UU Lenten Observation

lent

Once again, I am offering weekly online readings, reflections, and engagement for Unitarian Universalists during the season of Lent. You will find the first two e-mail below. If you wish to register to receive these, leave your email address in the comments and I will add you to the distribution list.

Ash Wednesday Reflection

Reflection for March 8

 

Silence & Shouting

I’ve recently been trying to discern when to be silent and when to shout. These days, the whole world seems to be shouting and silent at once. People are beginning to wake up and protests, meetings with elected leaders, and local rallies are happening in record numbers. It is also true that some are still silent and complacent about the woes of others.

When I talk with our youth about privilege, I always talk about how we can harness the privilege we carry to amplify historically marginalized voices. I try to use my voice to make space for another, not to speak for them. This is an important lesson we all must learn and often relearn along the way.

The verse above from Isaiah makes me think about the revolution unfolding around us. What is our part? What is our work? When do we shout and when do we hold silence?

For my Lenten observation, I am trying to listen more. This means more time on my meditation cushion, more time in intentional silence, more time in nature, and more reading of those voices which history has tried (and all too often succeeded) in silencing.

Shout for joy!
Cry out for peace!
Yell announcements of the resistance!
Sit in quiet moments to listen to your heart.
Keep silent your opinions and learn from those most affected by oppression.
Listen sweetly to every sound for evidence of the Holy in the day-to-day.

Prayer for Justice

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel said, In Selma, Alabama I learned to pray with my feet.

march-nyc

photo by Michael Webber, from Twitter

 

Mother Podell, a woman in her seventies participating in the bus boycotts in Birmingham walked for miles every day. It is said she told Dr. King, my feet are tired, by my soul is rested.

 

Spirit of Life, God of Many Names, Mother of Justice, may we be guided to do the next right thing. Compelled by our call to make the world just for all people, may we know the peace of a tired body with a rested soul.

These times we live in call us to be the prophetic voice, not only naming, but shaping the future with what we Unitarian Universalists know to be true: if there is salvation then it is in this life, through the good works of humans, recognizing our shared humanity and the worth of every person.

 

march-nyc2

photo by: Starr Austin

Yesterday, our Fellowship had a group of marchers at the protests in D.C. and another group at the march in N.Y.C. – praying with our feet.

Spirit of Life, help us find common ground to work with those who would stand for justice, who would sit for justice, who would kneel on the football field for justice, who write letters, speak to representatives, and use the arts to amplify the message for justice – for all people.

These are trying times.

It can feel like nothing is changing and we can begin to feel defeated by the ways in which history seems to be repeating itself – but take heart, in that same history is the legacy of justice workers, prophetic voices and deeds of those who have gone before us, and a message that reminds us that justice movements have always relied on community. It is in one another we will find strength, peace, and renewal.

We are made for these times – our resilience and our passion serve us in this work,

march-nyc-1

photo by: Starr Austin

with hope as fuel and the beloved community the well from which we drink. May we know the next right thing, the next step and have the courage to take it.

Amen, Shalom, and Blessed Be.

 

 

 

 

A Mess of Greens

greens1

This looks like prayer and sacrament to me.

There is something holy in the nature of greens, the way they look and taste… and in remembering them on granny’s stove top. We didn’t have them as often as many southerners do, but enough to know the taste and work of them. Greens are nature’s way of teaching us to be present.

Greens don’t cost a lot of money, but they require more labor than most folks give to prepare a simple vegetable, at least these days. The washing of greens is ritualistic.  In every bump and curve of the leaf, there are tiny grains of sandy dirt.  You wash, then rewash, then do it once more.  Each leaf carefully inspected by running your fingers across it, feeling for the smallest fleck of dirt.  You become present to every vein of the leaf through touch and the aroma of earth coming up from the sink.  If you listen closely enough, the greens will tell you a story.  A story about farming, about the satisfaction of hands in the dirt to harvest, about roadside stands where you bought this giant pile for two dollars.

Making greens is an invitation for connection; it’s a whole family affair.  The children are called to the sink to help with the washing.  We wash and talk so long that when they are cooking on the stove, we linger there together – present with one another.

If you are from the south, greens are made with some kind of pork fat.  I cook mine with bacon and onion and serve them with hot sauce.  With every bite, my ancestors come closer.  I chew and think about the generations of rural southerners who ate these greens regularly.  Greens are symbolic of a place and a people.  Living in New York now, whenever someone mentions greens I know their family comes from the south.  I feel instantly connected to them in the shared understanding that greens are a sacrament.

Sacrament because while affordable, they require an offering of attention and time.  They require you to enter the space within the belly that knows how the fires are lit, how to put by the food, how to be present with the work of the day.

The prayer of eating greens is something I took for granted until I moved north.  Suddenly, I craved collards and cornbread more than ever.  I was craving something intangible – the connection to ancestors, family, Earth, and memory.

Dear Youth

occupyyourfaith

 

When they go low, we go high – Michelle Obama

Dear Youth,

It’s a really hard time in our country right now.  I honestly wish we adults could keep it out of your lives – you face so much already.  But instead, it’s in your face and in your schools.  Some of our youth told me that their high school had an incident last week in which swastikas were painted in an act of graffiti.  In addition to vandalism this is a hate crime – a criminal act directed at a specific group of people.  For families who are Jewish, this feels surreal and sickening.  I am so sorry you have to see this and encounter people who choose to spread messages of hate instead of love.  I’m writing to you because I don’t want that hate to infect you.

As Unitarian Universalists, we talk a lot about justice for all people.  We talk about how we are each responsible for creating a better world.  I wonder if we talk enough about love.  Love is powerful beyond measure. Love is an essential part of our faith, like hope, but we don’t always name it.  It can feel a little like old school hippies to sit around and talk about how much we love each other. I hope you know how much we love you.  I pray you know, because I know that in this time in our country the spray paint swastika sends a message not only to our Jewish youth, but youth of color, youth who are LGBTQ, youth who feel different in some way.  I know seeing that angered you, may have scared you, and may have left you feeling like you weren’t sure what to do, but you knew you had to do something.

golowgohighSo I quoted Michelle Obama above, to remind us to go high.  We can’t meet acts of hatred with hatred. We can’t allow the spirit of our effort to make sure all people are treated equally and with dignity to be dampened when bullies try to bring us down.  And to do this work for love and justice, we really need each other.  So keep coming on Sundays and to youth group.  Reach out to your religious professionals at your congregation. They really want to hear from you, especially if you are struggling with incidents of hatred appearing at your school.

Here’s what I think you should do if you encounter racism or acts of hatred in your school or social groups.  Take a deep breath. Remind yourself that there are others who know, as you do, that these acts are wrong. If someone is being harmed, seek help immediately.  Tell friends you don’t find jokes that make fun of certain groups of people funny.  Don’t forget to let yourself laugh and experience joy.  Being joyful can be an act of resistance too.Talk about how your religious values teach you that every person is important and has worth.  Talk openly with your parents about what you are experiencing and how it makes you feel.  Talk with the religious education teachers in your RE class, or your Director of RE, or the minister.  We will listen.

The other thing we can do is learn more about justice movements. Order a copy of Toward hearthandthe Other America by Chris Crass, get your youth group to host a book study with teens and adults together, using the discussion guide you will find here.  Towards the “Other America”: Anti-Racist Resources for White People Taking Action for Black Lives Matter is a call to action to end white silence and a manual on how to do it.

Organize a group to collect food for a local food pantry. Do some self-directed learning by going to the Teaching Tolerance website and looking at resources they create for teachers in classrooms. For those of you who watch or read news, make sure it’s a credible source. Your best bet is to stick with the New York Times, The Washington Post, NPR, and BBC News.  Make sure you balance your news consumption with acts that get your body moving, make you laugh, and help you connect to others who inspire you.

Remember, things are hard right now but we will continue to do what we always do – work for justice, model what it means to live our UU faith, and love one another.

heartmuscle

Keep Loving

#resisthate
#whentheygolowwegohigh

Talking to Kids About Racism

This was written for parents in the congregation where I currently serve. It’s written from my perspective as a white person who grew up in Northwest Arkansas. This was also written before election day, which feels important to note.

I don’t remember the first time I realized that people of color were not treated the same way as whites in our society. I knew at an early age the prejudice in my own family and knew that the prejudiced comments were at odds with the teachings I was hearing in church about how to treat others.  No one ever talked with me about race or racism as a child. Instead, white people are taught not to talk about race.  It is part of the implicit teachings in our socialization.  In my twenties I began to understand that for people of color, race was a near daily conversation. African-American parents teach their children overtly, from necessity, that they will be judged and may even be in danger because of their skin color.

We are at a unique moment in our country’s history; the mass reporting of violent crimes against people of color, largely African-Americans.   Our Unitarian Universalist faith has a legacy connected to the response we had during the civil rights movement of the 60’s, particularly our call to join Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the march in Selma.  Today, the civil rights movement continues and we must decide how we will respond.

Dismantling racism is a religious issue. The systemic intuitions which favor white people is at odds with the Unitarian Universalist teachings about inherent worth, loving thy neighbor as thyself, and justice and equity for all. We are being called.  How will we respond?

For those in our community who are white, there is a lot of work to do around educating ourselves and being willing to sit with discomfort.  We need to learn to talk about race and racism with our children and youth in a way that lifts up the ways our faith calls us to heed the actions and words of prophetic women and men who guide us to creating a more just society for all.

Below you will find some internet articles and resources for learning more about these issues. I hope these resources help you in navigating conversations at home.

 5 Tips for Talking about Racism with Kids by Sasha Emmons

 Race Forward series of short videos by Jay Smooth

Raising Race Conscious Children from raceconscious.org

Watch Out! Classic Movies with Offensive Racial Stereotypes from Huffington Post

 18 Books Every White Ally Should Read by Crystal Paul

 

 

Creating a Family Covenant        

Family covenants have a lot of potential.  Used with younger children, the covenant serves as a deeper lesson about compromise and demonstrates our religious values lived in the home.  Used with teens, the covenant helps shift power dynamics through the co-creation of agreements.

Family covenants guide us to intentionality around our expectations of one another and our living arrangements. We go beyond the surface of being annoyed when our sibling borrows our clothes without asking and get to the root of our needs; in this case privacy, respect, or consent.

The covenant also helps parents and children/youth better understand what each of us is facing in our daily life when we go out to work or school.  These things affect us and they show up in the needs or desires we have for our household covenant.

Create a covenant together.  Start by asking each person to consider the question, “what do I need to do in order to be my better self in relationship with my family?”.  Then, ask “What do I need from other family members in order to feel at ease, safe, and respected at home?”.  Other questions to consider: “How should we behave with one another when we are upset?”, “How can we remind each other gently when the covenant is broken? What words might we use to invite one another back into right relationship?”.

Remember to post the covenant where it can be seen.  It’s a living document, you can always add to it or revise it later.  It’s a good idea to revisit the covenant a couple of times a year routinely.  The covenant isn’t magic, like rules it will likely be broken.  However, the covenant teaches us about the shared commitment and responsibility of relationship.  However, the process of engagement gives us a rich sense of our connection with one another.

 

 

Lenten Season 2016

Someone asked how to locate the emails which were sent out this Lenten season. Here is the collection.  They were largely an experiment in learning while observing.  Thank you to everyone who engaged in this journey together this season through these emails and blog posts.  I appreciate it.

Lent Preparationlent

Ash Wednesday 

Lent Week 2

Lent Week 3

Lent Week 4

Lent Week 5

Lent Week 6

Lent Week 7

Good Friday

Holy Saturday