Prayer for Justice

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

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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.

 

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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,

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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.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

Family Ministry: Casting a Vision @UUFH

This morning in worship I watched as children gathered around our candle lighting tables following our shared prayer.  I watched one child carefully select which candle to light, then blow out the taper and relight it before handing it to the next person in line.  I watched another child take a deep breath, close his eyes for a moment, then light the candle in front of him.  I watched their fingers fumble with the responsibility of holding that burning taper; a responsibility that teaches them both the seriousness of fire but also the seriousness of prayer and ritual.  I watched adults wait patiently as a family of four crowded the table taking a little longer than usual.  I watched all of this unfolding in the few minutes we take for this portion of prayer in our service and felt awed in the ways in which we come together in this sacred manner, working together to teach, and worship with, the little ones.

This is a small glimmer of family ministry.  Family Ministry is different than religious education, though RE is one part of family ministry it is not the whole of it.  Family Ministry is an approach to congregational life where we walk alongside one another in our faith journey, especially the journey with our children, youth, and parents.

The UUA defines family ministry as a partnering between the home and the congregation. They provide a series of questions for us to consider when shaping our ministries and guide us to have discussions to determine what our families need in order to nurture Unitarian Universalist faith in their homes.

Faith formation is a lifelong journey.  Our parents need classes, spiritual practice groups, and connection with their faith community as much as their children do.  Family Ministry shifts our focus from “educating children” to partnering with families to provide opportunities for education, faith development, growth, parenting support, multigenerational connections, and other ministries which deepen our UU faith identity and help us live into our mission and covenants with one another.

Family Ministry is not solely about children; rather it is about the whole congregation.  The family ministry approach invites members, friends, and newcomers into relationship.  It invites us to intentionality about our spiritual community and the future of our Faith.  Family Ministry, in my opinion, helps us live out our values of interconnectedness and our mission of mutual support and nurturance.

fm postcardOn Sunday, April 3rd from 12pm-1:30pm, Rev. Jude and I will be leading a visioning meeting about Family Ministry.  We invite everyone who has an interest in families at the Fellowship, the children and youth, or the future of our Faith to attend.  Together we will talk about what it means to pivot toward Family Ministry and we will cast a vision together of what this kind of approach needs to be for our Fellowship.

@Fellowship

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Words shared at the annual appreciation luncheon at UUFH on February 28, 2016.


“Faith development is all we do. Unitarian Universalism is all we teach. The congregation is the curriculum.”

Religious Education is one part of the family ministry we do here at UUFH.  The RE Council has focused this year on relationship building.  We’ve been working hard to connect our children, youth, and families to our themed ministry and providing resources to help ensure our parents have the tools they need to be their child’s primary religious educator.  The role of the faith community is to walk alongside one another, to share in the joys and sorrows of the community, to raise the children, and to remember to clean out the fridge.  We’re a family – whether you’ve been here for forty years or you just walked in the door today, our shared covenant, the promises we make about how to be together, compels us to walk alongside you and be in relationship in this way.

What we do in religious education is support families. We educate our children and youth in UU history, heritage, principles, and sources.  We promote faith development in grappling with our monthly themes, exploring what it means to live this UU faith, and writing our credo statements during Coming of Age.  We help families raise their children to be UUs – lifers, because we believe this faith has a healing message for a hurting world.  We help educate our children and youth about sexuality and provide parents support to talk about this normative part of human life in a way that promotes our values of respect, fact based learning, and communication.  We celebrate milestones, having rites of passage to dedicate our children, to acknowledge their transition into young adulthood, and to help them prepare for moving out into the world as a UU young adult beginning their lives word cloud youthseparate from their parents.

We do youth group and young adult ministry because we know that our teens need a relevant faith that gives them guidance to grapple with what life is throwing at them.  We worship together regularly because how else will our children and youth know how we UUs worship and more importantly, how else will they know that they are a member of this tribe – that all of us are in this together as a people of faith who want to see a more just world, and as people who all need a place to come to be held, nurtured, and sometimes challenged.

We know that religious education and faith development doesn’t end when adulthood begins.  We offer monthly journey groups to explore our themes, book discussions, spiritual practice programs, and many opportunities for community building.

Ours is a faith where revelation is not sealed, but is always unfolding.  We are learning together and we are teaching together.

Our biggest achievements this year were around youth ministry.  We created a weekly youth night for both middle and high school students.  This provides a touchstone for our teens midweek to come together for activities and discussions about our UU faith and to worship with one another.  We are also planning the first family retreat this Fellowship has had in many years.  This spring we will be holding visioning meetings with families and all of you who have an interest in family ministry here at the Fellowship.

Remember, everything we do is faith development, all we teach is Unitarian Universalism, the congregation is the curriculum.