Peace Movement Sets Open Forum on Violence

Join the MovementIMG_9040

How is government working to stop the violence that plagues our community?
How can we achieve a culture of peace?
What must we do together as individuals and organizations?

Delaware’s Movement for a Culture of Peace (MCP) is continuing its monthly series of public forums on Saturday, Dec. 6, with a panel of city and state government leaders. The event will be held at 9:00 a.m. at the Episcopal Church of Saints Andrew and Matthew, 719 N. Shipley St., Wilmington 19801.

Panelists will include:

  • Shawn Allen, deputy director of Parks and Recreation and assistant to the mayor
  • Patrice Gibbs, program manager for Cease Violence Wilmington
  • Doug Iardella, public safety liaison for City of Wilmington
  • Daniel Logan, deputy attorney general and member of Crime Strategies Unit

MCP is the successor to the Sept. 27 March for a Culture of Peace. First Unitarian Church was a principal organizer and participant in the march and remains involved in the movement.

The goal of the MCP is to enable individuals and organizations to work together to build a new culture of peace in our community. It is not so much an organization as a collective of activists for peace in our community. In addition to FirstU, its steering committee includes representatives of the Delaware Coalition Against Gun Violence, Heeding God’s Call, Pacem in Terris, One Village Alliance, and Wilmington Peacekeepers.

Dozens more community and faith groups are partners in the MCP. Heeding God’s Call will work with First Unitarian on the Memorial to the Lost display that will highlight the toll of gun violence in Wilmington since the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting on Dec. 14, 2012.

To learn more about the Dec. 6 Ending the Violence Forum, go to the MCP website. To register to attend, click here. The forum will begin with networking, coffee, and snacks at 9:00 am; the formal program will run from 9:30 until 11:00.


Tomorrow: Police Chief at New Jim Crow

Discussions of justice system continue on Dec. 1 at Mother African Union

Wilmington Police Chief Bobby Cummings

Wilmington Police Chief Bobby Cummings

The Coalition to Dismantle the New Jim Crow will have Wilmington Chief of Police Bobby Cummings as its guest on Monday, Dec. 1, at 6:00 pm at Mother African Union Church, 812 N. Franklin St. in Wilmington. Chief Cummings will speak about policing in the city and take questions from the audience.

“We have had many productive discussions with state officials and law enforcement officers from New Castle County and look forward to hearing from Chief Cummings,” says Joan Priest, a member of First Unitarian and a leader of the coalition.

What is “The New Jim Crow?” And what is this Coalition?

New Jim Crow bookAccording to Rev. Paula Maiorano, the New Jim Crow is the latest structural form of racism in the U.S. The term was coined by civil rights attorney and author Michelle Alexander in her 2010 book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.

Slavery and Jim Crow were earlier versions. Mass incarceration disproportionately directed to African American males with the War on Drugs used as the delivery vehicle. The outcome has decimated families and urban neighborhoods.

The Coalition was formed to address this structural racism and bring about change. It began several years ago with an interracial study group that read and discussed Alexander’s book. The study group’s meetings alternated between Mother African Union Church and First Unitarian. It has grown into a broad coalition that seeks reforms across the criminal justice system.

The Dec. 1 meeting is free and open to all. Meetings on the first Monday of every month continue to alternate between the two churches. Last month’s meeting drew more than 40 participants.


Thankful for Unitarian Universalism

Sussex SSL

Photo by Robin Pacella/Delmarva Media Group. From

Being true to the promise of freedom and justice

I had a quiet half-hour earlier this morning to read today’s Wilmington News-Journal. The photo above caught my eye on page A15. Yea! I thought to myself—Standing on the Side of Love. Then I read on, thankful this day that Unitarian Universalism is finding its voice across Delaware, engaging with important public issues and fighting for justice.

The article, “Support mounts Against Indian River’s LGBT stance,” told how residents of the Indian River School District were continuing to protest the school board’s proposal to exclude definitions of the terms lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered from the high-school health curriculum.

According to the paper, the meeting was “dominated by people speaking against board member Shaun Fink, who wants the material to be removed.” In addition to being a member of the Indian River school board, Fink is pastor and founder of the Cornerstone Bible Church in Millsboro.

UUs were there, standing on the side of love. The Rev. Michael Smith, minister for the Unitarian Universalists of Southern Delaware, spoke eloquently about how pushing LGBT youth “back into the shadows of misunderstanding and prejudice and bigotry” would strip them of their inherent worth and dignity. Reporter Rachel Pacella writes:

Smith talked about the values portrayed when Indian River High School’s color guard presented the flags and the audience said the pledge of allegiance at the start of the meeting. The district’s board would not be staying true to that promise of freedom and justice for all if they cut the LGBT material, he implied.

“We put our hands over our hearts. Some warm hearts,” he said, focusing on Fink. “Some very cold hearts.”

It’s worth reading the rest of the article, if only for the incredibly articulate comments by Bryce only, a junior at Sussex Central High School. I don’t know whether Molnar is a UU, but maybe he ought to check us out.

So give thanks this day for Rev. Smith and all of the UUs of Southern Delaware for their continued courage and truth-telling. Warm hearts indeed!

—Jeffrey Lott


Peace yes, but no quiet

“While there should be peace, there shouldn’t be quiet.”

A peaceful protest in St. Louis last summer, led by Unitarian Universalists, including Rev. Barbara Gadon (far right).

A peaceful protest in St. Louis last summer, led by Unitarian Universalists, including Rev. Barbara Gadon (far right).

Josh SnyderFirst Unitarian’s senior minister was quoted in today’s Wilmington News Journal in a long article reacting to the decision in Ferguson, Mo., not to indict a white police officer in the shooting of an unarmed black youth in August.

You can read the entire article online. Here’s what Rev. Josh had to say:

The Rev. Josh Snyder, senior minister of the First Unitarian Church of Wilmington, in Talleyville, found it “inconceivable” that no indictment was issued. He hopes for peace in the aftermath.
“But you know, I also think that while there should be peace, there shouldn’t be quiet,” Snyder said. “The protests need to go on. I think that it’s very important for people to stand up and express their feelings, their outrage, at this.”
Snyder said those discussions must occur here too.
“Needing to reach across racial lines, and to speak up when injustice is happening—all that is just as true for us in Wilmington as it is for them in St. Louis,” he said.
Community Service at Eliot

A community vigil held yesterday at Eliot Chapel, near Ferguson, Mo. Rev. Barbara Hoag Gadon is minister there.


Rev. Barbara Hoag Gadon, former associate minister at First Unitarian and now minister of Eliot Chapel, a UU church not far from Ferguson, held a community service yesterday. She described it on Facebook:
Our community service tonight. We came together. We were blessed to hear from three African American ministers from Kirkwood and the Kirkwood Community Gospel Choir, as well as Maggie Duwe, a Hebrew teacher from Central Reform Congregation. At the very end, I held the microphone to the radio while we listened to the announcement. All 20 minutes of it. I felt so numb, I didn’t think I had any reaction. Then I got home, and heard the tv news replaying an excerpt. When I heard Bob McCullogh’s voice again, and those words, the dam broke in me. Furious tears. Rage. Heartbreak for all of us who have been trying to bring good from this. I didn’t really think I expected anything to turn out differently, and yet it’s still a shock. Rev. Willis Johnson, the minister at Wellspring Methodist in Ferguson, said, “It feels like we are starting all over again.” All those brave, principled young folk working hard to create disciplined protest and constructive confrontation. My heart breaks for them. My heart breaks for all of us. Pray for us – for all of us who are praying for direction and for the heart we know it will take to continue working for change.
 I’m not sure what I should be doing this morning, but my heart breaks too. I think Josh is right. There should be peace, but there shouldn’t be quiet.
 —Jeffrey Lott

Climate Knowledge and Sacred Work


Chad Tolman (center) at the Peoples Climate March.

Chad Tolman leads climate-change action.

AMONG THE 28 MEMBERS OF FIRST UNITARIAN CHURCH who joined about 1,500 other UUs at the Sept. 20 Peoples Climate March in New York, perhaps none was more excited and committed than 75-year-old Chad Tolman, who has spent two decades studying and working on the issue of climate change.

According to the UU Ministry for the Earth (UUFME), Chad was a co-author instrumental in providing the scientific underpinnings for the Unitarian Universalist Association’s groundbreaking Statement of Conscience on Global Warming and Climate Change. The statement was adopted by the UU General Assembly in 2006.

The preamble to the statement asks, “As Unitarian Universalists, how can our faith inform our actions to remedy and mitigate global warming/climate change?” It then declares that Unitarian Universalists “will not acquiesce to the ongoing degradation and destruction of life that human actions are leaving to our children and grandchildren.”

Eco-Justice Super heroes

In 2013, Chad and fellow FirstU member Donna Gonzalez were honored by the UUMFE as “eco-justice super heroes” by the UUMFE for their “multiple innovative and inclusive projects,” including the designation of First Unitarian Church as a Green Sanctuary and the creation of the Delaware chapter of Interfaith Power and Light.

At the time, Chad wrote, “I see the closely coupled issues of energy and climate change as the greatest scientific, economic, political, and moral issues of our time . . . By sharing in this sacred work I have found meaning and value in my life .” Donna added that this work “has helped me to see life more holistically, that everyone and everything matters.”

At the 2014 General Assembly, the UUA put its money where its mouth is. Delegates overwhelmingly approved a resolution calling on the Board of Trustees of our denomination to divest itself from profits from fossil fuel extraction from the Earth. Chad Tolman was not at GA this year, but he deserves some credit for this historic move on the part of a religious movement.

Learn from Chad’s blog

Chad writes a monthly blog called Climate Change News that focuses on energy and climate change science, public policy, public opinion, and ethics. Like Chad, a PhD chemist, the blog is a little technical and geeky, but it’s full of facts. Climate change deniers beware, because Chad has the true story!

The November edition of Climate Change News summarizes key points of the latest United Nations reports. It’s a sobering view. A sample:

Anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions have increased since the pre-industrial era, driven largely by economic and population growth, and are now higher than ever. This has led to atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide that are unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years. Their effects, together with those of other anthropogenic drivers, have been detected throughout the climate system and are extremely likely to have been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.

I just “joined” Chad’s blog, meaning that once a month I’ll get a message telling me that there’s a new post from a trusted source on climate science. I hope you’ll follow the link and join Climate Change News. Chad Tolman, with his quiet, scientific manner and deep commitment to this issue, is a shining example of what can happen when you combine scientific knowledge and our sacred work.

—Jeff Lott

Interfaith Power & Light Still Opposes Keystone Pipeline

Carper Big Oil Puppet?

Sierra Club demonstrators oppose the pipeline and call Senator Tom Carper to account.


Delaware’s Carper says he will vote for controversial project

After a long period of intense controversy and strenuous public debate, the Senate is preparing to vote next Tuesday on S. 2280, a bill to approve the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. Delaware Senator Tom Carper says he’ll vote to approve the project. According to The Hill, Carper said, “enough already” when asked why he was going to vote in favor of the pipeline. The Hill reported that:

Carper said President Obama should declare victory on the climate deal with China, which he said will have “profound effects” that far outweigh Keystone in the fight on climate change.

“Let’s clear the decks” and start talking about other issues, he said.

Delaware Interfaith Power & Light opposes Keystone XL

Interfaith Power & Light was co-counded by First Unitarian Church member Chad Tolman. Learn more about it here. Comments on this post are welcome.

In an email today, Lisa Locke, the new executive director of DeIPL said:

We, as members and friends of the Delaware Interfaith Power & Light, are a religious response to climate change.

And IF we believe:

  • that because the approval of the Keystone pipeline will both directly and indirectly accelerate global warming … it is unjustifiable;
  • that because the Keystone pipeline poses a serious threat to eco-systems, wildlife, and native cultures … it is unjustifiable;
  • that, given the high financial cost of the project and increasingly questionable return on investment, the Keystone pipeline … it is unjustifiable;
  • that a vote in favor of the Keystone pipeline in order to help secure Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu’s seat in the Senate … is unjustifiable;
  • that because we have a moral imperative to wisely and responsibly care for Creation, prevent suffering, and preserve the resources and wonders of the Earth, support for approval of the Keystone pipeline … is unjustifiable;

Stephanie Herron, outreach coordinator for the Delaware Sierra Club also emailed tonight urging action:

Since I emailed you early yesterday morning there have been a multitude of new developments on the Keystone XL Senate bill.  For one, Senate leadership has confirmed the vote will be on Tuesday.  In response to our early grassroots pressure Senator Coons has come out against and said that he will support President Obama’s process on Keystone XL and will not vote to undermine that (which is great–call to thank him: 202-224-5042).  Our pressure on President Obama is working too–as he indicated he would likely veto an attempt to force Keystone XL before the review process can play out AND come out with his strongest anti-Keystone statement yet, showing that he understand this pipeline is a boon to Canadian oil execs and all risk to the US.
 Unfortunately Senator Carper on the other hand has decided to side with the Republican climate deniers on this and vote for the Keystone fast track bill in an attempt to take the decision out of President Obama’s hands.  We’ve received national support in our actions targeting Carper, even founder Bill McKibben is now helping us directly pressure Carper.

Say thanks: Senator Christopher Coons (202) 224-5042

Say no: Senator Tom Carper (202) 224-2441

DeIPL’s Locke concluded her email by quoting Rachel Carson:

“We stand now where two roads diverge.  But unlike the roads in Robert Frost’s familiar poem, they are not equally fair. The road we have long been traveling is deceptively easy, a smooth superhighway on which we progress with great speed, but at its end lies disaster. The other fork of the road—the one ‘less traveled by’—offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of our earth.”

Enough already?