Stand on the Side of Love

Standing on the Side of Love: Suzanne and Helen

Standing on the Side of Love: Suzanne and Helen

How many members of First Unitarian Church are also “members” of Standing on the Side of Love? Pretty much every Unitarian Universalist I know stands theologically and socially on the side of love—it’s inherent in our First Principle, which asserts the worth and dignity of every person. Our commitments to GLBT rights, same-sex marriage, and the rights of immigrants all stem from this principle. Our local involvement with the people of Wilmington who face daily risk of gun violence is also a First Principle concern. They represent all Unitarian Universalists and Standing on the Side of Love (SSL).

No doubt you’ve seen the attention-getting yellow shirts. That’s the public face of SSL when we come together to witness for love, as many of us did at the 2012 General Assembly in Phoenix and again at GA in Providence this year. Standing on the Side of Love is also an organization—an important initiative of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) to spread love and stand for justice for all oppressed persons. This is why I “subscribe” to the Standing on the Side of Love emails and give occasional contributions to support its efforts.

Today I received an appeal that was a little different. It asked for contributions for bail money for 35 Unitarian Universalists who tomorrow, July 31, will commit unlawful acts of civil disobedience on behalf of families who are being separated by our nation’s immigration laws and policies. They will seek to be arrested in front of the White House as they urge President Obama to stop the pain and family separation caused by deportations.

Here’s a link to the appeal. Even if you don’t write a letter to our representatives in Washington or make a specific contribution, think about subscribing to SSL emails. I learn a lot about what our UU movement is doing for human rights and justice through Standing on the Side of Love.

In peace,


PS: As of today, there are 19 subscribers to the Connector. It’s easy to receive notices by email of new posts to this site. Let your friends know about this resource and urge them to get connected.

Town Hall on Gun Violence


Our friends at the Wilmington Peacekeepers have urged us to attend tomorrow night’s Wilmington town hall on gun violence. The following announcement was posted on the city’s website. It would be great to have one or more members of First Unitarian Church at this meeting.

Mayor Dennis P. Williams, joined by Chief of Police Bobby Cummings, members of the Wilmington Police Department, and key City officials, will host a town hall meeting at P.S. DuPont Middle School to discuss public safety strategies to address gun violence on Wednesday, July 30, 2014.

The Town Hall Meetings will serve as an opportunity for the citizens of the local community to directly engage with the senior leadership of the Williams Administration and Wilmington Police Department about public safety. Chief Cummings and the police will share the strategies to reduce violent crime, such as the sector deployment and implementation of the Cease Violence Initiative.

“Public safety remains one of the top priorities of my Administration, and the police department continues to work towards making our communities safer,” said Mayor Williams. “Our officers remain committed to building relationships with City residents and community members as a way to prevent and reduce crime. Hopefully, this town hall meeting will provide an opportunity for an open conversation about reducing crime and violence in our city.”

All community members are invited and encouraged to attend the town hall.

Details on the meeting are in the Upcoming Events column of the Connector. If you go, please report on the meeting to Jeff Lott for inclusion in the next Connector posting. Take pictures!

Anonymous Corporations

Rene Magritte's self-portrait, which he called Son of Man, has come to symbolize the anonymity and alienation of modern life.

Rene Magritte’s self-portrait, which he called Son of Man, has come to symbolize the anonymity and alienation of modern life. Image from WikiArt.

Last week, Rev. Josh met with Apryl Walker, a community organizer affiliated with the Delaware Alliance for Community Advancement and the Delaware chapter of Americans for Democratic Action (ADA). Tomorrow night, the ADA holding a community forum on the problems presented by “anonymous corporations.” Here’s part of a letter sent by 23 Delaware state representatives and eight state senators.

Delaware benefits greatly from our status as a corporate capital.  Our state earns respect and revenue because U.S. and international corporations frequently choose to make and keep Delaware as their legal domicile.

While the overwhelming majority of American and Delaware businesses are law-abiding, some individuals take advantage of our laws by creating and using anonymous shell companies to facilitate money laundering, terrorist financing, drug smuggling, arms trafficking, anonymous campaign contributions, tax evasion, and other criminal activity.

The full text of the letter can be read here. Rev. Josh asked that the community forum be publicized on the Connector. Details about the forum are in the Upcoming Events listed in the left-hand column of this site.

It would be great to see some UUs at this event. If you attend, send a report to Jeff Lott for posting on the Connector. Take a picture too!

Support for Ministry of Caring

Cooking a mess of chicken for guests of the Emmanuel Dining Room are (from left) Betty Wier, Sue Fuhrmann, Sally Christian.Barbara Pratt, and Cindy Cohen. Photo by Nancy Pinson.

Cooking a flock of chicken for guests of the Emmanuel Dining Room are (from left) Betty Wier, Sue Fuhrmann, Sally Christian.Barbara Pratt, and Cindy Cohen. Photo by Nancy Pinson.

First Unitarian’s Outreach to Emmanuel Dining Room

Run by the Ministry of Caring, Emmanuel Dining Room (EDR) provides meals to people in need in the greater Wilmington area. First Unitarian Church is proud to have been a part of this effort for over 20 years, and currently provides a hot lunch on the 20th of every month at EDR’s 2nd and Jackson location. If you would like to be a part of the EDR team, contact Cindy Cohen. We’d love to have you join us!
(302) 475-5814



Ad-hoc Group Discusses Action

July 23 meeting with Rev. Josh. Photo by Jeff Lott

July 23 meeting with Rev. Josh. Photo by Jeff Lott

An ad-hoc group of social justice activists met on July 23 at First Unitarian Church with Rev. Josh Snyder to discuss next steps in the wake of the Social Justice Action Summit held at the church on June 7.

Attending were Kit Pool, Elizabeth Siftar, Paul Pinson, Ed Ostrom, Marie Oakberg, Judy Govatos, Anna Hamilton, Suzanne Perry, and Jeff Lott. Rev. Snyder is the lead clergy member at the church on social action. He and Jeff Lott, co-organizer os the Action Summit with Rev. Michelle Collins, co-facilitated the meeting.

The group discussed the Actions of Immediate Witness passed by the Unitarian Universalist General Assembly last month in Providence. Of the three (see this summary), the gun violence resolution became a focus because of the significant gun violence problem in Wilmington. A majority of the participants in yesterday’s meeting had participated in a July 10 march and rally sponsored by Wilmington Peacekeepers. For this reason, many of the examples and suggestions that emerged in yesterday’s meeting were framed in the context of this issue—but no decision was taken that gun violence should be the church’s primary issue going forward.

The group first discussed criteria for social justice projects that the church might become engaged with. In no particular order, it was suggested that our social justice work should:

  • Be local in scope
  • Engage in partnership with existing community organizations and resources
  • Be grounded in our mission and values as a church
  • Have the capacity to make a measurable difference
  • Include regular review and assessment of methods and efficacy
  • Provide multiple ways for people to get involved, especially across generations
  • Have a spiritual component including regular discernment and reflection
  • Address the root causes of problems, public policy, and systemic change
  • Be visible in the community as Unitarian Universalist commitments

We named several potential community partner organizations that have come to our attention and opened ourselves to partners as yet unknown:

  • Wilmington Peacekeepers
  • Pacem in Terris
  • Delaware YWCA
  • Coalition to Dismantle the New Jim Crow
  • Other Unitarian Universalist congregations in Delaware and the Delmarva Cluster
  • Delaware Coalition Against Gun Violence
  • The Ministry of Caring and its First Unitarian support group
  • Churches of other denomination in Wilmington and its suburbs
  • Emerging anti-violence groups needing coalition partners

Finally, we identified a short list of immediate opportunities for social justice engagement—some of which will need voluntary support from members of First Unitarian Church. These are identified by an asterisk; if you can lend a hand in organizing, write a comment on this post or email Jeff Lott at Some of these opportunities are also listed in the Upcoming Events calendar (left-hand column) with appropriate links and contact information.

  • Monday, Aug. 11: Anti-Racism Meeting of the Coalition to Dismantle the New Jim Crow; First Unitarian Church; time TBD. Watch this blog for more information or contact
  • Starting Friday, Aug. 15: Weekly New Jim Crow study group through Sept. 26. Noon until 2:00 pm at the YWCA Homelife Management Center. Study Michelle Alexander’s explosive book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. Prepare for action. For more information email
  • Sunday, Sept. 21: Peoples Climate March, New York City. Learn more at Reserve a seat on the Delaware bus sponsored by Sierra Club: Act now to be ready to participate.
  • Saturday, Sept. 27 (tentative): Neighbor to Neighbor March for Peace in Wilmington. Lots of things to be determined. Coalition partners needed. Contact June Eisley of Pacem in Terris, or Rev. Michelle Collins at First Unitarian Church.

Additionally, we are looking for someone willing to organize a showing of Bidder 70, a remarkable documentary on the actions of one concerned citizen against fracking. We have obtained permission to show this film in Wilmington, but we need one or two activists ready to organize and execute this event. Wouldn’t this be a great prelude to the Peoples Climate March? Contact Jeff Lott if you can help.

Things are moving fast. If you want to be part of the movement at First Unitarian or see us as a potential partner in your social justice work, let’s get in touch.

Your first step should be to subscribe to this blog, wither by email or through the RSS feed (see Meta, lower left.). Don’t be afraid—we won’t ask you for anything you can’t do. But we know you can do a lot!

The ad-hoc group will meet again in early September. At Jeff’s suggestion, we decided to call ourselves the First Unitarian Social Justice Forum. It’s not an official committee of the church—merely a group of activists and interested parties. Thus anyone may participate without prior involvement or long-term commitment. Just show up for justice! We welcome you to the table.

Watch for the next meeting date on this blog and in the church’s regular communications. Join the Justice Forum and contribute your ideas. It’s free!


Responding to Gun Violence


A diverse crowd gathered on July 10 to bear witness at the site of Crystal Brown’s murder.

On July  10, more than 20 members of First Unitarian Church joined a street meeting and rally called by the Wilmington Peacekeepers, a grass-roots organization that seeks to end violence on the streets of our city. Wilmington, Delaware, is among the most violent cities of its size in the country.

The Peacekeepers “street meeting” was called after Crystal Brown, a 43-year-old mother, was shot and killed as she left a corner store in her neighborhood. She was an innocent victim caught in the crossfire of a gunfight in the street.

A march from the site of the shooting at Seventh and Adams ended with a rally in Helen Chambers Park at Sixth and Madison.

The following Sunday, the First Unitarian Church’s monthly community offering was directed to the Peacekeepers for their programs, which include spiritual awakening, personal responsibility, safer streets, education, mentoring, and unity among all groups and peoples to bring peace to the community. Terry Walls, building manager at First Unitarian, is an active member of the Peacekeepers.

Photos by Jeffrey Lott and Suzanne Perry:

Social Justice Action Summit

Chalice Circle 150dpi

Candles of Concern: Participants in the Social Justice Action Summit were asked, “For whom does your heart break?” In response, most came forward to light a candle from the chalice and express their deepest concerns for our community.

Living Our Values

“We’re all very idealistic. Did we never grow out of out teenage idealism? Apparently not. Good for us.” — from a Summit participant


On June 7, more than 30 members of the church convened in Brunner Chapel for a daylong Social Justice Action Summit led by Michelle Collins and me. The stated aim at the Summit was framed in terms of the mission of First Unitarian Church:

First Unitarian Church of Wilmington is a beloved community that nourishes minds and spirits, fights injustice and transforms the world through loving action.

For the two of us as leaders, the Summit was an outgrowth of a semester-long online course at the Starr King School for the Ministry in which we studied theories and practices for social change. In our course work and in planning the Summit, we returned often to the first 14 words of our mission—describing a beloved community that nourishes minds and spirits. And we realized that the final nine words of our mission—to “fight injustice and transform the world through loving action”—could only be realized through the first 14.

The underlying theme of the Summit was that the quality of our community and the nourishment of our minds and spirits are essential elements in preparing us to transform the world.

The stated goals for the Summit were:

  • to prepare First Unitarian’s core social justice activists for engagement with crucial issues in the larger community
  • to understand the cultural and social boundaries that must be crossed to form alliances with other activists—including other faith communities
  • to ground all of this work in our values: love and compassion, growth and discovery, freedom and justice, wonder and joy.
The agenda for the day looked like this:
  • 9:00  Ingathering and Introductions
  • 9:15  Opening Worship and Chalice Lighting
  • 9:45  Review Agenda, Goals, and Ground Rules
  • 10:00  Spirit and Action: Driving Questions (small groups)
  • 11:00  Break and Movement
  • 11:15  Force Field Analysis: Drivers and Challenges
  • 12:00  Lunch (Choir Room)
  • 1:00  Power Shuffle: Examining Difference
  • 1:45  Unfinished Sentences: Individual Reflection
  • 2:00  Next Steps: Preparing for Action
  • 2:45  Closing Worship
  • 3:00  Summit Adjourns

What will come from this meeting remains to be seen. There was certainly a lot of energy and spirit in the room. We talked both individually and collectively about our passions, heartbreaks, and desires. Both veteran and new social action activists participated. We had some frank discussions of the barriers we face to becoming more involved in our community. Many new commitments were made.

In an online evaluation following the Summit, we found that there was some disappointment that we did not use workshop to “decide” on a specific project or area for the church to focus on. We didn’t identify a common passion wound which we could organize some collective action.

It was clear to one participant that “where we go from here is very important. This is a germinating seed; it needs careful attention to blossom into an exciting and energetic by our congregation.”

Another person wrote about the emphasis on spiritual preparation for effective social action: “Taking the time to engage in the spiritual grounding of our social justice work was energizing—a much better basis than immediately jumping into listing ideas.”

One part of the Summit gave participants the opportunity to examine our differences as individuals in a group—and by implication, some of the challenges we might face in working across racial, class, religious, and social lines in the community. “We came away with an awareness of ‘some’ of the boundaries,” wrote one person. “This is a complicated subject that needs a lot of attention.” Another wrote that “such understanding is an ongoing process. We are all on our way, all at different stages. The day’s activities were helpful and thought provoking.”

One requirement for successful alliances in the community is humility. “We do not need to know everything about [a] problem and have a solution before acting,” wrote one person. “We do not need to have the answers. We need to ask the right questions. The people most impacted by crime, violence, inequalities, etc. can educate us. They can tell us what they need [and will] welcome sincere, passionate allies. We can learn as we go, knowing that we will make mistakes.”

Summing up the day, one enthusiastic person wrote: “I spent close to six hours inside church on a beautiful Saturday … and I did not regret one minute. The meeting was exciting and challenging.”

Here’s a gallery of images from the Summit. All photos in this post are by Nancy Pinson. [Click on an image to enlarge.]