Being White in the Black Lives Matter Movement

 

Registration is now closed 

RegistrationBLM is closed for the four-session workshop “Being White in the Black Lives Matter Movement” The series begins Sunday, Dec. 6, 1:00 to 3:30 p.m. in Brunner Chapel.  Subsequent sessions will be on Sundays Dec. 13, Jan. 17, and Jan. 24.

Leaders of the workshops are Rev. Roberta Finkelstein, Judy Govatos, Jeff Lott, and Marie Oakberg. This series was developed by Rev. Kate Lore, social justice minister at the First Unitarian Church of Portland, Oregon. Due to the nature of the workshops, which require small-group discussions, registration for this series will be limited to 30. A waiting list will be kept for openings that occur.

Register
Free registration for the workshop series  is available online (click here)—or call the church office to reserve your place. You do not need to be a member of First Unitarian Church to participate. The series is not limited to those who think of themselves or identify as white, but all participants should commit to attending at least three of the four sessions: Dec. 6 & 13 and Jan. 17 & 24.

Child Care
Child care will be available for all four workshops for persons who register and request it by December 1. Check the boxes on the online registration form or tell the church office the dates and number of children for whom you will need child care.

The March Becomes a Movement

The September 27 March for a Culture of Peace in Wilmington is becoming a movement. (It’s even changed its name to Movement for a Culture of Peace.) The energy and spirit of the march are captured in this report by WITN channel 22. Organizers and co-sponsors will be meeting again today to plan future actions together.

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,

Jeff

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.

Responding to Gun Violence

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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. (You can connect with more of our thoughts at the website/blog called Spirit and Action that we created for the course with our Starr King classmate Karuna Foudriat.)

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.]