian Universalism more broadly. Jason Corsa and Peggy Gagne chair the team. Members include Nancy Pappas, Carol Marion, Michelle Spadaccini, Beth Zambrano, Louisa Graver, Jean Knapp and me. One thing is clear: if we want to grow, we’re going to need to talk to others about our faith. This makes sense. Most experts on church growth will tell you that for congregations of all sizes, the most reliable path to growth is “word of mouth.” If you’re excited about your faith community, then others will be too. Having a good website with up-to-date information also makes a difference, but there is nothing like a face-to-face invitation to make a person feel welcome in your faith community. We’ve designated February 14 as “Bring a Friend to Church” Sunday. I encourage everyone to do just that: invite a friend (or acquaintance) to join you at UUS:E for worship, and then stay for the chocolate auction. Invite a friend or acquaintance who isn’t part of a faith community already. Invite someone who already possesses liberal religious values. Invite someone who may be lonely or looking for community. Invite them.

We’re working on some incentives. We will offer a certain amount of “UUS:E Bucks” to be spent at the Chocolate Auction to everyone who brings a friend on the 14th. But even if your friend can’t make it then, invite them for another Sunday. And even if you can’t think of anyone to invite on the 14th, keep looking. Consider every Sunday to be “Bring a Friend to Church” Sunday. Because we do have good news—news that saves lives—news that matters in a hurting world. There is no reason to keep it a secret!

Amen and blessed be.

 

 

 

With love,

Rev. Josh

Living Principles

Public Witness In my sermon following the election of Donald Trump as United States President, I said “the church is not serving you fully if it is not sending you forth into the world to live your principles proudly, resolutely, urgently, lovingly.” But I offered only a very general suggestion of what that might mean in this historical moment. The more I spoke with members and friends of the congregation, the more it felt important to continue this morning exploring what this means, rather than preaching on the sources of rage in American culture and society as I had originally planned. I think this is important. I think the post-election narrative about rage in the nation is far too simple. It ignores many sources of rage, many longstanding grievances that continue to go unaddressed. I’ll preach that sermon on January 15th.  For now, what does it mean that our congregation sends us forth to live our Unitarian Universalist principles proudly, resolutely, urgently, lovingly?

Rehearsing the Beloved Community[1]

I don’t expect any of us, myself included, to know how to live our principles just because we say they are our principles. As we read through the Unitarian Universalist principles on the back of the order of service, we say, “yes, these are my principles, they speak to me, they resonate with me.” But that doesn’t mean we automatically know how to apply them to our lives. We certainly aren’t born knowing how to live them. We have to learn how to live them. And, in fact, we have to constantly relearn how to live them as the world changes. How do we learn and relearn? We practice. We practice here at church. This is, in fact, one of the purposes of church. Rehearsal. Heaven may not have come to earth, but we can rehearse for its arrival here. We may not experience beloved community out in the wider world, but we can rehearse it here. Practice, practice, practice.

Practice respect here. That’s our first principle. Practice acceptance here. That’s our third principle. Practice respect for and acceptance of people who are different from you in some way: people who believe differently than you; people with religious, cultural or geographical backgrounds different from yours; people whose age, ability, gender or sexual orientation is different from yours. Learn another’s perspective, then practice encountering the world from that perspective.

Practice compassion here—that’s part of our second principle. Practice approaching and being present to people who are suffering or in pain. Practice being attentive. Practice listening. Practice caring. Practice empathizing. Practice being supportive and nonjudgmental as others share their vulnerabilities in your presence. And, while you’re at it, practice asking for help from others. Practice accepting help from others. Practice being vulnerable, sharing your fears, your concerns, your anxieties in the presence of others who love and support you.

Practice democracy here. That’s our fourth principle. If you know the congregation is holding a meeting and taking a vote, learn what the vote is about, and then vote. But democracy is more than voting. Practice finding common ground. Practice building consensus. Practice letting everyone speak who wants to. If someone expresses a concern, practice pausing to address the concern, even if it means we might not finish everything on the agenda. If you’re typically quiet and reserved, practice speaking up. If you’re typically vocal and always offer ideas, practice waiting until everyone else has spoken. And if you are a person of privilege, practice making room for those with less privilege.

Practice justice-making here. That’s the heart of our second and sixth principles. Practice being fair. Practice peace-making. Let’s practice together not perpetuating sexism here, not perpetuating racism, homophobia, transphobia, ageism and classism here. We’ve made some wonderful strides in recent years, so let’s also practice not taking our success for granted. If we want to move the wider world toward more justice, equity and compassion, then let’s practice moving ourselves toward more justice, equity and compassion.

Practice earth stewardship and sustainable living here, our seventh principle. Practice searching for truth and meaning here, our fourth principle.

Learn what living these principles feel like in practice here. Let the visceral experience of them here seep into your consciousness, your psyche, your heart, your bones. Let the experience capture your imagination for what your community, your town, the nation, the world can be. Begin looking for such experiences in other parts of your life. Begin to notice where they are present in the wider world, and where they are absent. Where they are present, name them, celebrate them, encourage them, build on them. Where they are absent, begin to introduce them, just like you’ve been practicing at church. Let church be rehearsal space for beloved community.

Don’t Take the Bait: Thoughts on the Second Unitarian Universalist Principle

Injustice and inequality don’t happen because individuals hold and profess extreme views. Injustice and inequality happen because those views operate in institutional structures and culture. Here’s an example of what I am talking about. If a company with a sexist culture fires a sexist boss, will that make sexism go away? No. A company with a sexist culture can’t make sexism go away simply by firing a sexist boss. A company with a sexist culture can reduce the impact of sexism by changing institutional structures and culture, by mandating equal pay for equal work, a fair and transparent path to promotion for all employees regardless of gender, a zero-tolerance policy for sexual harassment, a trustworthy reporting process for victims of sexual harassment, and so on. Firing the sexist boss is relatively easy. But changing structures and culture takes time, education, organizing. It takes endurance, resilience and creativity. Firing a sexist boss might feel good—it might feel like a triumph for our values—and it might be the right thing to do, but there’s no guarantee anything will be different afterwards. Changing sexist structures and culture will reduce sexism in the company regardless of any individual’s personal views and behaviors. For me, living our second principle has rarely meant focusing on the things extremist individuals or groups do and say. It has always meant working to change structures and culture.

That’s become a very difficult line to parse recently. Throughout the presidential campaign Donald Trump would offer controversial, hateful statements into the crowd, then sit back with a smirk as the nation spun like a pinwheel around his words. We reacted. We took the bait. He would let it go on for a few days then walk the statement back. “No, we won’t punish women who get abortions.” “No, we won’t commit war crimes.” Later he would criticize the media for continuously replaying the first thing he said but not the second thing. “That’s unfair. You’re being biased.” The end result was nobody knew what he was proposing. The pinwheel ride continues. He’s still using this technique. And now some of his extremist supporters are using it too—provoking, testing, discerning what hateful words and actions they can get away with. Liberals are living in a state of constant reaction. Of course, some of this hate is more than mere provocation. Some of it poses a real threat and we need to respond. But we also need to learn how to recognize the difference between a real threat and an action intended just to get a reaction. The line is admittedly blurry, but we need to stop taking the bait.

Since November 8th I’ve never heard so many people—here and elsewhere—say “I want to get involved” or “I want to crawl out from under my rock and work for a more just society.” I think it’s great that people want to live our second principle more forthrightly. (I hope many of you who feel newly motivated will join our Social Justice / Anti-Oppression Committee at its next meeting on December 6th at 7:00.) But a word of caution: The principle is “justice, equity and compassion in human relations,” not “earnest reaction to Trump’s latest tweet.” We’re not taking the bait.

The church sends us forth to dismantle the structures and culture that hold injustice and inequality in place. For more than a decade we’ve been advocating for more humane treatment of undocumented immigrants, civil rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, health care reform, criminal justice and drug policy reform, an end to mass incarceration of people of color, and a reversal of the policies and practices that drive income inequality. More recently we’ve committed ourselves to the Black Lives Matter movement and refugee resettlement work.  Let’s stay focused on these issues that have defined us, rather than reacting to the provocations of extremists. We sought justice, equity and compassion in human relations throughout the Obama presidency. We would be doing it throughout a Hillary Clinton presidency. We will do it throughout the Trump presidency. In the words of the old civil rights song, “keep your eyes on the prize!” Don’t take the bait.

Loving the Haters: Thoughts on the First Unitarian Universalist Principle

Love yourself fiercely. I say this because it truly is difficult to extend love outward if you cannot extend love inward. If you struggle with self-doubt, if you carry feelings of guilt or shame, if your confidence and esteem are low, if you feel you don’t deserve the love of others, if you’re wrestling with your privilege, if you’re angry, frightened, immobilized, lost, remember: the inherent worth and dignity of every person applies to you too. I know it can be incredibly difficult to move from self-doubt to self-love. It’s not a straightforward path. There may be wounds that run deep, that have never healed, that still hurt. It may be easy for me to say, but I feel I must say it: Love yourself fiercely. That is the foundation upon which we can offer genuine love to others.

Our first principle has been—and still is—for me, the starting-place for a liberating, anti-oppressive vision of the world. It focuses our attention on the oppressed, the impoverished, the most vulnerable. It calls us to love and support undocumented people, not because we all agree that it’s OK they entered the country illegally, but because they are our fellow human beings, the vast majority of whom are seeking to fulfill the same promises in life so many of us seek—honest work, a chance to succeed, safety for their families, education for their children, peace. It calls us to love and support the transgender teenager before they feel so hopeless that the only path they can imagine is suicide; to love and support Black lives before another young man lies dying in the street or incarcerated for nonviolent crimes; to love and support Muslim women who face the excruciating decision whether or not to wear the hijab and invite ridicule and violence, or to take it off and deprive themselves of a source of spiritual strength; to love and support the combat veteran struggling with PTSD; to love and support the Standing Rock water protectors; to love and support the opioid addict, the person living with AIDS, the homeless person; to love and support everyone now living in fear that their life-sustaining health care coverage is going to vanish.  

This vision of love and support for the oppressed and the vulnerable is the right vision; and it is difficult enough to make real. But it does not exhaust the scope of our first principle. It actually gets more difficult. Respect for the inherent worth and dignity of every person requires us, also, to love and support the neighbor or the family member with the political lawn sign that disagrees with our political lawn sign; to love and support the person who wrote that insensitive letter to the editor, not to mention the troll comments further down the page; to love and support those White working class voters who feel not only forgotten and neglected but full of rage; to love and support the police officer who fired the fatal shot; to love and support the people who propose policies that threaten your rights or your well-being; the gun manufacturer who just produced a weapon that will be used to murder; the prison guard who abuses the prisoners; the drug dealer who peddles death in shiny little bags; the oil driller, the pipeline worker, the coal miner, the factory farmer, the rain forest logger—all those people whose livelihoods depend on industries and practices that destroy the earth; the 1% who hoard the wealth of the nations. And yes, it calls us to love the haters, the people who suddenly feel they have license to spread hate and division, to harass and bully—the avowed racists, the homophobes, the sexists. Love them. Love their families. Love their children.

So many have said, “No, I will not do this. I will not love people who hate. I’m sick and tired of the appeal to understand their perspective when they have never respected my perspective. I’m sick and tired of being asked to make nice with racism.” I keep saying some version of “When you hate I have no obligation to love you.  You don’t even want my love. You mock my love. So why should I bother?”

That’s how I feel. It’s an impasse. But I also know that if someone else’s hate has the power to define the scope of my principles, then hate wins. And that cannot happen. The impasse is real, but the power of love is greater. Someone else’s hate may be frightening, saddening, demoralizing, infuriating, anxiety-producing, but that doesn’t mean it has to weaken your capacity to love yourself, your neighbor, a stranger or your enemy. That doesn’t mean you must reduce the scope of our first principle from ‘every person’ to ‘only some people.’ I confess I don’t know how to love people who hate. I know I don’t have to accept hate. I know I still have to hold people accountable for their hateful words and deeds. I may have to forgive, but that does not mean I have to forget. So what do I have to do? I’m not sure yet. This dimension of our first principle requires an examination most of us haven’t done. But right now there is an abundance of hate, so it’s time to relearn how we live this principle. It’s time to come to church to practice loving the haters. That may sound elitist and arrogant to some listeners, but I’m not sure what choice we have. I principles require it.

In the very least I know this: as I am sent forth into the world, I will not let hate determine how I live my principles. Abundant love will determine how I live my principles. And abundant love has no limits.

Earlier I read to you Annette Marquis, “Deliver Us to Evil.” I’ll conclude my remarks this morning by sharing her re-working of the Lord’s prayer, a reminder to let love guide us in how we live our principles. She prays:  “Spirit of Life, which exists wherever there is love, / Blessed be all Your names. / Strengthen our will / To create heaven on earth, / And help us embody a peace-filled world. / Give us all our daily bread. / Teach us to forgive ourselves for our failings, / And to forgive those who have failed us. / Deliver us to evil / And give us the courage to transform it with Love. / For Love is the power, and the glory, / For ever and ever. / Amen.”[2]

Blessed be.

[1] This language of “rehearsing the beloved community” is not original to me, though I am not sure who to credit. I first encountered it at Middle Collegiate Church in New York City. Since then, I have heard numerous clergy around the country use this language to describe the purpose of the church.

[2] Marquis, Annette, “Deliver Us to Evil” in Montgomery, Kathleen, ed., Bless the Imperfect (Boston: Skinner House Books, 2014) pp. 75-76.

Becoming a Sanctuary Congregation

Refugees and undocumented immigrants in the U.S. are facing new threats. As Unitarian Universalists, how do we gain better insight into the plight of these people, how should we view the current situation in light of our UU Principles, and what are the options for Unitarian Universalist Society: East and its members to get involved? In Session 1, we’ll examine the plight of the immigrants and refugees, the issues they face, and the history of the Sanctuary Congregation Movement. In Session 2, we’ll discuss the current movement and how UUS:E and its members can help. Hosted by the Social Justice Anti-Oppression Committee’s Sanctuary Congregation Team.

Dates and times to be announced

Sign up by calling the church office, 860-646-5151 or by email at uuse153@sbcglobal.net. Please include your name, course name and date.

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