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We Have Sided with Love for 10 Years--Let’s Vote Love in 2020, Join us Jan 12th

13 December 2019 at 14:36

I hope this message reaches you surrounded by love. On December 12th, I sat bundled up, marveling at the last full moon of 2019 and this DECADE. I read in different astrological websites that this last full moon's powers, the Cold Moon's powers, encourages us to release the heaviness of the past, to honor the lessons we have learned and to prepare for what is to come in our lives, in our communities, and in the World. I welcomed the invitation with gladness. Under the direction of this Cold Moon, Side With Love celebrates a decade of confronting injustice, aligning with frontline communities and living a faithful witness. For 10 years, we have moved from behind the shadows and joined with frontline partners to proclaim that we embody a faith that demands us to do justice, to be love, and respect the inherent dignity of all.

The past decade has been a time of hope and harm. As we enter 2020 the stakes have never been higher for truly building a movement that harnesses the power of love to dismantle oppression. Side with Love will be working with UUtheVote in a variety of ways to bring out our communities to #VoteLove and #DefeatHate. Please join the UUtheVote Launch on Jan. 12th, 1 pm PST, 4 pm EST. 

As we reflect on this past decade, we offer a snapshot of the ways we have resisted, the voices and actions that expressed “This is what love looks like in action!” 


July 29, 2010, UUA Past-President Rev. Peter Morales, Rev. Susan Frederick‐Gray, former minister of the UU Congregation of Phoenix, and 27 other UU clergy and laypeople were arrested in downtown Phoenix, AZ for acts of peaceful civil disobedience. They were among 200 UUs, many from out of state, who came to Phoenix for actions in support of immigrant families on the National Day of Non‐Compliance with SB 1070, a repressive anti-immigrant bill that targetted all people of color for racial profiling by police. Consistent with the UU beliefs of the inherent worth and dignity of all and of justice, equity, and compassion in human relations, these dedicated UUs stood on the side of love with Black and Brown people being targeted and threatened by this law. Standing on the Side of Love joined with Puente, an Arizona‐based human rights partner, and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network to protest the bill and demand civil and human rights for all.


In 2014, UUs in Missouri and beyond took Standing on the Side of Love into the streets and embraced the Black Lives Matter movement displaying banners and raising funds. This was not without controversy and struggle within our UU movement. 

In 2015, Standing on the Side of Love was part of the Black Lives Matter track at General Assembly that brought in front line community organizers from Portland and across the country as we worked to educate and organize our people. At that same General Assembly, we celebrated the SCOTUS ruling that upheld same sex marriage while we mourned the massacre of our AME brethren by a white nationalist in Charleston, SC. 

Two years later on August 11-12, 2017 in Charlottesville, the dangerous rise of white supremacy was on full display as hundreds of white men with tiki torches marched on the University of Virginia campus and clashed with anti-fascist anarchists.

First and foremost, we honor the dedication and leadership of the members, staff and friends of Thomas Jefferson Memorial Church UU (TJMC-UU) who have been organizing against white supremacy for some time now. Christina Rivera, TJMC-UU’s Director of Administration and Finance and member of our UUA Board at the time, was with the clergy who peacefully marched to Emancipation Park where white nationalists were gathering around the statute of Robert E. Lee. 


Christina put out a call through Standing on the Side of Love for UUs from the region to come support them. UUA President Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray, Rev. Jeanne Pupke, Sr. Minister at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Richmond, Rev. Linda Olson Peebles and many others answered our call. Rev. Osagyefo Sekou, the organizer, strategist and musician who was prominently featured at our UUA General Assembly in 2016, led the actions with the support of many, including Standing on the Side of Love staffer Nora Rasman. 


2019 Climate Strikes: These youth-led actions mobilized hundreds of thousands across the country to address the climate emergency that poses an existential threat to humanity. Our UU youth mobilized thousands of UUs to take part and Side with Love brought together a UU coalition to support them that included UU Ministry for Earth, UU State Action Networks and others. We saw the power of all pulling together. Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray and I brought Side with Love to the NYC strikes where we joined hundreds of UUs and thousands (tens of thousands) of our people.

We also offer at the end of this decade, things we have to mourn, voices we have lost along the way aswe confront the rise of fascism. The 22 black trans women who have been murdered, the LGBTQ folx who have been targeted, the migrants who have died in the desert, the families being held in cages through mass detention and the people locked up and locked out through mass incarceration. 

Lastly, as we are on the brink of 2020 we invite you to continue to Choose Love! We enter into another decade with the opportunity to align our actions, our faith, and our values. Join us as we add the power of our campaign to the movement to expand democracy. As we kick off our 2020, we invite you to prepare the ways you will Side With Love. 

We will move in coordination with our electoral justice kindred who continue to defend the quality of our democracy ensuring that if you choose to vote that your right is protected. Join the UUA as we launch #UUTheVote on January 12th 4 pm EST. The stakes continue to get higher day by day but we have an opportunity to guide and lead the way. Find out more about UU The Vote here www.uuthevote.org

May we prevail in 2020 as part of building a movement where all can thrive and be free.

Choose Love, 

May we prevail in 2020 as part of building a movement where all can thrive and be free.

Choose Love, 


Everette R. H. Thompson 

Side With Love, Campaign Manager 

P.S. 30 Days of Love will kick-off as we head into Dr. Martin Luther King Weekend January 18, 2020 - February 14, 2020 so please stay tuned and continue to be courageous in love! 

30 Days of Love: Join us as we uplift Movement, our Faith and this Moment!

23 January 2020 at 15:53

Throughout 2020, Side with Love commits to celebrating the ways we resist, show up and disrupt injustice. We know this moment invites us to increase our radical resistance, our partnerships, and our dedication to embody our values and principles. Current social, political and economic realities afford us opportunities to practice our faith in ways we have never been called before. Don’t fret, friends! Our collective history has taught us how to fight back and when we fight together, WE WIN! We are not alone on this journey. Join us as we launch our 30 Days of Love where we will be together in intentional practice of preparing for the months, days and years ahead.

Check out our 30 Days of Love resources!

We will be sharing and uplifting the work and action of our social justice movement partners, UUs, and UU adjacent kindred. Together, we will shape this World into a place where we all thrive. We invite you to join us, day by day, one choice at a time. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to get up to date 30 Days of Love Actions.

There are many ways we will invite you to #SideWithLove throughout this year as we continue to construct a World where we each can live with dignity.

Today in movement, we lift up Black Mama’s Day Bail Out! It’s never too early to begin to prepare for Mothers’ Day!

Protect Wamponaog Tribe Sovereignty

31 March 2020 at 18:50

“Congress, I need you to put your head up, look up and see what is happening in your Administration. Look at what they are doing in the quiet while everybody is scrambling to keep their families safe and alive. Look what’s happening, under your own nose, the people that you have put in place to protect us and look after our sovereignty are the same people who are terminating us. . .400 Years after we welcomed you to these lands!” -- Vice Chairwoman Jessie Little Doe Baird

We are asking you to side with the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe in Massachusetts as they fight for their sovereignty and their right to their Tribal lands. Late last Friday afternoon, the Tribe was contacted by the Bureau of Indian Affairs to inform them that the Secretary of the Interior has issued an order that will terminate the Tribe’s ability to self-govern, strip the Tribe of their reservation lands, and effectively terminate them as a recognized people. This is how the Trump administration is moving during the pandemic! This truly nefarious action must be vigorously opposed. Not only does it take away the sovereignty and lands from the Wampanoag people, it also sets a precedent for government orders against other indigenous peoples.Take the following actions TODAY:

  • Sign this petition calling on Congress to Pass the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Reservation Reaffirmation Act

  • Call Senator John Hoeven of North Dakota, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs: (202) 224-2551. Urge him to support the forward movement of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Reservation Reaffirmation Act (Senate Bill 2628)

  • Call and email the Secretary of the Interior, David Bernhardt, who issued the order to disestablish their reservation lands

  • Call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121, and ask to Speak to your Senators. (Find your senator here). Urge your Senators to support the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Reservation Reaffirmation Act (Senate Bill 2628)

  • Make a donation to the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe through their official website. Click here to donate now.

Learn More:

  • Watch this great 3-minute video by Teena Pugliese to hear directly from allies and leaders in the tribe about why this matters.

  • The Doctrine of Discovery has been the religious and legal basis of land theft, extractive capitalism, Indigenous genocide, and violent colonization. Learn more about the history of the Doctrine of Discovery--and Unitarian Universalist efforts to make amends and repudiate the Doctrine in contemporary times--by clicking here.

  • Learn more about the history and contemporary life of the Mashpee Wampanoag on the Tribe’s official website.

  • Read the UUA’s Official Statement here.

Side With Love and Love Resists “In These Times: Webinar & Resources

13 April 2020 at 14:19

We hope this message reaches you surrounded by love and knowing that you are not alone. Thank you so much for joining Side With Love and Love Resists “In These Times.” We wanted to provide you with ways that you can continue to be in motion right now. If you missed this webinar, you can check out the video: Side With Love & Love Resists In These Times We are also offering Closed Captioned Text and Audio versions as well. “In These Times” was a moment to assess what is at stake and how we can move together. We offer these highlights from various folx on the call and the following ways you can be in motion during our social distancing.

Dr. Charlene Sinclair, Senior Advisor to BlackPAC offered these reflections.

“In the midst of the pandemic, we're consenting to a higher level of authoritarian surveillance and criminalization than ever before. How do we need to think about this moment? And not be happy because there's some decarceration happening in some jails, when they're lining up tanks in Akron to make sure that people don't disobey the curfew? What are we doing when we have "progressive people" saying, "of course they need to arrest people and give them tickets." We are saying that there's no need for prisons in the same way. We have to be careful as a movement that our anxiety and fear doesn't actually move us down a pathway of consent to an authoritarian rule. ”

We encourage you to support the work of BlackPAC.

Brother Luis Suarez, Detention Watch Network stated:

"Nothing [about us] without us" comes to us from a disability justice movement. It captures the essence of how we must engage to maintain a constant line of communication with the people inside ICE jails and those who have survived the system. It helps to ensure that our work isn't having unintended negative consequences for people detained and responding to their needs. . .We're demanding freedom for all. No one will get released unless we demand everyone to be released. This isn't a time for exceptions. It's a matter of life or death. How the government has treated this crisis, we can't treat anyone as expendable. The least we can do is push for everyone to be released. We have heard about social distancing practices. This is impossible for people in detention centers. The definition of mass confinement poses a serious threat to public health. This, coupled with ICE's long standing history of medical neglect, abuse, etc. is a recipe for disaster. Lives are already at risk in detention.”

Take part in Detentions Watch Network Free Them All On-going Actions.

Rev. Suzanne Fast, EqUUal Access:

“Resist the systematic devaluation of disabled people during the pandemic, not only for these protocols about who gets health care.This is a time where our allies are crucial to people's survival. ... We seriously need you to be part of unmasking ableism on a regular, ongoing basis. Every time someone says, "it's not serious. It's not like real oppression" or "That's just a metaphor/they don't mean anything by that." When that happens, it reinforces that these lives don't carry the same value. When that goes unchallenged in the good times, that's how these crisis situations become more dangerous for us.”

Support and take action with the #NoBodyIsDisposable Campaign.

The UUA continues to fight in the right relationship with our movement and internally to our people. We uplift the words of Rev. Ashley Horan, UUA Organizing and Strategy Team Director:

“As we think about being UU organizers right now in our communities and congregations, one thing to think deeply about is getting crystal clear about our mission, who we are and what we do. That's usually to connect people, make them know that they're beloved to one another, to help people find belonging and meaning in the midst of a world that doesn't always make sense, and to build networks in our broader communities, to be part of creating that interdependent web of existence. To keep that well and whole.”

Join Rev. Michael Crumpler, UUA LGBTQ & Multicultural Ministries and UU the Vote for LGBTQ+ Equity and continue to build toward a just democracy.

Upcoming opportunities to Side With Love for these upcoming on-line offerings to be together: :

Side With Love joins Unitarian Universalists Ministry for Earth to present a live streaming of The Condor & The Eagle on Earth Day, April 22, 2020. This is a great way to close out Earth Day 2020, Register today!

Choose Love,

Everette R. H. Thompson

P. S. We are on the Side of the Poor People Campaign and We Must Do M.O.R.E. Tour!

"We will only get through this crisis by supporting each other": one congregation's story of stimulus relief fund redistribution

21 May 2020 at 22:25

The UUA's Organizing Strategy Team has been encouraging Unitarian Universalists who have the "privilege of enough" to redistribute all or part of their stimulus checks (or the monetary equivalent) to grassroots organizations working to build freedom for all people through the UUs #ShareMyCheck campaign.  The following is a story of one congregation who has acted boldly and prophetically to do just this.  If you plan on redistributing your check, or have already given to freedom organizations with your stimulus money, please sign the pledge so we can track how much money UUs are redistributing in this time. 

Members of Second Unitarian Church of Chicago, 2018

Members of Second Unitarian Church of Chicago, 2018

“We will get there, heaven knows how we will get there, but we know we will.”

We are living in a time of crisis, a time of fear, and a time of pandemic. We are also living in a time of great creativity, beautiful acts of solidarity, and we are always living in a time that is capable of love.

The leadership at the Second Unitarian Church of Chicago has been approaching this current moment with intentionality and dedication to our shared values. Like nearly every other UU church, we have moved our Sunday services online, we are doing children’s faith development classes over zoom, and we are figuring out how to keep everyone connected to one another. It is a struggle, of course, but a struggle we are engaged in together.

Among our shared ministry efforts is a commitment to redistributing funds members and friends of the church received via the government stimulus bill. Many of those at 2U are in a financially stable place, even as this pandemic continues. We had discussions among Board leadership and finance committee leadership to decide how we might go about collecting and sharing this money.

We recognized that Congress failed to get enough financial assistance to many people and that the restrictions on access to the funds disproportionately impact those who are most vulnerable right now. We recognized that as a church we had our own financial needs. Our pledge campaign had been winding down and we were not quite at the place we hoped we would be as a church. Should we be asking people to donate their stimulus money to support the ministry of the church? Would asking people to donate their stimulus money for redistribution reduce how much they pay on their pledge? Should we be redistributing the money within our own membership to those who may be struggling? There were many questions that we discussed.

A decision was made. We would encourage church members and friends to make a specific donation marked as CoronaCash that we would collect and redistribute to those who needed it more. A letter was sent out to the congregation, which you can read HERE. Whether one could donate 100%, 50%, or 1% of the money received via the stimulus bill, it would all be welcome. Our church would keep zero of what was donated in this campaign. We accepted nominations of organizations that were giving cash directly to undocumented folks, homeless folks, and other people in our area who either were excluded by the stimulus bill or who may have even greater financial need than what was being made available. We committed to only give to efforts that would give cash directly to individuals.

As of May 17th we raised and distributed our first installment of CoronaCash. We were able to distribute $5,750. We sent $2,000 to a campaign giving $500 to homeless adults in Chicago, $1,000 to a group giving cash assistance to undocumented people on the Westside of the city, $1,000 to an organization giving cash assistance to transgender women of color on the Southside of the city, $1,000 to an organization giving direct support to sex workers across the city, and $750 to an organization giving cash cards to homeless youth throughout the city. We continue to raise money to be distributed again, knowing that some of us are just getting our checks in the mail. The intention is to give our last installment out in mid-June, timely distribution has felt important given the extreme need right now.

We continue to have our own financial needs as a congregation. We have received our own financial support from the government through the PPP grants. Our commitment to share the money beyond our community does not negate our own community needs; it highlights the truth that we will only get through this crisis by supporting each other. We journey together with love.

by Rev. Jason Lydon, Minister, Second Unitarian Church of Chicago, IL

A new day for Side with Love

18 June 2021 at 12:52

Unitarian Universalists are often called “the Love People” by our communities who see us out working for justice. From hosting free weddings for LGBTQIA+ people before marriage equality was the law of the land, to taking to the streets as part of the global Climate Strikes, to opening our sanctuaries to protesters fleeing state violence, to organizing with coalition partners to shut down immigration detention facilities, “the Love People” have been showing up for years to embody our values, take courageous action, and build together as a part of broader movements for justice and liberation.  

Sometimes, Unitarian Universalists have shown up holding our congregational banners.  Other times, it’s been at the call of joint UU campaigns like Love Resists or Create Climate Justice.  And sometimes, we’ve rallied together through efforts like UU the Vote, or in our yellow shirts as a part of Side With Love. 

For some UUs, however, it has been confusing to try to understand the relationship between these many different justice campaigns and programs. Too often, the existence of these many “brands” has made the work seem disjointed, or even that issues are in competition with one another for resources and attention. And as a result, we have not always been as aligned, coordinated, or powerful as we could be. 

One thing is clear: the world needs Unitarian Universalists to show up for justice with spiritual grounding, generosity, humility, courage, and concrete skills. At various moments, we may be asked to bring these resources to particular struggles--pushing for electoral justice and voting rights, combating criminalization, working for LGBTQIA+ liberation, resisting climate catastrophe--but fundamentally, these are all facets of our shared work for collective liberation. 

Since its inception, the Side With Love campaign in particular has articulated one of Unitarian Universalism’s most cherished values: that it is a spiritual practice to choose love over fear. The beauty and the power of Side With Love has always been that invitation to be brave, to show up when we’re called, to occupy space with loving resistance rather than fearful retreat. We are most powerful when we understand that all the issues we care most deeply about are fundamentally interlinked, and that each of us has a role to play in building a world in which all people can be free and thrive. When we bring our best selves to our justice work, whichever specific issue or campaign it might be, we are choosing to Side With Love. 

And so, going forward, we are proud to announce that all of the UUA’s justice work will be housed under the Side With Love banner, through which we will continue to offer UUs regular opportunities for political education, spiritual sustenance, skills-based trainings, and mobilizations for action. We will be explicitly building on the infrastructure, organizing experience, relationships, and momentum we developed in 2020 through UU the Vote. In that vein, we will also invite UUs into specific work on issue-based campaigns from time to time: Side With Love will be encouraging people to #UUtheVote in 2022; to #CreateClimateJustice in partnership with the UU Ministry for Earth; and to declare that #LoveResists criminalization, along with our beloved partners at the UU Service Committee. These campaigns will be aligned and coordinated, and part of the overarching organizing strategy of Side With Love. 

To better reflect this intentional integration into Side With Love, we have also re-structured our Organizing Strategy Team--the UUA staff group that holds responsibility for the outward-facing justice ministries and campaigns of the Association. Working together, this team will be focusing on creating an impactful, engaging, nourishing multi-issue hub where UUs come to ground our spirits, grow our skills, and act together for justice. Following this message, you can see brief profiles of each of the Side With Love Organizing Strategy Team members, along with contact information and details about the portfolios of work they lead. 

In short: we will still be supporting our partners, congregations, and people of faith and conscience who are concerned about climate justice, decriminalization, democracy, and LGBTQ+ and gender justice as well as other issues that require a faith-filled response. We’re simply being more intentional in our declaration that all our prophetic justice work requires us to Side With Love.

To hear more reflections about how Unitarian Universalists are being called to Side With Love in the coming time, and ways to get involved, join our team at UUA General Assembly for our live workshop, “Harvesting Lessons, Planting Seeds: Reflections on Organizing, 2016-2021” on Thursday, June 24, 5:00-6:30pm ET/2:00-3:30pm PT. Check out all our General Assembly offerings here.  

We are so grateful for the ways Unitarian Universalists continue to Side With Love in so many ways, and in so many places. The work that lies ahead of us is immense, but we know that we carry on the legacy of generations before us who have brought us to this point. We are excited for our next phase together, and we can’t wait to build with you. We are so glad to be in the struggle together. 

In faith and solidarity,

The Rev. Ashley Horan, UUA Organizing Strategy Director 

On behalf of Side With Love’s Organizing Strategy Team

Meet your Side With Love Organizing Strategy Team

The Rev. Ashley Horan (she/her) is the UUA’s Organizing Strategy Director, and leads the Side With Love Organizing Strategy Team. In this role, Ashley shapes the big-picture vision and goals for the UUA’s outward-facing justice work, advises senior UUA leadership on justice-related issues, and supervises the staff team that designs and implements the work of Side With Love and all its related programs and campaigns.  


Nicole Pressley (she/her), formerly the National Organizer for UU the Vote, now serves as Field & Programs Director, and as a member of the Side With Love leadership team. In this role, Nicole supervises the team of field organizers, and creates opportunities for UUs to engage in leadership development, skill building, and collective action.

Everette Thompson (he/him), formerly the Campaign Manager for Side With Love, now serves as Political Education & Spiritual Sustenance Strategist, and as a member of the Side With Love leadership team. In this role, Everette designs opportunities for UUs to deepen their political grounding and analysis of critical justice issues and movements, and offers ways for people to nurture and sustain their spirits as they engage in long-haul work for justice. 


Audra Friend (she/her) serves the Side With Love team as Data, Communications, and Technology Specialist. In this role, Audra creates the technical infrastructure that makes our digital organizing possible, and supports the creation of compelling narratives that link our values to our actions for justice. 

Susan Leslie (she/her) currently serves as our Coalitions & Partnerships Organizer, after 29 years on UUA staff in a wide variety of justice-related roles. As a part of the field organizing team, Susan focuses on supporting strong, accountable connections between UU congregations, frontline movement partners, and faith-based coalitions. Beginning July 1, Susan will be working 60% time in her last year on staff before retiring in July 2022. 

michael crumpler.jpg

The Rev. Michael Crumpler (he/him), Multicultural & LGBTQIA+ Programs Director, is based in the UUA’s Ministries and Faith Development staff group, and contributes 40% of his time to the Side With Love team. Michael holds Side With Love’s LGBTQIA+ and gender justice organizing, oversees the UUA’s Welcoming Congregations program, and publishes the Uplift newsletter and blog. 

Aly Tharp (she/her or they/them) is the UU Ministry For Earth (UUMFE) Director of Programs and Partnerships, and serves as an ad hoc member of the Side With Love team. In this role, she serves as a liaison between the UUA and the ecosystem of UU climate justice organizing, and oversees Create Climate Justice, a joint project of the UUA and UUMFE. Aly collaborates and advises on climate- and earth-justice related organizing and strategy. 


We’re consolidating our various email newsletters to reflect our new focus. To subscribe to our newsletters or update your subscription info, please visit https://sidewithlove.org/subscribe.

General Assembly 2021 is over. Now what?

1 July 2021 at 15:10

Each year, thousands of Unitarian Universalists gather together for our annual General Assembly (GA), where we learn about cutting edge thinking and practices in our faith, do the business of the Association, and join our hearts and our spirits together in worship, song, and action. This year’s GA was the second in which we assembled not in an overly-air conditioned convention center, but in online chat spaces and Zoom rooms and livestreams. And even though so many of us are yearning for the in-the-flesh experience of being together, this was a truly remarkable, soul-expanding week that underscored for all of us that the heart of Unitarian Universalist faith is love, and that the expression of that faith is our shared work for justice. 

Some highlights from the week:

  • Our Side With Love Organizing Strategy Team was thrilled to see so many of you in our on-demand and live workshops (and we look forward to sharing some highlights and content from them in the coming weeks with those of you who did not attend GA, too!). We were especially excited to share our learnings coming out of the just-published UU the Vote report, and to publicly debut Side With Love’s new Action Center!

  • We were also incredibly touched by your generosity in donating to the Side With Love special collection on Saturday, which raised nearly $33,000. Thank you so much for making the work possible. (If you would still like to make a gift, text SWL to 91999 or click here.)

  • On Saturday, we partnered with African American Roundtable in phonebanking in support of a moral budget for Milwaukee, with less funding for racist policing and more resources for real social supports and structures of safety and stability for the people. More than 30 of you joined us in calling, and together we made more than 550 calls, and had more than 50 deep canvassing conversations with Milwaukee residents--many of which led to commitments of deeper engagement and support from the people we reached. Join us on July 8th for the next chance to join us and the African American Roundtable in support of the #LiberateMKE campaign!

  • Building a democracy where everyone has a voice and where those historically excluded from systems of governance find justice, is a fight that continues beyond election seasons. Our co-Ware lecturers at General Assembly, Stacey Abrams and Desmond Meade, gave rousing commentary on what it means to build just and democratic futures for us all. It included passing legislation like the For the People Act and John Lewis Act to expand access to voting rights, remove money from politics, end harmful gerrymandering, and restore critical elements of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. It also includes resisting the criminalization of protests and people with marginalized identities that move us closer to justice and liberation. And it includes partnering with those most impacted to dismantle systems of oppression and collectively reimagine communities and the systems that help us thrive. 

  • Finally, we were inspired by the ways Unitarian Universalists engage in the democratic process together to articulate our shared values and call for embodied work for justice. This year, we were heartened to see the decisive votes that our delegates cast in favor of this year’s Statement of Conscience (“Undoing Systemic White Supremacy”), and the resounding affirmation of three Actions of Immediate Witness declaring our support for systemic solutions to address the devastation caused by COVID-19; our call to defend and advocate with transgender, nonbinary, and intersex Communities; and the urgency of defending democracy and combating voter suppression. 

It is always a gift to be together in worship, action, and embodying in the democratic process. We are grateful for all of you who engaged in GA activities with us, and with our siblings in faith. Stay tuned for many more opportunities coming soon to join us in the work as we continue to Circle ‘Round for Freedom, Justice, and Courage.


In faith and solidarity,

Rev. Ashley Horan, UUA Organizing Strategy Director

On behalf of the Side With Love Organizing Strategy Team

Meet Side With Love's new Congregational Justice Organizer!

30 August 2021 at 15:46

A note from Nicole Pressley, Field and Programs Director:

Whether you’re talking about organizing or Unitarian Universalism, you don’t get very far without mentioning the centrality of relationship, community, and learning. As a living faith, we commit to transforming ourselves and our world as we build beloved community. 

This is why I am excited to announce that Rev. Ranwa Hammamy will be joining the UUA’s Organizing Strategy Team as the new Congregational Justice Organizer. The OST is the base for all of the UUA’s outward-facing justice ministries, including UU the Vote, Side With Love, Love Resists, Create Climate Justice, and more. Rev. Ranwa’s skill, commitment to racial justice-rooted organizing, and invitational leadership are markers of their powerful justice ministry that have supported organizations like UU Justice Ministry of California and Diverse Revolutionary Unitarian Universalist Ministries.  

As we build Side With Love’s organizing capacity and infrastructure, we’re looking forward to Rev. Ranwa sharing their powerful leadership to support congregational and local teams. By building new and stronger relationships with our Unitarian Universalist communities, we can create deeply connected networks of leaders to grow our impact, learn from one another, and reflect on collective work.  

I am so grateful that Rev. Ranwa has chosen to join our team and look forward to how they will support our congregations and leaders in transformational justice work. Come welcome Rev. Ranwa Hammamy in their new position at our Side With Love Action Center launch on Sunday, September 12, 2pm EST/1pm CST/ 12pm MST/11am PST.

Rev. Ranwa Hammamy

Rev. Ranwa Hammamy

I am humbled and excited to join the Organizing Strategy Team as a Congregational Justice Organizer! 

I became a Unitarian Universalist in 2010, joining the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia and its choir. Every Sunday, when I sat in the choir pews, a flag swayed gently above my head, embroidered with an image of one of Unitarianism’s most prophetic ancestors – Frances Ellen Watkins Harper

Over the years, I’ve come to learn so much about and from Harper’s bold and courageous faith, and how it motivated her perseverant work for abolition, universal suffrage, economic justice, gender equality, and more. As a Unitarian Universalist & Muslim, I hold a deep appreciation of how her lived faith wove together her African Methodist Episcopal roots and her Unitarian wings. 

I know that what I believe and how I act are inextricably connected. Whether it is teaching anti-racism in a Sunday school classroom in New York, interrupting inhumane immigration proceedings in San Diego, or protesting the desecration of sacred lands by Enbridge in Minnesota, my actions are out of a joyful obligation to my beliefs. 

As the Congregational Justice Organizer with the Organizing Strategy Team, I am excited to learn about, celebrate, connect, and support the ways YOU have found to live out your faith. Serving as the Executive Director of the UU Justice Ministry of California showed me how vibrant and varied our congregational justice ministries can be, and that is in just one state! I am eager to get to know you, your teams, your communities, your work, your dreams, your struggles, and your strengths, and help build those bridges that motivate bold and courageous action. And I am ESPECIALLY excited to meet you at the launch of the Side with Love Action Center on Sunday, September 12 at 2pm EST!

RSVP now

Our world is at a turning point, and we have the power and responsibility to choose its direction. As Harper once wrote, “Are there not wrongs to be righted?” We can choose to continue the cycles of racism, capitalism, and imperialism by restoring the white supremacist status-quo that pretends to look like “change” when it knows we are tired or scared. Or, we can be bold and courageous like our ancestor Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, and take new action in faith-rooted and collective ways. 

Through our collective faith-rooted work, Unitarian Universalist congregations can be epicenters of imagination and generativity. We have already witnessed this power. In the past 18 months our communities have met unfathomable challenges, grief, violence, and destruction with adaptability, resilience, steadfastness, love, and creativity. Our congregations have been physical and virtual spaces where we have sustained each other, remembered that we are always part of something larger than ourselves, and effectively embraced our shared power. And with the Side with Love Action Center, our congregations will grow even stronger as integral spaces for our interconnected work for liberation. By coming together on Sunday, September 12 for the Action Center Launch with others in your congregation – committee members, established justice teams, or anyone you think might be interested in organizing together within your community – you will be part of the next phase of our prophetic work as a faith. 

We face challenging times ahead, just as we and our ancestors have endured before. As individuals and congregations, we affirm and live by a set of principles that are not reserved for our most comfortable or privileged moments, but that speak the deepest truth in the most difficult and uncertain times of our lives. We all have parts to play in building that interconnected web of liberation, gifts that you and your congregation can bring, truths that your community and partners can share, and a faith that achieves its fullest potential and power when we come together to connect, create, act, and Side with Love. We need you – we all need each other – to build with us our new Side with Love Action Center so together we can build a bold, courageous, and liberated world.

Rev. Ranwa Hammamy

Congregational Justice Organizer

Meet Side With Love's new Congregational Justice Organizer!

Join us for our virtual Action Center Launch event this Sunday

10 September 2021 at 14:23

In the midst of devastating climate change, the appalling stripping away of voting and reproductive rights, the criminalization of migration, and the state sanctioned violence of policing - it can feel as though we are powerless to stop the tides of oppression. But nothing could be further from the truth. 

This Sunday is our Side With Love Action Center Launch, where we will come together as communities and as a faith and claim our collective power. We will learn from leaders of critical campaigns, and begin to mobilize within our own congregations and communities to make life-saving, liberation-cultivating change.


We are excited to have Aquene Freechild (Co-Director of Public Citizen’s “Democracy is for People” campaign), Rev. Tamara Lebak (Founder of the Restorative Justice Institute of Oklahoma), and Cherri Foytlin (Founder of the L’Eau Est La Vie Camp in Louisiana) sharing their wisdom and calls to communal action that will have an impact. And we will build our interdependent web of liberation within and between our congregations as we mobilize in intentional, relational, and sustainable ways.  

We know you wouldn’t be here with us if you did not believe another world is possible, and that we have the power to make it come to life. As we organize and activate our campaigns for Climate Justice, Decriminalization, LGBTQ+ & Gender Justice, and Democracy & Voting Rights, we need you to bring your faith in that liberated world, and your commitment to moving us towards it. 


Sunday’s Action Center Launch is a turning point, not just for Unitarian Universalists, but for our world. Today we face those tides of oppression together, knowing that we are rooted in something stronger, more powerful, and more true than their violence. Today, tomorrow, and every day after, we will build interconnected teams, take impactful action, and change the world with our collective love. 

Ranwa Hammamy.jpg

In faith, justice, and power,

Rev. Ranwa Hammamy

Congregational Justice Organizer

PS - There’s still time to invite others in your congregation to join your team and sign up for today’s launch! Send them the event sign up page so they can be a part of our movement!

Ground, Grow, & Act Together: the Action Center has launched!

14 September 2021 at 11:36

On Sunday, September 12th, hundreds of UU gathered for the launch of the new Side With Love Action Center: a place where we can ground, grow, and act together. As we move into this recovery, we cannot go back to normal. The Side With Love Action Center is a place to harness the power of our faith to contend with the systems of oppression that create multiple, intersecting crises. Our justice campaigns (Creating Climate Justice, UU the Vote, LGBTQ ministries and Love Resists) are joining together to skill up our commun ity, take action to advance our values, and build grassroots power to confront injustice on the national and local levels. 


At the launch, our speakers  Cherri Foylin (L’eau Est La Vie (Water is Life) Camp), Aquene Freechild (Public Citizen), and Rev. Tamara Lebak (Restorative Justice Institute of Oklahoma), joined us to talk about how interlocking systems of oppression are impacting our communities and invited us into the work of building beloved community. 

We know our battles and our lives are bound together. Let’s mobilize our folx across our justice campaigns to show up at this critical moment. With so much at stake, now is the time to build moral courage and stronger organizing capacity to win for our communities. 

In case you missed it!  

How to get started!

  1. Watch the Action Center launch video individually or with our congregation

  2. Download and review the Launch Guide

  3. Join us for the following Action Center events:

    1. Join us for the the first Action Center action and political education event: From #NoDAPL to #StopLine3: Water Protectors, Movement Building, and Solidarity Tuesday, September 14, 2021 8:00 PM -  9:30 PM ET

    2. Come to the Volunteer Squad Activation Huddle: Sunday, September 26, 2021 4:00 PM -  5:30 PM ET

    3. Join the Community of Praxis Gathering: Monday, October 25, 2021 7:00 PM -  8:30 PM ET

    4. Join the next Skill Up: Sunday, October 17, 2021 4:00 PM -  5:30 PM ET

  4. Organize your congregation to host an Action Center event

  5. Tell your story and report your work with the Story & Report Form  

Actions and Political Education for your Teams!

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UU the Vote: Democracy & Voting Rights

Political Education 



Create Climate Justice

Political Education 


  • Stop the Money Pipeline to divest from Fossil Fuels 
    Support folx impacted by Hurricane Ida

  • Members of the Congressional ‘Squad’ – including Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and Cori Bush – have joined together to call on President Biden to stop the Line 3 tar sands pipeline. This action has elevated our call to stop Line 3. Now we need to continue this momentum and build more pressure on President Biden to act. Here are two ways you can help right now:

  1. Call the White House: Demand that Biden’s Administration revoke the Line 3 permit immediately. Click here for a sample script and the number to call.


Love Resists: criminalization, deportation, and detention


BREAKING NEWS! On Monday the Oklahoma Board of Pardons voted to make a recommendation to Governor Stitt to commute the death sentence of Julius Jones. A huge Justice for Julius interfaith and community rally was held after our Action Launch (Sunday, Sept. 12th) at the Tabernacle Baptist Church in Oklahoma City.

Very soon there will be next steps and action to urge Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt to listen to the recommendation of the Oklahoma Parole Board. Please check www.justiceforjulius.com/events which will be updated soon for how to take action on the Governor.

Oklahoma is ground zero for the restorative justice movement, see https://www.restorativejusticeok.org/ for resources, training, and ways to connect. 

Ground, Grow, & Act Together: the Action Center has launched!

Opportunities to be in Solidarity with Water Protectors

16 September 2021 at 10:46

On September 14, we hosted “From #NoDAPL to #StopLine3: Water Protectors, Movement Building and Solidarity,” featuring a conversation with Michael “Rattler” Markus and the Rev. Karen Van Fossan.

water protector solidarity webinar graphic.png

We heard compelling testimony from both of our guests about the powerful organizing of the Water Protectors, the through-lines of movement organizing across time and space, the role of multinational corporations in violating treaty rights, and the impacts of our government’s ongoing criminalization of protest, free speech, and actions of conscience. We are so grateful for their wisdom and leadership.

Building on the energy and inspiration of last night’s storytelling, Side With Love invites you to use last night’s conversation as an on-ramp into the cycle of learning, growth, and action as part of our wide network of faithful organizers and activists.





At the request of Michael “Rattler” Markus and the other #NoDAPL political prisoners, those of us on the call last night committed to a practice of writing letters to President Biden, urging him to pardon the five #NoDAPL political prisoners. Here is your step by step guide for honoring this request for solidarity:

Type or neatly hand write your own letter using dark ink on 8 ½ x 11” white paper. Letters should be addressed to:

President Joseph R. Biden

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Ave

Washington, D.C. 20500

Include the following points in your letter:

1) YOUR CONNECTION TO THE ISSUE: What motivates you to write about this issue? Situate yourself with context, such as:

I’m a person of faith who believes we are called to protect the earth as a sacred gift…

I’m a climate activist who has been personally involved in the pipeline struggles…

I’m an American citizen who is deeply concerned about the anti-democratic trend toward criminalizing the exercise of free speech through protest...


Red Fawn Fallis/Janis

Michael “Little Feather” Giron

Michael “Rattler” Markus

Dion Ortiz

James White


  • Our Constitution guarantees the right to freedom of speech and assembly, and criminalizing protest is a threat to democracy. Water Protectors should have never been arrested, charged with federal crimes, or incarcerated.

  • Our Constitution is supposed to honor treaties with sovereign Indigenous nations, and the Dakota Access Pipeline--like Line 3, Keystone XL, and all pipelines--is a violation of treaty law that Indigenous people have every right to resist.

  • Our climate is in crisis, and the Water Protector movement is morally just. President Biden has committed to combating climate change, and should honor the Water Protectors’ leadership by pardoning these five political prisoners who were wrongly convicted for their witness.

4) Now organize your congregation or community!

  • Reach out to 10 of your friends, share these resources with them, and invite them to join you on zoom or in person (where safe) for a letter-writing party.

  • Recruit your congregation’s climate justice, racial justice, or social justice team to sponsor a letter writing party after services on Sunday, or at another time.


As we heard last night, the #NoDAPL political prisoners continue to experience the financial impacts of their trials and incarceration. Part of our ongoing commitment to solidarity is “leveraging our spiritual, financial, human, and infrastructural resources in support of Water Protectors, especially those who face ongoing charges and prison sentences, and their loved ones.” In that spirit, we ask you to make a donation to the UU Ministry for Earth’s #NoDAPL Political Prisoner Support fund, which will direct all contributions directly to the Water Protectors.

We’re so grateful to be in the struggle with all of you at the intersection of our shared work for climate justice, democracy, and decriminalization.

In faith and solidarity,

The Rev. Ashley Horan

Organizing Strategy Director

Side With Love - UUA

The People Need the Freedom to Vote

22 September 2021 at 17:31

After incredible organizing and mobilization of voters for the 2020 election cycle, we caught a glimpse of what real democracy looks like. We not only witnessed the power of the people, we collectively claimed it. Next week the Freedom to Vote Act will be coming up for a vote in the Senate, to help us keep power in the people’s hands. 


All around the country, there have been attempts - some successful - to restrict the freedom to vote for millions of Americans. These efforts to restrict voting rights strategically harm communities of color, young voters, disabled voters, and new citizens. The freedom to vote has never been fully realized in this country, and despite that we have organized for significant changes and wins. But we cannot stop there. Take action to support the Freedom to Vote Act today!

The Freedom to Vote Act is a bold and necessary move towards real democracy. It includes provisions that would expand equitable access to voter registration across the country, such as requiring automatic voter registration systems through state DMVs, access to online voter registration, and same-day voter registration at all polling locations by 2024. 

Voting itself would become more accessible, with the requirement of at least 15 consecutive days of early in-person voting, no-excuse mail voting for all voters in federal elections, accessible drop boxes, an easy way to cure deficient ballots, and the inclusion of all provisional ballots for eligible races in a county

And the Freedom to Vote Act includes protections that prevent future efforts to restrict voters’ rights. It bans partisan gerrymandering and redistricting, reduces the influence of corporations or wealthy donors through increased disclosure requirements, and protects election officials from intimidation or undue influence by partisan poll watchers.  

Friends, the Freedom to Vote Act is a reflection of our commitment to justice, equity, and compassion in human relations, particularly as it relates to governance and our responsibility to care for one another. And because of its promotion of real democracy, there are efforts in the Senate to block or defeat it. We cannot let the collective power of the people be denied. That’s why the timing for reaching out to our Senators now is so key. UUs are continuing to come together with organizers around the country to take strategic action to protect the freedom to vote, and we need you to:

Join a Meeting with Your Senator

UUs for Social Justice (UUSJ) in DC will be holding direct federal advocacy meetings with Senate staff on Voting Rights (both Freedom to Vote Act and John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act) from the following states: Georgia, Iowa, Maine, Mississippi, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Texas, and Wisconsin. We need your help & will train and orient you! If you want to participate please fill out this form. If you are from Alabama, Alaska, or Arizona please email anna@uusj.org.

Phonebank to Voters in Arizona & West Virginia

Join Common Cause for one (or more!) of its daily phonebanks to voters in Arizona and West Virginia to advocate for the Freedom to Vote Act and an end to the filibuster that is preventing the passage of liberatory legislation. 

Get Ready, Stay Ready!

We’re here to bend the arc for as long as it takes, and that means staying connected and supported. Stay tuned for an upcoming Pop-Up virtual event following the Senate’s vote on the Freedom to Vote Act next week, so we can sustain our spirits in the movement and plan our next actions!

We know that the moral arc of the universe is long, and that it bends towards justice. But it needs our hands, hearts, and faith to do so. You can take strategic action to promote and protect voting rights today, by showing your support for the Freedom to Vote Act as part of the long-haul movement towards real democracy

Ranwa Hammamy.jpg

In faith and justice,

Rev. Ranwa Hammamy

Congregational Justice Organizer, Side With Love

The People Need the Freedom to Vote

How do we build hope? Social Witness Convenings on Oct 6 and 13

23 September 2021 at 13:02
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Paulo Freire wrote that “to do without hope, in the struggle to improve the world, is a frivolous illusion.”

How do we build hope? When we share our stories, move together for justice, and side with love we build hope! We know this and yet as co-chairs of the Commission on Social Witness, Alison and I have learned that hope is in short supply.

Folx are overwhelmed, and it’s no wonder! The sheer scale of challenges we face in our personal lives coping with the pandemic, and in our hurting world, is unprecedented.

Attacks on the transgender and gender nonconforming community, erosion of our basic right to vote, environmental crises leveling poor and POCI communities, and a global pandemic devastating folx who are already laboring in harsh conditions and lacking basic healthcare. We are all in need of some potent hope!

That is why Alison and I have created two hope-filled evenings - UU Social Witness Convenings on Oct. 6 & 13 - to gather together and side with love. We have invited 20+ speakers who are doing amazing work with inspiring organizations (including TRUUsT, BLUU, DRUUMM, ARE, UUJEC, UUSJ, State Action Networks in AZ and NC, the UUA Administration and Side with Love Organizing Strategy Team staff, and more) to come together, share stories of justice, and fill our hearts and minds with tangible ways to get our hope going! 

We are enthusiastically inviting you to join us for two gatherings to make connections, get inspired, and start building more justice and more hope in our world. Let’s gather, inspire, and launch social witness action! The two events will focus on four critical social justice statements. We affirmed and adopted these statements at General Assembly 2021, now let’s act on them!

  • “Undoing Systemic White Supremacy: A Call to Prophetic Action"

  • “Defend and Advocate with Transgender, Nonbinary, and Intersex Communities”

  • “Stop Voter Suppression and Partner for Voting Rights and a Multiracial Democracy” 

  • “The COVID-19 Pandemic: Justice. Healing. Courage.” 

Check out the complete list of fabulous speakers and details.

Sign up for one or both events:

All UUs are invited--no prior experience or knowledge is necessary! The meeting will take place via Zoom. Zoom accessibility features are outlined here at this link

Alison and I cannot wait to gather with other UUs, bear witness to what each of our guests is doing, and share ways everyone can get involved in making justice a reality, no matter what our resources or bandwidth might be. We UUs are called to bring forth the beloved community as much as we can in this life. Let’s keep hope and justice going!

Blessings of Hope and Resilience,

Pippin Whitaker & Alison Aguilar Lopez Gutierrez McLeod

Co-Chairs, UUA Commission on Social Witness

How do we build hope? Social Witness Convenings on Oct 6 and 13

We’ll get there, we know we will

1 October 2021 at 19:20

Some days, it’s not about the “victories.” In our commitment to Side With Love and co-create a world where all thrive, some days are about the steadfast action we take knowing that there isn’t a sure “victory” coming. This is true for all of our moments. We continue to learn, build skills, and cultivate relationships to build power to win for our communities. 

Right now so much is at stake and so many of our communities suffer under the violence of white supremacy and capitalism. Whether you’re organizing for a multi-racial democracy, to stop pipelines and build a fossil free future, to stop deportations, or win reproductive and gender justice, this moment feels rough. While we can never promise victory, we can promise that no movement has been successful without the sustained actions and collective support of the community. 

Join us for one of our regular organizing opportunities at the Side With Love Action Center.


Today, everyday, we harness love’s power for liberation. Sustaining ourselves for the long-term movement means resourcing ourselves to make it through the moments when “the road will be muddy and rough.” Building our networks, capacity, and resilience means taking intentional and strategic action that at first glance may not appear to be moving us forward. But a closer look at those moments when there may not appear to be “victories” in political arenas reveals a different kind of victory - one of our persevering faith. 

We have been working with broad coalitions to get care and safety for our communities, renewable energy policies, a path to citizenship, and democracy reform through the Build Back Better and Freedom to Vote Acts currently stalled in Congress. It’s been a very hard few weeks as we witness the lack of accountability to the impacted people who should be at the center of shaping these policies. Instead we see migrants left out, indigenous sovereignty ignored, and moves for more cuts in funding to economic justice and safety programs, while billions of subsidies to fossil fuel companies and false climate solutions in the legislation are ignored and pipeline projects move forward. 

We need massive investments in climate, care, and justice to transform our economy and our world. We need to build multiracial democracy and secure access to the ballot for millions of people who face restrictions and obstacles to casting their vote. And so, we continue mobilizing and building powerful people’s movements that follow Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) and impacted communities who have clear pathways for how we build back better for all. We will get there.

That’s why we began the start of this congregational year with the launch of our Side with Love Action Center. We know it is going to take all of us, finding our roles, taking the next step, learning and coming together in one hub -- UUs and our partners - for collective action and community support. You can also join our Side with Love Squads and meet up on our Slack channel.

This is a time to speak truth to power and fight together for our values and our people. As our UUA President Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray says -- This is no time for a casual faith!

Find one or more actions you can take here at the Action Center and invite others to join you.

October Actions:

  • Oct 2: Women’s March for Abortion Justice. Find one near you.

  • Oct. 6 & 13: Social Witness Convenings on Actions of Immediate Witness for defending transgender communities, protecting voting rights, just recovery from the pandemic, and Statement of Conscience on undoing systemic white supremacy.

  • Oct.11-15: People vs. Fossil Fuels Week of Action. Join the multi-faith delegation

  • Oct. 17-18: #Faiths4ClimateJustice Global Multifaith Action, two weeks before the global climate negotiations to make our demands clear. Find actions near you.  

  • Petition for the People’s Response Act that redefines public safety as public health and funds community-based approaches.

Let’s continue to call Congress and tell them to pass the Build Back Better Act--with no cuts and a path to citizenship, the Freedom to Vote Act and John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. Together, we can build faithful power to win all we can for our communities and get ready to UU the Vote for the 2022 electoral season. 

Change will not come by advancing timid, weak policies. Liberation will not come by maintaining the status quo. Winning will take bold imagining, time and effort, care and investment, and organizing. It will take faith.

In solidarity,

UUA Side with Love Organizing Strategy Team

Rev. Ashley Horan, Organizing Strategy Director

Nicole Pressley, Field and Programs Director

Rev. Ranwa Hammamy, Congregational Justice Organizer

Susan Leslie, Coalitions & Partnerships Organizer

Audra Friend, Digital Communications, Data & Technology Specialist

Rev. Michael Crumpler, LGBTQ & Multicultural Programs Director

Adrian Ballou, LGBTQ & Multicultural Programs Intern

Rev. Cathy Rion Starr, Side with Love Squad Coordinator

Aly Tharp, UU Ministry for Earth Programs Director

We’ll get there, we know we will

Join us in honoring Indigenous People’s Day and activating our faith

6 October 2021 at 22:12

In 2020, the General Assembly passed an Action of Immediate Witness (AIW), “Address 400 Years of White Supremacist Colonialism”, calling on UUs to knit together our commitment to justice with our need for reconciliation. As we approach Indigenous People’s Day on October 11th, we consider the actions and transformation that must happen to fulfil the promise and the call of that AIW.

One of the UUA’s four intersectional justice priorities is climate justice, with a specific focus on mobilizing in solidarity with Indigenous frontline communities. Our commitment from renouncing the Doctrine of Discovery, to supporting the Standing Rock water protectors, to the ongoing resistance to extractive projects like Line 3 that are violating Indigenous sovereignty across Turtle Island, gives us the grounding to accountably join this struggle.

The ravages we have seen in just these past few months from fire, floods, drought, and oil spills and the disrespect of and state-sanctioned violence against sovereign Indigenous communities demand that we act. Join us in honoring Indigenous People’s Day and activating our faith by answering the call for action on Indigenous sovereignty and climate justice. 

Here are 3 ways your groups can take action.

Use the Action Center Guide for tips on how to organize and add your events to the Side With Love calendar

Side with

Amplify the voices of Indigenous peoples in the struggle for sovereignty and climate justice. Host a viewing and discussion of The Condor & The Eagle, a powerful and award-winning documentary that offers a glimpse into a developing spiritual renaissance as the film's protagonists learn from each other’s long legacy of resistance to colonialism and its extractive economy.

Executive producer, UU Ministry for Earth (UUMFE), has made this film available for viewing anytime between October 11 through November 30th. Click here for details.

Multiply your impact by joining the UUA, UUMFE and Green Faith for Faiths 4 Climate Justice: A Global Multi-religious Action on October 17 and 18.

Side With Love and partners will be hosting a virtual, national “UUs 4 Climate Justice” action on October 18th at 7pm ET / 4pm PT, as a part of this global mobilization, calling for President Biden to issue pardons for the five #NoDAPL political prisoners and to Build Back Fossil Fuel Free. 

Ground your work by hosting or joining a local action (check out the map to see what’s already in motion). Partnership and community accountability is how we build a strong movement. Activate your team or congregation to show up in your communities for climate justice on October 18. Remember to Add Your Event to the Action Center Calendar, in addition to the GreenFaith map (linked above)!

UU Leaders Take Direct Action This Week to Create Climate Justice 

UU leaders across the country, including the UUA’s Susan Leslie, are also answering the call to Create Climate Justice by joining the People vs. Fossil Fuels Week of Action Multi-Faith Delegation in Washington, D.C, today through Oct. 15th. We join UUMFE and GreenFaith as co-sponsors of this event, where UUs will join other people of faith and conscience in civil disobedience, demanding the Biden administration use their executive power to stop and revoke all approvals for new fossil fuel projects and declare and address a climate emergency and launch a just, renewable energy revolution. 

These actions come just as Congress is wrangling with the Build Back Better reconciliation legislation and before the November UN Climate Change Conference COP26 and will push our elected officials to end the era of fossil fuels and climate catastrophe. Beginning on Indigenous People’s Day, each day's civil disobedience action will highlight what is driving the climate crisis and what we need to do to build a fossil free economy. Indigenous Environmental Network will be livestreaming and promoting ways to support from afar throughout the week. 

Thank you for mobilizing to create Climate Justice in solidarity with Indigenous frontline leaders, this Indigenous Peoples Day and beyond.

In faith and solidarity,

Your Side With Love Organizing Strategy Team

P.S. Get support, share stories and build a community of practice! 

Join our first monthly Community Meeting on October 25, 7-8:30pm EST/4-5:30pm PT to share how your actions went, connect with other UU organizers and faith leaders doing similar work, and learn more about our Side With Love campaigns and how you can get involved. 

Sign up today!

Will you Side with Love for climate justice?

15 October 2021 at 16:55

I’ve just returned home from the People vs. Fossil Fuels Week of Action in Washington, D.C., deeply inspired by the bold direct actions taken by Indigenous leaders, multifaith clergy and lay leaders (including 40 UUs), youth, and hundreds of people who are putting everything on the line for climate justice. We engaged in civil disobedience and witness at the White House, at the Army Corps of Engineers, at the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Department of the Interior, and Congress.  Now, we need to keep up the pressure and build our power as Congress works to pass the Build Back Better legislation and the US sends representatives to the UN COP26 Conference on Climate Change next month. 


This coming Sunday and Monday, Oct. 17-18, Unitarian Universalists are joining the global Faiths 4 Climate Justice mobilization hosted by GreenFaith and co-sponsored by the UUA, UU Ministry for Earth and many other faith partners.

Take Action With US

  1. See if there is a local event you can participate in: check out the action map

  2. Join Side With Love’s virtual, national action rally “UUs 4 Climate Justice” on October 18th at 7pm ET / 6 CT / 5 MT / 4pm PT
    Join this online #Faiths4ClimateJustice offering for any UUs with no local or online action accessible to them. UUs around the country will gather to celebrate today's actions around the world, witness, and take action ourselves. Featuring Rev. Amy Brooks Paradise of GreenFaith, Rev. Ranwa Hammamy of Side with Love, and more. RSVP for this national climate action!

  3. Amplify the voices of Indigenous peoples in the struggle for sovereignty and climate justice. Between now and November 30th, host a community viewing and discussion of The Condor & The Eagle, a powerful and award-winning documentary that offers a glimpse into a developing spiritual renaissance as the film's protagonists learn from each other’s long legacy of resistance to colonialism and its extractive economy. Click here for details.

It’s incredibly important to put pressure on President Biden right now, as we approach the COP 26 UN climate talks. Together, we can Side With Love and Create Climate Justice by showing up for this movement moment in solidarity with frontline leaders who have spent the past week risking arrest in Washington, D.C. to call on President Biden to reject false solutions and commit to a rapid and just transition away from an extractive economy. Will you Side with Love for climate justice?


In faith and solidarity, 

Aly Tharp,

UU Ministry for Earth Co-Director of Programs


Partnerships and  the Side With Love Organizing Strategy Team

Will you Side with Love for climate justice?

BREAKING: Senate Blocks the Freedom to Vote Act! Join us tomorrow!

20 October 2021 at 17:02

We know that undemocratic processes lead to undemocratic outcomes. Over 70% of Americans support the Freedom to Vote Act. For decades, the will of the people has been denied due to the fundamental inequities in our institutions. Today, Senate Republicans blocked the Freedom to Vote Act, refusing to even open the floor for debate. This legislation is essential to realizing the promise of our democracy. It will create national standards for how elections are run, protect and expand the right to vote, and end partisan and racialized gerrymandering. It will create a campaign finance system that ensures that elected officials are accountable to the voters who elected them. It will bring down barriers preventing millions of people from accessing their right to vote, by mandating automatic, on-line and same day registration, expanded vote by mail, curbside ballot drop-offs and more.

We will not let the Freedom to Vote be denied!

Last year, we joined a broad coalition of organizers, activists and communities to produce the largest voter turnout in history. Today, we are still in the fight for a democracy where all voices are heard. Democracy is a sacred principle because it is how we commit to one another in an accountable relationship. As UUA President Rev. Dr. Susan Frederick-Gray reminds us, 

“We know that voting rights alone will not dismantle white supremacy and create equity for all, but they are crucial to building a democratic society in which true justice is possible. We honor all those ancestors who have fought for human dignity, democracy, and justice before us, and remain committed to the shared work of (re)building a free, equitable, robust democracy in the United States.”

Yet fifty US Senators don’t even want to talk about voting rights! We cannot let the Senate block democracy and everything else we have been working for to get justice. Our faith movement has long upheld the sacred right to vote and witnessed for justice and democracy as core principles of our tradition. Today’s vote is just a first move in the current struggle for voting rights. We are coming together with a huge coalition to get this legislation passed.

Join Our Side with Love Freedom to Vote Pop Up for Democracy Virtual Rally on Thursday, October 21st, 7 pm ET/4 pm PT

Let’s come together to connect our communities, sustain our spirits, and take collective, faithful action.

Join the Side with Love Organizing Strategy Team, UUs for Social Justice, and our UU the Vote partners in this crucial moment. 

  • Elizabeth Hira, Spritzer Fellow & Policy Counsel for Democracy Program of Brennan Center for Justice

  • Jennifer Lamson, Senior Advisor for Federal Campaigns & National Initiatives, Democracy Initiative

  • Pablo DeJesus, Executive Director, UUs for Social Justice and Faithful Democracy Coalition

  • Ann Maxwell, All Souls Unitarian Washington, DC James Reeb Voting Rights Project, and biking in the West Virginia to Washington, DC Freedom to Vote Relay happening now!

  • Nicole Pressley, Side with Love Organizing Strategy Team (OST) Field and Program Director (formerly UU the Vote Campaign Director) and other OST members.

We will be taking action together at the rally, calling the White House to tell President Biden to use his full power to ensure the passage of federal voting rights legislation.

This is an historic opportunity and we will get the Freedom to Vote Act, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, and the DC Statehood bills passed! We can reverse decades of rising abuse of the Senate rules, especially the filibuster, a Jim Crow relic which has been used in service to white supremacy and corporate and wealthy interests, stopping us from creating humane and just policies for our people. 

The filibuster is being used to protect the dangerous status quo we are living in and to stop the big bold policy changes we need for our communities, from climate and worker justice to health care and child care, to a path to citizenship for our migrant siblings, and investment in BIPOC community safety. Jim Crow era Senate rules are preventing us from building a multi-racial democracy.

Enough is enough! We all worked hard in 2020 to change the power dynamics in our nation to win justice for our communities. The majority was elected to govern, and we must ensure it does so with bold action. The days of allowing the filibuster to delay justice are over, and the fight for filibuster reform is on. Joining this effort is how we can faithfully serve and practice our values to Side with Love now.

Time is of the essence. Our communities are still reeling from the pandemic, climate catastrophes, and systemic inequality. With the 2022 election cycle coming, state legislators have been pushing through voter suppression laws across the country and reinforcing gerrymandered districts. With states across the country attacking our freedom to vote, we need national standards to ensure that we all have equitable access to the ballot.

Join us on Thursday, Oct. 21st,  at 4 pm PT/7 pm ET and encourage others from your congregation, your networks, and community to attend. Join on Zoom or watch the livestream on Facebook.

Love will guide us through the hard night. Love will guide us in this fight. We can change the world with our love. 

In faith and solidarity,

The Side with Love Organizing Strategy Team

BREAKING: Senate Blocks the Freedom to Vote Act! Join us tomorrow!

We’ve reached 58% of the Senate - let’s make it 100%

22 October 2021 at 17:25

Wow -- last night’s Pop Up for Democracy Rally was an amazing event! 

As of this morning, UUs have reached 29 of our 50 US Senators, telling them to pass the Freedom to Vote Act -- that’s 58% of the Senate!

Our efforts are working and we need to keep the pressure on.  In fact, today, the New York Times reported that President Biden is "open to ending the filibuster." 

So, before we do anything else, let’s make sure EVERY Senator hears from us by November 1st - share this link — bit.ly/CallSenate1021and ask everyone you know to take two-minutes to call their Senators!  

We’re grateful you took the time to join us last night and that you made a call -- thank you!

The rest of this includes all the materials from last night’s Pop Up for Democracy Rally, including all the mentioned links, campaigns, events, and other asks. There are so many ways to engage in the vital and crucial work of protecting our democracy and electoral rights, so find the one that works for you!

Amplify the central message of last night’s event: Save the Freedom to Vote Act and end the filibuster:

  • Video of the event

  • PDF of the slide presentation

  • Full video of presentation from Elizabeth Hira, Brennan Center for Justice on why the Freedom to Vote legislation is transformational beyond voting rights (16.5 minutes, we showed 10 mins. last night)

Multiply the impact by inviting more people to join you!

Ground your work by engaging locally in your community and in partnership:

  • Save the Date: Nov Week of Action: The broad coalition that the UUA is part of, Declaration for American Democracy, will soon be unveiling Freedom to Vote - Time to Act Week of Action during the November Congressional Recess that begins on November 11th. There will soon be a website, toolkit to host an action, and a map of actions available soon. Can you pledge to host a November Distributed Action?     

  • How to prepare: Join the October 25 Community of Praxis Meeting to prepare your own November Action!  

Here are the other crucial links from last night:

  • Send a Letter to Your Senator Urging Filibuster Reform  

  • Send a personalized message to your Senator urging them to support the Freedom to Vote Act & John Lewis Voting Rights Act here.  

  • Constituents needed for meetings with Republican Senators from AK, AL, LA, ME OH, PA.   

  • Are you in West Virginia? 

    • Join the Mass Moral Revival and Rally, October 24th at 4pm, featuring Rev. Dr. William Barber and the Poor People's Campaign along with other West Virginia faith leaders, poor and low-wealth West Virginians, and other coalition partners to call on Sen. Manchin to do better.

  • In the DC area? Join other UUs who will be at the following Freedom to Vote Relay events! 

  • From Arizona? Learn about more upcoming actions to pressure Sen. Sinema and build our power at UUJAZ (UU Justice Arizona) Issues & Action Day tomorrow, Saturday, October 23rd.

  • Are you connected with your UU State Action Network? Many of them are working on redistricting and fair maps to counter gerrymandering and other voter suppression efforts.  Check out the Coalition of UU State Action Networks (CUUSAN) to see if there’s one for your state: https://cuusan.org/   

  • From the Fix or Nix the Filibuster Campaign, a Filibuster Reform Toolkit.  

Being with you in this work is so meaningful and we’re grateful to be doing it together. 

In faith and solidarity,

Audra Friend

Side With Love Digital Communications, Technology, and Data Specialist

on behalf of the entire Side With Love team

We're saying 'No' to limits on reproductive rights.

1 November 2021 at 17:10

Right now, abortion is effectively illegal in the state of Texas as SB 8 remains in effect.  Millions of people cannot access critical, often life-saving reproductive health care.  Medical providers are living in fear of being sued for treating their patients.  And private citizens have been deputized as vigilantes, receiving bounties for bringing lawsuits against anyone who “aids or abets” the provision of abortion services to anyone after 5-6 weeks of gestation. 

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has refused to block this dangerous and unconstitutional law as the legal challenges to it play out. Today, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments to consider two cases: in the first, brought by the Department of Justice  the court will consider whether the federal government has the right to sue in federal court to block the law’s enforcement in Texas. The second challenge, brought by a coalition of providers, including Planned Parenthood, will assess the law’s unusual private-enforcement structure, which deputizes private individuals to bring lawsuits against doctors, clinics, or anyone else who facilitates access to abortion. 

As Unitarian Universalists, we embrace the reproductive justice framework, which espouses the human right to have children, not to have children, to parent the children one has in healthy environments, and to safeguard bodily autonomy and to express one's sexuality freely. Rooted in these values, we unequivocally declare that SB 8, and any law that attempts to criminalize reproductive freedom—including abortion care—is morally wrong.

As we await the Court’s final decisions, our hearts and minds are with all who want and need access to abortion on all who desire bodily autonomy and seek to live whole lives free of state interference; and on all who yearn to live in a society free of vigilante justice. 

And, in addition to our thoughts and prayers, our faith calls us to actively and courageously resist such injustice. Here are some ways you and your congregation can take action today:

  • Join people of faith around the country to learn and strategize. Sign up to attend the SACReD Gathering: Faith Communities Reclaiming Reproductive Dignity and Autonomy, January 25-26, 2022. This event will be a first-of-its-kind virtual gathering of justice-oriented people of faith, activists, and leaders from the reproductive health, rights, and justice community. “Grounded in our shared values of justice, dignity, human rights, compassion, and expansive love, we will discover how faith and reproductive liberation are interdependent through keynotes, panel discussions, and breakout sessions.” 

  • Host a Reproductive Justice Sunday in January, 2022. In commemoration of the anniversary of Roe v. Wade and the ongoing fight for reproductive health, rights, and justice, join UU congregations across the country for a Sunday of solidarity, support, and reflection. We will be providing worship resources (readings, videos, liturgical frameworks) and suggestions for planning your own service in the coming weeks. If you would like to receive more information, sign up here: https://bit.ly/ReproJusticeSunday2022 

May we all commit to fighting for justice and supporting all who are oppressed by laws that jeopardize reproductive freedom. 

In faith and solidarity,

Rev. Ashley Horan

Organizing Strategy Director

on behalf of the Side With Love Organizing Strategy Team

Every choice we make at the polls can change the course of history.

2 November 2021 at 16:20

Today is Election Day - another chance for us to live into our deep beliefs about the power of the democratic process to create a world in which all people are free and thriving. 
Voting is a collective act of discernment and imagination. When we cast our ballots for candidates that reflect our values and laws and ordinances that move us closer to the world we want to live in, we are taking sacred action together. So please--if you have the ability to vote, make sure you get to the polls today. (And if you don’t know how to find your polling place, click here.) 
As both early voting and today’s ballots are counted in municipal and state elections around the country, our communities will be directly shaping the future of our country. In Minneapolis, voters will be making historic decisions about public safety and policing. In this year’s only gubernatorial races, Virginia and New Jersey are being seen as bellwethers for national political trends. Voters in Atlanta will choose a mayor who will address a crisis in affordable housing and gentrification. Abortion access, immigration enforcement, protections for trans people, permits for extractive energy infrastructure like oil pipelines--all of these issues are decided and enforced on local and statewide levels. Even in a year without national races, the choices we make at the polls can change the course of history. 
Unsurprisingly, there are many powerful interests who fear the collective power of the people. This is our first election since the January 6 insurrection, following months of disinformation seeking to overturn the results of the most secure, legitimate election in American history. Between January and September, 19 states enacted laws creating new barriers to voting or eroding the power of voters, many of which clearly target Black, Indigenous, and people of color communities. And tomorrow, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act will be brought to the Senate floor for debate, where it will almost certainly again be filibustered and blocked from moving forward.
Now is the time to act to protect our democracy. Here’s what you can do: 
Join Side with Love and the Declaration for American Democracy coalition in distributed actions during the Nov. 8-13 Senate recess, demanding that our Senators pass the Freedom to Vote and John Lewis Voting Rights Acts, and address the stranglehold the filibuster currently has over our democratic process. To host or join an event, go to the Side With Love Action Center, where our Democracy & Voting Rights section has a Host Action Guide, a map of actions, and instructions for getting your action on the map.
Our faith reminds us that it is our shared responsibility to fight for each other until all of our communities are free and thriving. We believe in the power of the democratic process to shape that world, and we recommit ourselves to that sacred work on this Election Day --and as we head into the 2022 electoral season -- more and more powerful together.
In faith and solidarity, 

Field & Programs Director, Side With Love Organizing Strategy Team

What It Means to Be Rooted: Remembering Elandria Williams

21 October 2020 at 11:49

Elandria Williams (she/they/E), a powerful organizer, a passionate Unitarian Universalist faith leader, and co-founder of Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism, joined the ancestors on Sept. 23, 2020. While we are still processing E’s transition, we wanted to share some reflections about Elandria to honor who they were to us.

The diverse groups of people from movement spaces and faith communities mourning E is a testament to the tenacity of E’s leadership and the depth of their spirit. Many people are still sharing memories of E using the hashtag #ElandriaTaughtUs. This is unsurprising because one couldn’t be in a room with Elandria without learning how to be a better human.

One video that folks have shared shows people gathered around E as they teach a call and response song:

Solid as a rock.

Rooted like a tree.

I am here.

Standing strong.

In my rightful place.”

In a world where so many systems and people aim to create disarray and disconnection, it is a deeply spiritual challenge to stay rooted. Yet, that’s exactly what Elandria did. They kept their organizing unapologetically rooted in their commitments to Black liberation and disability justice. They brought this same rootedness into their leadership within Unitarian Universalism, always saying hard things in love and never forgetting to center their work in Black freedom and Black joy.

“I worked with Elandria in the very beginning of forming BLUU,” said BLUU’s Executive Director Lena K. Gardner. “I didn’t know her very well before then. We had our disagreements, but I always felt her love and we always left things in a good place. She was never afraid to feel her feelings or express them, and was welcoming with a warmth I have rarely experienced in movement spaces. I have long admired the way she loves and moves ever since those early days and will miss her. I hope to honor her legacy by continuing to build and strengthen BLUU as an organization — and to always move in love and truth.”

The fabric of who Elandria was will remain in BLUU’s DNA forever. We are so grateful that Elandria taught us how to take up space and to do so with moral clarity. No one ever had to figure out what E’s values were because they spoke them boldly and then lived them fiercely.

“When BLUU was formed in 2015, what I remember Elandria saying over and over again was, ‘we have to say it plain,’” said BLUU co-founder and BLUU Advisory Team member Leslie Mac. “E offered that same advice to me so often in all the work we did together. I watched E, with the support of 1500 Black organizers, negotiate the immediate release of a young man from the custody of what seemed like a battalion of police officers in Cleveland, OH. I watched E navigate the misogynoir thrown at her as she led our UUA as Co-Moderator with ease and grace. I watched E pull me close and talk earnestly and effectively about the need for us to have a strong inside AND outside game. She would say, ‘Leslie I do not care what people think our relationship is like on the outside. We know the truth and that is enough.’ I take that lesson with me always. Elandria taught me that organizing is a journey and one that requires the application of so many different skills and tactics. E taught me above all else to love our people, speak truth to power, and care for yourself, even when it’s hard. In her absence I hear her voice singing to me: ‘Solid as a rock. Rooted like a tree. We are here. Standing strong… in our rightful place.’”

The BLUU Organizing Collective Board is committed to meaningfully and tangibly honoring Elandria’s legacy in the long term. This commitment requires discerning, deep listening and community partnership. E taught us to take care in our work, and to move only when we are collectively ready to move. We will share updates about this work as this promise takes more concrete shape.

Please consider donating to the GoFundMe that E’s community started for their niece and nephews. They were very active in their lives and helped support them financially. #ElandriaTaughtUs to take care of each other, and we ask that our community help support E’s family in that spirit.

Reclaiming Resilience: An Election Message from BLUU

2 November 2020 at 08:14

As Black people, we have endured immense loss in 2020. We want our community to know we’re in this with you and more resilient than ever.

Black people have survived generations of violent oppression. And yet, our responses to that violence are not what make us resilient. Gauging Black resilience by our response to violent whiteness is racist.

You’re not talking about Black resilience if you’re only talking about how Black people respond to trauma. On an episode of the La Cura podcast, somatics practitioner Prentis Hemphill says, “Resilience is not an acclimation to conditions but a commitment to life.”

That’s why our invitation to Black folks going into election day is to join us in reclaiming the meaning of Black resilience. One of our 7 Principles of Black Lives says spiritual growth is directly tied to our ability to embrace our whole selves. Today, we proclaim that Black Lives Matter separate from the dangers of whiteness that threaten them. We are resilient just because we exist. Living while Black is rigorous on its own terms.

When we talked about what we wanted to say to Black folks leading up to the election, we agreed that we’re tired of being told that we are resilient without that resilience being located outside of our trauma responses. And we guessed other Black folks might be feeling that way too.

We are resilient because our ancestors believed in our lives when there was no reason to even believe they’d survive. They dreamed us into existence. They prayed us into being. They organized for themselves so that we could carry the mantle. And they didn’t just believe we’d survive. They believed we could thrive.

We are resilient going into this election because we believe there will be Black people in the future, and their lives will be better than we could ever imagine.

We believe in centering community care and self-care after the election because a commitment to Black life demands that we rest and demands that we make sure we all have enough. We are more than our labor and productivity, and no one among us is disposable. We must commit to anti-capitalism and abolition like never before to ground ourselves in the imaginations of our ancestors and the futures of our descendants.

There is much work to do no matter who wins the election, and we will do that work together as we always have. With joy, with determination, and with each other. And with a belief in Black resilience.

BLUU creates and amplifies spaces and work that center Black life, and in doing so, we are performing a radical act. We will continue to support Black people by organizing for our liberation and worshipping in our wholeness. If you’re a Black person not connected with BLUU, this is a great week to get connected. Find out how to join us in the events below.

In faith, solidarity, and Black love,

The BLUU Organizing Collective Board

— — — —

BLUU Sacred Space for Black Folks During Election Week:

(These events are explicitly Black space. We invite folks who aren’t Black to share these connection opportunities with Black loved ones, colleagues, and congregants in solidarity with our work for Black liberation and healing.)

  • We Got Us- Tuesday, Nov. 3., 7–11 p.m. Eastern | 4–8 p.m. Pacific

Team Sankofa, BLUU’s community organizing team, is offering an opportunity for Black people to spend the evening in shared, virtual space. All Black folks who share our values of radical inclusivity are welcome. BLUU’s Election Night Gathering will include entertainment in the form of community-building games, offerings from our esteemed Elders, and an after-hours Lunch + Vibe discussion! (Registration required)

We are in a collective time of grieving and experiencing a considerable amount of loss. The Root Work- Navigating Troubled Waters Herbalism workshop session will focus on strengthening your relationship with your body to hold space for grief. Herbalist India Harris will guide us as we engage in somatic centering practices and discuss plant medicine for heart healing. (Registration required)

In one of the most consequential elections of our time, we may struggle to find the certainty and grounding to know what’s next. How do we move through a time of deep rupture, but also one of deep possibility? We are grateful to welcome Nicole Pressley, National Organizer for UU the Vote, who will be reflecting with us on our ancestors’ (and our own) ability to find purpose and claim victory in times of trouble. (Registration required)

Keep Organizing After the Election:

We will continue to share information from trusted sources about how you can support and organize for Black liberation after the election ends because the work continues. If you don’t know what to do after the election, we suggest connecting with The Frontline as a starting place. The Frontline is a new powerful campaign by The Movement for Black Lives, Working Families Party, and United We Dream. The Frontline will be leading work *after* the election.

About BLUU:

Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism is committed to expanding the power and capacity of Black UUs within Unitarian Universalism; providing support, information, and resources for Black Unitarian Universalists; and justice-making and liberation for Black people through our faith. Subscribe to our email list to learn more about our worship events, organizing opportunities, and youth ministry.

Announcing the BLUU Housing Cooperative Initiative

3 February 2021 at 08:02

At the end of this project, 32 Black and Indigenous families will be empowered as homeowners in Minneapolis, something that will fundamentally transform access to resources and wealth for generations.

This draft rendering shows a multi-family unit from BLUU’s Housing Initiative. The initiative will make 32 Black and Indigenous families homeowners in North Minneapolis.

St. Paul, Minnesota

Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism (BLUU) is excited to announce The BLUU Northside Housing Cooperative Initiative, a BLUU initiative that embodies our commitment to improve the material conditions of Black lives as an act of our faith.

BLUU purchased eight vacant lots in North Minneapolis and will transform those lots into multi-unit housing that will create generational wealth for Black and Indigenous families in the area.

At the end of this project, 32 Black and Indigenous families will be empowered as homeowners.

BLUU believes in building power through connection. BLUU will help the homeowners form cooperative entities so each homeowner has connection with and support from their neighbors. BLUU will also support families who move into the units we build with resources and training related to finance, land ownership, and cooperative decision-making.

Creating truly affordable housing in North Minneapolis will have real impacts in a rapidly gentrifying area. By selling the developed units to a land trust entity, BLUU will ensure that the cost of the units stays truly affordable.

BLUU is accepting donations for the Housing Initiative. Every dollar helps support the creation of truly affordable housing for Black and Indigenous.

For more information about the housing initiative, visit BlackLivesUU.org.

About BLUU:

Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism is committed to expanding the power and capacity of Black UUs within Unitarian Universalism; providing support, information, and resources for Black Unitarian Universalists; and justice-making and liberation for Black people through our faith. Subscribe to our email list to learn more about our worship events, organizing opportunities, and youth ministry.

BLUU Announces Departures from Organizing Board Collective

9 February 2021 at 13:31

BLUU Announces Departures from Organizing Collective Board

St. Paul, Minnesota

Rev. Margalie Belizaire and Samuel Prince have transitioned off of Black Lives of Unitarian Univeralism’s (BLUU’s) Organizing Collective Board (OCB).

During her time on the board, Margalie assisted with BLUU’s administrative work. Samuel was the OCB’s liaison for the 360 Council, the BLUU elders advisory board.

“Cultivating our collective relationships in BLUU and doing the incredible work that we get to do is nothing short of remarkable,” says Rev. Mykal Slack, BLUU’s Community Minister, about being a member of the OCB. “And so we all feel it when someone transitions off the team.”

Margalie is currently serving as the Assistant Minister of Pastoral Care and Adult Spiritual Development at the First Unitarian Church of Rochester in New York. Samuel is an IT professional based in Ohio, who continues to be active in Unitarian Universalism. Both remain connected to BLUU as Beloveds.

The BLUU Organizing Collective Board of Directors is grateful for the years of service that both Margalie and Samuel dedicated to BLUU’s Ministry. We send them blessings and love in their respective lives and ministries.

About BLUU:

Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism is committed to expanding the power and capacity of Black UUs within Unitarian Universalism; providing support, information, and resources for Black Unitarian Universalists; and justice-making and liberation for Black people through our faith. Subscribe to our email list to learn more about our worship events, organizing opportunities, and youth ministry.

The BLUU Organizing Collective Board Announces a Leadership Transition

8 March 2021 at 10:03


Our commitment to decolonized and liberatory organizational leadership means putting relationships at the center of everything we do. As a leadership team, we care about each other’s struggles, celebrate each other’s successes, and genuinely want each other to win. Our work for BLUU is grounded both in our love for Black people and in the ways we’ve committed to show up for each other as leaders in this important ministry.

We are writing to share an announcement about a leadership transition within our Organizing Collective Board (OCB). We share this announcement after much collective conversation and discernment. While transitions are an inevitable part of any organization, we’re a small but mighty team, and we feel this so deeply.

We think it’s important that you learn more about this from the person making the transition. Below, you will find a letter from our Community Organizer Paige Ingram about her leadership transition.

We’ll share more about this transition at a later date, but for now, we want to honor Paige’s voice as she shares some changes on her horizon.

In love and faith,

The BLUU Organizing Collective Board

Hello my dear community,

I am thinking of all of us often as so many of us are taking stock of the last year and the impact it has had on us individually, our families, our congregations, and our broader Black community.

I wanted to share a personal life update with you all. I will be transitioning away from BLUU staff and the Organizing Collective board on March 14.

I became BLUU’s Community Organizer because I wanted to do everything I could to support our community to feel empowered, connected, and moved towards this new iteration of the Black liberation movement. I also needed support to understand my own organizing takeaways from the broader movement and uplift what I felt was missing in so many spaces: spiritual safety, ritual, long-term leadership development, and a true commitment to multi-generational organizing.

I wanted to share that I’m really grateful for all the ways you all have helped me do that — by digging into the hard questions and being willing to listen to our mistakes and our insights. Team Sankofa was a massive part of that learning. My leadership was transformed and it has been awe inspiring to see the massive transformation of the many beautiful humans who demonstrated what bottom up, leaderful communities are capable of. Aja, Atena, Mathew, QuianaDenae, and Whryne continue to demonstrate what relentless commitment to community and self really means.

In terms of what my transition means for the community, I am still most certainly a part of this community so I am not going too far away! I really wanted to highlight my gratitude for BLUU’s leadership as they support me in this process.

Feel free to reach out individually at the BLUU general email (BlackLivesofUU@gmail.com) if you have any questions! And you can always continue to reach out to me via social media.

“All that you touch you Change. All that you Change Changes you. The only lasting truth is Change. God Is Change.” — Octavia Butler

Onward in love,


Thriving Instead of Surviving: Introducing BLUU’s Next Survey

8 April 2021 at 01:04
A scene of mountains against a night sky. Text says: We Look forward to dreaming with you. Picture of BLUU logo.

Lately, many people are discussing what it means to “get back to normal.”

And we get it. For the past year, many of us have been in survival mode. We’ve navigated immense fatigue, worry, and stress.

We also know that a hyperfocus on returning back to normal ignores that what was normal before the pandemic was still difficult for so many, including Black communities.

As Black people, we know seeking liberation is an embodied practice of remembering the past while dreaming of more expansive, freer futures.

The sixth principle of our “7 Principles of Black Lives” is “Thriving Instead of Surviving.” It says: “Our vision is based on the world we want, and not the world we are currently in. We seek to transform, not simply to react. We want our people to thrive, not just exist — and to think beyond the possible.”

We know that BLUU thriving in the future requires us making an intentional shift right now — away from doing business as usual because it’s always been that way, away from imagining a “return to normal,” and toward imagining who we can be in the future and what this moment can teach us about what’s possible.

That’s why we’re asking Black people in community with us (Black UUs, Black folks who attend worship, Black members of our Facebook group, Black folks who work in partnership with BLUU but aren’t UU, etc.) to take a survey about how you hope to be in community with BLUU in the future and what hopes you have for the future of BLUU’s work. We’re imagining what’s possible, gauging what our community needs, and preparing for ministry required in these times.

If you are not Black but want to support this effort, please make sure that Black UUs or Black folks in alignment with UU values in your community know about the survey.

The survey is open now and will close June 1, 2021. If you have any questions about the survey, please email BlackLivesofUU@gmail.com

We’re so grateful that you’re on this journey with us. We look forward to dreaming with you.

In hopes of a thriving future,

The BLUU Organizing Collective Board

Lena K. Gardner- Executive Director

Rev. Mykal Slack- Community Minister for Worship and Spiritual Care

Marchaé Grair- Communications Director

Dr. Takiyah Nur Amin- Board Member

Rev. Kimberly Quinn Johnson- Board Member

About BLUU:

Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism is committed to expanding the power and capacity of Black UUs within Unitarian Universalism; providing support, information, and resources for Black Unitarian Universalists; and justice-making and liberation for Black people through our faith. Subscribe to our email list to learn more about our worship events, organizing opportunities, and youth ministry.

Medicine for the heart and spirit after the Chauvin Verdict

21 April 2021 at 11:00

Dear Beloveds:

We know your hearts are tender. We know you’re holding so many complex feelings in this moment. You are not alone.

In a just world, George Floyd would still be alive. While the Chauvin verdict brings so many of us collective relief, we can’t say it is justice. We know that a carceral system can’t truly hold accountability in transformative ways. And yet, we also know that in a country that so often treats Black people as disposable, it is meaningful to witness consequences for police brutality. We hold all these complexities and contradictions with care.

Shortly after many of us learned of the Chauvin verdict, we also learned of the police killing of 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant in Columbus, Ohio after she called the police for help. There is no justice when police kill our children.

So in these times, we remember that our hope is not in the judicial system but in the strength and love of our communities. Through it all, we’ve held each other tenderly, and we will continue to do that in the days and weeks to come.

In this moment, know you are not alone. We are thinking of you and praying for all that you are holding.

Remember, Black folks, UU or otherwise, requesting pastoral and/or spiritual care can reach our Community Minister and folks from the Black Lives of UU Ministerial Network by calling or texting 984–219–8711. This is a Google Voice number that we check daily. We will respond to any calls or text messages within 24 hours.

May this prayer be a balm for your spirit in the days to come.

A Prayer in Real Time

by Rev. Mykal Slack, BLUU Community Minister for Worship & Spiritual Care

Please fill me up with a Holy Breath that will live on, shine on, and thrive on. Rev. Mykal Slack. Text overlay on a starry background.

Dear Ones. Ancestors, gods and goddesses of many names and of no name. Sources of Love known and unknowable…

I come before you weary with grief and disgust, teetering somewhere between about done and well past it.

Hold me.

I don’t know if I can hold what has been passed down to me and mine, much less what lies ahead. No body, no mind, no heart, no spirit should have to carry this much.

Help me.

And yet… “Here I am.

Send me.”

I do what I can to show up as my whole self with full-bodied questions about community accountability, commitment, and care.

Show me.

My deepest hopes and prayers lie in justice and liberation for our people, of which we’ve only just caught a fleeting glimpse of this week.

Direct me.

May I move with love, clarity, vision, and commitment, share what I know, and listen with intention.

Embolden me.

We deserve so much more life and love and beauty and fullness than there is right now.

Please. Please fill me up with a Holy Breath that will live on, shine on, and thrive on.

…until it is time for that Breath to live on, shine on, and thrive on in the ones who are to be Held, Helped, Sent, Shown, Directed, Emboldened, and Filled after me.

May it be so in real time and for all time.

Amen. Ashe. Blessed Be.

Community Connection

Please join us for either of these events below for connection in the coming days if you need a place to be held in community.

In grief, rage, and hope: A National UU post-verdict vigil

Join BLUU on April 21 at 8:30 p.m. Eastern as we gather with the UUA, Side with Love, and DRUUMM for a virtual vigil in response to the guilty verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin. (The vigil will be broadcast live on the UUA’s and Side with Loves’s Facebook pages.)

How is your heart and how is your spirit? How are you processing the trauma we’re experiencing in our communities and in our news feed? How is the racist police violence against Black people (and the constant discussion about it) impacting you and how can we keep showing up for each other without burning out?

Join Team Sankofa Friday, April 23 at 2 p.m. for a Lunch ‘N Vibe community check-in. Pastoral care will also be available.

Feel free to bring a snack or meal as we share how we’re doing in these times.

(Please note: This is Black sacred space.)

About BLUU:

Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism is committed to expanding the power and capacity of Black UUs within Unitarian Universalism; providing support, information, and resources for Black Unitarian Universalists; and justice-making and liberation for Black people through our faith. Subscribe to our email list to learn more about our worship events, organizing opportunities, and youth ministry.

How We Can Honor the Memory of George Floyd

25 May 2021 at 15:53

By BLUU Executive Director, Lena K. Gardner

“George Floyd” by chaddavis.photography is licensed with CC BY-SA 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

To our BLUU Beloveds and to our Black kindred across the diaspora:

Beautiful Black people on this day, remember the evergreen and always relevant words of Toni Morrison from her novel “Beloved” about loving ourselves. If you can, in ways big and small, find ways to love on yourself, your children — all your living family both chosen and otherwise. Nap and rest, if you can — and if you can’t rest, pause and take a deep breath whenever and wherever you can. If that doesn’t feel right go scream into a pillow or up to the heavens. The point is to feel, to care for and to love on yourself in kind ways to yourself — however that looks for you.

Know that whatever else we are a part of, we are part of a legacy of love. Despite the trauma, despite the challenge, we can always choose to come back to love.

Toni Morrison wrote:

In this here place, we flesh; flesh that weeps, laughs; flesh that dances on bare feet in grass. Love it. Love it hard. Yonder they do not love your flesh. They despise it. They don’t love your eyes; they’d just as soon pick em out. No more do they love the skin on your back. Yonder they flay it. And O my people they do not love your hands. Those they only use, tie, bind, chop off and leave empty. Love your hands! Love them. Raise them up and kiss them. Touch others with them, pat them together, stroke them on your face ’cause they don’t love that either. You got to love it, you! And no, they ain’t in love with your mouth. Yonder, out there, they will see it broken and break it again. What you say out of it they will not heed. What you scream from it they do not hear. What you put into it to nourish your body they will snatch away and give you leavins instead. No, they don’t love your mouth. You got to love it. This is flesh I’m talking about here. Flesh that needs to be loved. Feet that need to rest and to dance; backs that need support; shoulders that need arms, strong arms I’m telling you. And O my people, out yonder, hear me, they do not love your neck unnoosed and straight. So love your neck; put a hand on it, grace it, stroke it and hold it up. and all your inside parts that they’d just as soon slop for hogs, you got to love them. The dark, dark liver — love it, love it and the beat and beating heart, love that too. More than eyes or feet. More than lungs that have yet to draw free air. More than your life-holding womb and your life-giving private parts, hear me now, love your heart. For this is the prize.

The conviction of Derek Chauvin for the murder of Geroge Floyd was important. The settlement George Floyd’s family was awarded was important. Minneapolis City Councillors pledging to defund the police and the people’s petition to change the city charter to allow for the full divestment from policing are important.

We cannot pretend that these things don’t matter. They do. And the fight for justice must continue because the systems that created the conditions for George Floyd’s murder remain fundamentally unchanged.

We must continue to work to create a system of public safety so deeply honoring of each and every person’s inherent worth and dignity that the possibility of murder by the police no longer exists.

This is especially necessary work for the liberation of Black and Indigenous people in particular, who have been disproportionately impacted by state and police violence.

The system of policing that holds police officers as super human, above the law and above consequences, must come to an end. We know that true justice doesn’t come from incarceration. True liberation won’t come without completely transforming our understanding of policing and public safety.

We can honor George Floyd’s memory best by not forgetting the immensity of what we felt last year and by continuing to give to Black organizations fighting for abolition. (If you aren’t ready to call yourself an abolitionist quite yet, you can pick up a book and start reading. There are many to choose from. I suggest Mariame Kaba’s “We Do This ’Til We Free Us”.)

Whatever you do, don’t go back to complacency or frozen inaction because “you don’t know what to do”.

Be brave, find your courage to confront your own oppressive beliefs and start the unraveling. When we become unraveled, we can choose with intention, purpose and love how we re-ravel — how we rebuild our corner of the world.

There are thousands and more paths to liberation. Get started on one if you haven’t, continue on yours if you have, and know that we can and must create a more loving world. The other options are there, but they are destroying us and the world around us. Each day we can choose a new, different, and more loving way. From that path we will understand more clearly what a just world can be. And the best news is, we can go about making it.

Recommended Reading:

The Movement for Black Lives Policy Platforms

Reading Towards Abolition: A Reading List on Policing, Rebellion, and the Criminalization of Blackness

Resource list from MPD150

If You Want to Donate to Organizations in the Twin Cities Today:

Check out this list of organizations recommended by Reclaim the Block.

BLUU Presses Pause in Order to Press Forward

3 June 2021 at 08:29
Rev. Mykal Slack, BLUU’s Community Minister for Worship & Spiritual Care, sings at the Harper-Jordan Symposium in 2019.

When a group of Black UUs first met in Cleveland at the Movement for Black Lives Convening in 2015, what would become BLUU was just a dream. BLUU’s co-founders wanted to support Black people with both a desire for spiritual community and a heart for collective liberation. BLUU’s founders had no way of knowing that this dream would blossom into an organization creating virtual worship experiences for Black people, sustaining regular programming for children and youth, and organizing to fundamentally change material conditions for Black people impacted by systemic anti-Blackness.

Because our work fulfills significant needs in our community, we’ve been doing this work at a rapid pace without any substantial pause in our work since BLUU’s founding.

Our leadership team, the Organizing Collective Board, have decided it’s time for us to take that collective pause this year. BLUU turns six this July, and we have so much to celebrate about that six years. We must also do some reflection — about what we’ve learned, where we’ve succeeded, and where there’s an opportunity for us to change and evolve.

On July 1, 2021, we will be slowing down or pausing most BLUU programming so we can reflect on our work this past six years and focus on organizational strategy for the future.

To our Black UU family and all those who hold us close, it’s important to us that you know that we are not dissolving BLUU. We are not folding, and we are not stopping this vitally important ministry we have been called to bring forth into this broken world. We have always taken the future of BLUU seriously — even as we’ve wrestled with what it means to be both a spiritual community and an organizing force for Black and collective liberation in the world. We have always been about building with intention, forethought and purpose. BLUU has been called to urgently address the injustices impacting Black people, and we’ve been able to answer that call.

We are now called into a moment of evaluation and reflection so that we may be able to learn from our earliest beginnings and fashion a future that is even better. We are living most deeply in this moment into our principles of thriving and experimentation. Thriving requires and necessitates moments of reflection, especially after periods of intense productivity. Experimentation also requires us to look back on our work and think carefully about things we want to carry into the future and things we want to put to rest, with our gratitude for the lessons they’ve taught us.

“The BLUU leadership team is being wise to take a pause at this point,” said Rev. Bill Sinkford, former UUA president and BLUU Advisory Team member. “New organizations, especially those with a record of such great success, often need a space for leadership to breathe, dropping back a bit from the urgency of delivering week after week, in order to clarify the way forward. The Financial Advisory Team (a working group within the Advisory Team) is entirely supportive of this decision.”

We want to move forward and continue building in a way that is more sustainable for the people moving the work of the organization — the staff, the OCB and our dedicated volunteers. We can’t continue our work at the current level and complete an entire restructuring effort. It is in this spirit of building a bright and bold future, where we can continue working to be the best we can be, that we endeavor to pause some of our outward programming so that we may focus inward for a bit. We pledge to give updates as we make progress, and to bring you all along with us on the journey. As part of this restructuring process, we will be imagining ways to communicate even more effectively with our Beloveds. For now, make sure you’re subscribed to our email list where we share the most important BLUU news monthly. It is the best way to stay in the loop with BLUU!

During this time, we will focus on BLUU’s organizational structure, restructuring to build clear lines of power and authority, while maintaining the intention and spirit of collaborative governance. While we’ve been having preliminary discussions about this work for years, this is the first time we’re intentionally slowing down programming to focus on restructure work.

We want our BLUU community to know what this pause means for the upcoming year. Here are some ways this pause will impact our ongoing work:


Every year, BLUU takes a break from worship in July, and we will take this July off from worship as usual. Starting in August, BLUU will have virtual worship once a month on the first Thursday of the month at 9 p.m. Eastern until further notice. (Those who regularly attend worship are used to having worship twice a month.)

BLUUBerry and Berry Youth:

The BLUUBerry and Berry Youth Saturday jams will continue on Saturdays through June 19. After June 19, BLUUBerry and Berry Youth programming will be on hold until 2022. A relaunch date for our youth ministry will be announced at a later date.

Havens and Harbors:

Existing BLUU Havens will continue to build opportunities for local connection, and we will still be accepting Havens applications.

BLUU Harbor applications are on hold because we need the time and capacity it will take to hold the extensiveness of the Harbor application process, and we don’t have that capacity right now.

Community Care:

Our BLUU community will still receive Daily Affirmations and receive as-needed pastoral care. We will also continue to send email updates on an as-needed basis, including monthly reminders about worship.

BLUU at General Assembly:

We are excited to offer a week of BLUU programming during the week of the Unitarian Universalist Association’s General Assembly. Come worship with us, take a writing workshop, meet Black seminarians, or learn about our housing initiative or Havens and Harbors communities. Registration for BLUU GA programming is free and open now. Our workshops about the Havens and Harbors and Housing Initiative are open to all. All other programming is Black sacred space.

This chart explains the programming implications for BLUU’s upcoming organizational pause. A link to an audio version of this chart is available in the captions.
This chart shows the ways BLUU community spaces will be impacted by the upcoming organizational pause. For an audio version of this chart, visit bit.ly/BLUUPauseAudio

Although we are pressing pause on much of our programming for this restructure work, we are still moving forward into a bright and bold BLUU future. Here are some additional updates about BLUU’s infrastructure and ongoing work we want you to know as we head into this programming pause:

Our endowment is holding steady:

A bright future requires capital! And it is towards this end that we share with you that our endowment grew last year by about $855,000 dollars. We are proud to have established the BLUU Endowment within the UU Common Endowment Fund. BLUU currently holds $4.5 million in our endowment. This is a good position for us to be in financially. We’re hopeful that on the other end of our structuring process, we’ll be able to have more regular financial updates for our community. Transparency has always been a value of BLUU. Please sign up for leadership updates to find out when you can apply to be on the Financial Transparency Group.

BLUU Housing Initiative:

We launched The BLUU Northside Cooperative Housing Initiative in 2019 to help build permanently affordable housing for Black and Indigenous families in North Minneapolis. Through a hybrid land trust and cooperative housing model, we’ll be constructing about 30 new townhomes for families to live in and build long-term wealth. We’re excited to be partnering with the City of Lakes Community Land Trust and Urban Homeworks and for forthcoming partnerships with two other organizations to be able to make this plan a reality. In January of 2021 we applied for financing assistance from the City of Minneapolis to be able to build on one of our sites. We are still awaiting the decision of that assistance, but if we receive it, it is likely that we could break ground this year. Stay tuned to BlackLivesUU.org for our most recent updates about this project.

New Website:

We enlisted the help of The Black Tech Guy to help us with a website project that was delayed during 2020. The Black Tech Guy partnered with our Communications Director, Marchaé Grair, to get us to the finish line with that project. The website will launch this summer. We hope you’ll enjoy the streamlined information and improved accessibility of this new website when it launches!

Forthcoming publications:

Committed to the healing and spiritual growth of our people, and to a Unitarian Universalism that centers Blackness, we are thrilled to be under contract with Skinner House Books to publish a book of meditations, poems, songs, and reflections by Black folks in our movement. We’re in the process of finalizing the list of contributors with the hope that it will be published and ready for distribution by the end of 2021! A second work, an edited volume for the Voices series, has been approved for publication in the near future. We are grateful for the dedication of OCB members Dr. Takiyah Nur Amin and Rev. Mykal Slack who are serving as co-editors for both of these projects.

Team Sankofa:

During this time of rebuilding and restructuring, the OCB and Team Sankofa are exploring ways to dream together about the possibilities for change-making and engaging in supported and sustainable base building organizing trajectories. We are grateful to Team Sankofa for the dedication, commitment and hard work in the BLUU community and we are excited about what is yet to come.


Publication of the BLUU Box is currently on hold. If you have a question about an existing subscription, please contact info@BlackLivesUU.org.

We are taking time to engage in this critical strategic work because we want BLUU to exist for a long time. We’re excited to come back from this pause with clarity about our work together and a renewed dream about what BLUU will be in the years to come.

If you have questions about this time of pausing and planning, please feel free to contact us. Please send us an email at blacklivesofuu@gmail.com.

Dreaming of our future,

The BLUU Organizing Collective Board

Resources for Hurricane Ida Relief

1 September 2021 at 14:48

If you’re wondering how to help people who are being hit by Hurricane Ida, we’re here to help!

It can be hard to know who and what organizations to donate to because you obviously want financial resources to get to where it can be most useful. For those purposes, we’ve reached out to a few New Orleans community members that members of the BLUU OCB have long standing relationships with and asked which organizations or groups would they recommend contributing to. These are trusted sources that are distributing money on the ground currently or will be in the coming months. The recovery from Hurricane Ida is going to be a very long one.

BLUU will be continuing to vett and add to this list of groups and organizations.

A few notes about the listed groups and organizations:

*If you are able to and want to donate to mutual aid funds, these are a powerful way to quickly get money into the hands of individuals and families who need support immediately. They often don’t have arduous or complicated application and disbursement processes. These are also not tax-deductible donations.

*If you are wanting to support an organization, we will list a few options that are tax-deductible donations.

Please choose the organizations and groups that speak to you and your heart. We’ll be sharing these groups through posts on social media in the days ahead and hopefully giving a little bit of context or info for each one. Please share and invite others to support in this time of need.

Also please be aware that most organizations are being run right now by staffers or volunteers who have left the city. The city has no power and water is on a boil warning. So their websites may not reflect what has happened however their longstanding methods by which to donate are functioning and they will get the money. For many orgs you can follow on Instagram or elsewhere to be able to get updates.

BLUU has started an individual fund for students at George Washington Carver High School. Through a contact at the school we’ll be distributing funds raised to individual students through PayPal and Cash App. You can give to this specific effort by clicking here.

The House of Tulip is co-founded and led by trans folks and offers support services for trans and gender nonconforming communities, including some mutual aid. Please follow them on Instagram at @houseoftulipno and they have listed other ways to give (the usernames must be exact, sadly some people are trying to scam people by imitating and coming up with usernames that are close — but these are the correct ones AND if you want to be certain you can always give through their website):

CashApp: $HouseOfTulip

Venmo: @HouseofTulip

Paypal: Paypal.me/HouseOfTulip

Broad Community Connections is a community-led and community-based organization that is working on the revitalization of a historically Black neighborhood. They are gearing up to support those in need in the wake of Hurricane Ida. Including support of businesses.

The United Houma Nation There are many small and rural tribal nations that have been hit hard by the hurricane and will need support. Some tribal nations are offering mutual aid disbursements.

The Pointe-au-Chien Indian Tribe main page and the giving link here.

Imagine WaterWorks does many things including distributing mutual aid.

For more specific mutual aid giving opportunities please visit the following links displayed below from the Instagram account @mutualaiddisasterrelief

If you want to volunteer remotely, need assistance, or send supplies to Louisiana:

Please donate and help. The power is out across many areas of Louisiana. And people need help. You can also visit https://www.disasterassistance.gov/ for federal government assistance. On this site, you can look up a city and state or zip code to see if the area is currently declared a disaster due to flooding, wild fires, and hurricanes and apply for assistance.

October Walk

1 October 2021 at 00:06
By: Gary

CLF member, incarcerated in NC 

Farlow, Gary 2020-10-16 Artwork - October Walk.

Farlow, Gary 2020-10-16 Artwork – October Walk.

Phoenix Rising

1 October 2021 at 00:07
By: Dale

CLF members, incarcerated in TX

Milky Way


Looking at the night sky,
Staring at the galaxy,
Watching the Milky Way swirl.

Pondering things like,
“What is my purpose in life?”
While I’m watching the stars
Coalesces into a ball of fire
Brighter than the sun.

As I watch it forms
the face of God.

Burning white hot,
Igniting my world,
causing my fears and doubts
to flee, clearing my mind
and chasing away the shadows.

Searing through me from the ashes
A phoenix arises,
stronger than before.

And as I look at the face of God,
I see me.

7 Centers 1

1 October 2021 at 00:08
By: Vylet

CLF member, incarcerated in FL

Quiet as kept, be slow to speak
The tongue of death is death indeed
Let temperance and virtue be thy speech
Consider silence and still thy feet

Be thou fearless, feel not dismay
For thou art spirit to what is pain
Deep meditation shall make things clear
The weapons of war that thou should fear

Speak no lies, be not the fool
Boomerangs of deception bareth dark rile
If a word be uttered, let freedom reign
Sever the yoke and break every chain

If I be bound, may they be free
If I face danger, let them have peace
If I must die, let them live
Return I shall and with them sing

Divine decrees establish the link
Of things unseen, oh what of faith
This body clad of clay and dust
But I am greater, the creator’s touch

Infused in soil, the morning star
A living soul, the lawful heart
Ponder the path thy foot is upon
Consider the workings thy hands have wrought

Be thou calm in every endeavor
And radiant as the sun
Forever-ever, forever and ever
I and my father are one


1 October 2021 at 00:09

What does prayer look/feel/sound like to you?

CLF Member, incarcerated in MA

Little things, big things, anything; people pray for them. From the mundane, like to perhaps hit the lottery, to the serious, like for someone’s life. (Though perhaps, for some, winning the lottery isn’t mundane at all, but a serious need.)

It all cycles around to prayer. A want, a need, a desire, leading to hoping, wishing, possibly even begging, some greater power to hear you, to help you.

Do I pray? Probably not enough. I attend services, I meditate, I take part in my faith, and take it seriously. But praying? In here, it can be hard to do.

Holding hands


There’s a mentality that pervades all here: avoid weakness, lest you be preyed upon. To pray, is, in a way, a surrendering yourself to another, to ask for help to do something.

Is that weakness? No, but in here, it can be viewed as such. So that energy hangs in the air, sapping you, putting you on edge.

But when I pray, it, in its way, helps and hurts. That surrendering lifts a weight off of you, it can be an emotional release, a reset of one’s self, an acknowledgment that you can’t do it all on your own, and that everything will, in its time, be okay.

So pray. Not for me (though admittedly I wouldn’t mind), but for you. For your world, big, little, whatever size it is. May it help you.

That is my prayer.

CLF member, incarcerated in VA

We all should know that though the look of prayer could be one on their knees with hands held upright, fingers straight up, palms together, prayer can look many different ways. For me it is often sitting down anywhere — on the ground, in a chair, at a desk or table, with my hands held together. Of course it might be alone, or it could be with someone who needs a prayer more than me, as I say a prayer for them. I pray anywhere, anytime, needed or not, as a way to think about what the situation needs.

If I see a death happened in the news,  I say a prayer for the family for strength, a prayer for the deceased. A flood — I say a prayer for support, goods, rescue. A fire — the same and more, to have shelter along with healing. A nice day with no huge troubles — a prayer of thanks and gratitude, with a prayer for more of these days.

The sound of prayer: it could be noisy, mildly busy with the hum of every day life all around, or it could be complete silence, a prayer said or thought.

The feel: if nervous, anxious, or feeling the weight of the world on one’s shoulders, then a prayer feels like relief. A great feeling of no burdens.

I’ll end with a prayer of thanks and acknowledgment, for the gift of all that prayer is for me.

Praying With Our Everything

1 October 2021 at 00:10

I love the phrase “praying with our feet.” It often comes to mind for me in protests at the Texas Capitol, when I wait in line to vote, and perhaps most especially every Friday, when I lead my Zumba class, where we pray with our arms, our hips, our everything.

“What is your intention for this hour?” I ask folks Zooming in from around the world. “What are you dancing for today?”

On a recent morning, the answers included, “my 18-year wedding anniversary!” “another job interview,” and “seeing my grandkids again for the first time in COVID.” A woman in College Station, Texas, showed us her wrapped wrist and asked for healing prayers after surgery. A dancer in Canada requested the song “Best Friend” by Saweetie and shared sadness about a friend in hospice care.

We took deep breaths and held each other across the miles. Then we danced — for joy, hope, and grief. For the chance to move together as one, even in a time of isolation.

Happiness ain’t something you sit back and you wait for
Feels so good to dance again”
—Selena Gomez, “Dance Again

Since finding dance nine years ago, it has become my joy practice and a form of embodied prayer. I choose music and choreography to reflect Unitarian Universalist principles like interconnectedness, equity, and acceptance. Moving to the music of Lizzo, Kesha, and Gente de Zona, I am praying to the Spirit of Life — to summon the energy for another day of pandemic parenting, to feel in my hips and heart that I am enough. We are all enough.

Uruguayan journalist and novelist Eduardo Galeano wrote, “The church says: The body is a sin. Science says: The body is a machine. Advertising says: The body is a business. The body says: I am a fiesta.”

As UUs, I hope we can bring church and science into the body’s celebration (and do our best to ignore advertising altogether).

Lately, my own body and spirit have been telling me to slow down. I am feeling the impact of pandemic trauma, plus the natural effects of aging (and a decade of jumping up and down to Pitbull songs).

Thankfully, Zumba can be medium-impact or low, on your feet or in a chair or swimming pool. Sometimes just listening to the playlist is enough. When I forego a high-impact jump in favor of a grounded shimmy to protect my back, I am not failing my class — whose members range in age from elementary school to their 80s — but honoring the sacredness of all bodies.



Similarly, when my brain is tired and I forget a move, I try not to apologize (as I have been conditioned to do for the most human of mistakes). Even though I feel embarrassed on the inside, I throw my head back and laugh, improvising through the moments Richard Simmons used to call “accidental solos.” I remember that we are called to let go of perfectionism — a piece of dismantling white supremacy culture in ourselves and our institutions. I remind myself that we need these moments, to dance through discomfort and even embrace mistakes, having faith we will learn from them.

I remember the wise words of Cynthia Winton-Henry in her book, Dance – The Sacred Art: “As much as you might want a ‘perfect’ spot in which to dance, it is really the other way around: You make the space around you holy when you dance.”

Centering: A Little Bit At A Time

1 November 2021 at 00:05

Lead Ministry Team, Church of the Larger Fellowship

If there is to be peace in the world,
There must be peace in the nations.
If there is to be peace in the nations,
There must be peace in the cities.
If there is to be peace in the cities,
There must be peace between neighbors.
If there is to be peace between neighbors,
There must be peace in the home.
If there is to be peace in the home,
There must be peace in the heart.

—Taoist philosopher, Lao-Tse, sixth  century BCE



Philosophers and theologians throughout the ages have pondered the roots of peace, and have come to the conclusion that peace between and among people is not possible without smaller bits of peace, especially peace within oneself. “Let there be peace on Earth and let it begin with me,” the popular song goes.

Peace within oneself is the challenge of centering: How do we center ourselves? How do we go within and cultivate peace?

Many people turn to spiritual practices to do this. Spiritual practices are regular things that we do that connect us with something greater than ourselves, and there is not one right way for everyone to engage in them. We each need to figure out what it is that gives us that feeling of inner peace, of centering.

But the trick to spiritual practice is doing it regularly, and if we’re already overwhelmed by the world or our circumstances, one more thing to add to our day is just one more thing to knock us off of our center, one more thing to cause anxiety instead of cultivating peace.

I have begun to think about this differently.

Instead of carving out twenty minutes to sit in meditation, or an hour to walk a labyrinth every day, I find moments of spiritual centering throughout the day.

In giving advice to people in caring professions about cultivating peace and centering themselves, psychologist Ashley Davis Bush writes about “micro-practices,” one-moment-long glimpses of peace and mindfulness. Bush encourages people to fit them in throughout the day—in the pauses and cracks around other things, with no pressure or timeline or necessary outcome.

Take a breath. Notice how the air moves in and out of your body. Just one long, slow, deliberate breath.

Drink a glass of water. Feel it fill your body and think about how you will absorb that water.

Take just a moment and visualize in your mind something that makes you feel happy, or calm, or connected, or grounded. Choose an image and come back to it­—just for a few seconds—throughout the day.

Choose a few words to guide you, and repeat them in your mind every now and then, whenever you’re feeling unmoored. “I am grounded,” perhaps, or “I am loved.”

Spend a moment acknowledging the difficulties in your life right now. They are real. You are real. Your pain is real, too, but it does not own you.

Find a way—a small way—every day to connect to another person. Write a letter to your pen pal. Smile at a friend, or if it’s safe to do so, a stranger. Help someone out. Cultivate the knowledge that you are not alone in this world.

Think of something you’re thankful for. Take just a moment to feel gratitude.

Say something kind to yourself.

These practices don’t need to be long—ideally they’re just a minute, a moment, a breath. And they are all ways to connect to our center, to cultivate peace within our hearts, and to connect to something beyond our individual being.

Let peace begin with you. Let peace begin in your heart. Find your center, a little bit at a time.

Daily Compass

1 November 2021 at 00:07

The Daily Compass is a ministry of the Church of the Larger Fellowship crafted by Rev. Michael Tino of the Lead Ministry Team.It offers words and images to inspire spiritual reflection and encourage the creation of a more loving, inclusive and just world. Short reflections and prompts related to monthly themes are posted every day at dailycompass.org. The following is a selection Daily Compass offerings from recent months.


KeystoneVital to the balance of a stone arch is the keystone, the wedge-shaped stone against which the two sides of the arch push in equal measure. In architecture, this is a vital and important role; in life, this is not a healthy situation in which to find ourselves.

When have you experienced balance brought about by things pushing you in opposite directions? How did you interrupt this?


Spirit of LifeCarolyn McDade described the night she wrote the hymn Spirit of Life to Kimberly French of UU World: “When I got to Pat’s house, I told her, ‘I feel like a piece of dried cardboard that has lain in the attic for years. Just open wide the door, and I’ll be dust.’ I was tired, not with my community but with the world. She just sat with me, and I loved her for sitting with me.” Writing the song was the prayer that refilled her spirit.

What words or prayers refill your spirit when you feel like you’re about to fall apart?


ConsentThe power of covenant derives in part from the fact that all parties to it must agree, and that agreement must be renewed and renegotiated constantly. Healthy relationships require mutual consent; that includes spiritual relationships as well as intimate ones.

How do you seek consent from others in meaningful ways?


PersistenceSometimes grace comes through sheer will, through persisting despite the odds against us. Sometimes grace comes from hanging on, from inching ourselves forward until we are somewhere better.

What do you need the strength to persist through today?


NegotiationThe union of two people or two entities requires negotiation. The best negotiations don’t get mired in positions, but instead focus on needs and values. Each party must be able to articulate their values and state their needs; each party must be able to say how they will help meet the needs of the other. Sometimes, sacrifices are made. Sometimes, synergy is developed.

How can you make your needs and values known to others today in generative ways?


DNAYou share 55% of the DNA in your genes with a banana tree, 80% with a cow,  98.5% with a chimpanzee, and 99.99% with every other human being on the planet. One ten-thousandth of the DNA in our genes is responsible for all of the differences we see in humanity. For the hundreds of rainbow shades that skin, eyes and hair come in. For the differences that make it so hard to find organs to transplant. For every shape and size that humans come in.

Notice your connection to other living beings today. Feel your relation to them. They are your kin.


PersistenceWhere will you pause to touch the Earth? Where will you marvel at the hints that lie scattered around you in the grass? Where will you discard what you previously thought was true, and try on a new belief for size? Where will you stop for directions, for advice, for a conversation with another, for a relationship, for a moment of grace brought to you by the mind of a child?

What does it mean to you to persist through difficult times on your journey?

I Am Now Whole

1 November 2021 at 00:07
By: Ethan

CLF Member, incarcerated in AZ

To find a gathering of like minded souls
Makes me feel at home, I am now whole
Acceptance of every person no matter the faith
Has opened my eyes to a new loving embrace

My spirituality has grown in so many ways
I look forward to your publication as I count my days
Being forced to sit here and do time, I mean literally wait
Has shown me how I can strengthen my traits

Patience takes on a whole new truth
Hope that I can make up for lost youth
Understanding that the world must move on
Acceptance that an old love is gone

How I reminisce the good ol’days
Except I know I must change my ways
At least I do not fight this fight alone
I try to learn and make lessons known

Maybe I can help another like you helped me
Behind bars your mind can still be free
I joined a Church of Larger Fellowship
In a past life I was anti-religion, what a trip

So I want to thank the people who opened up my mind
I received a gift that is rare to find
That is acceptance of my lost soul
You make me feel at home, I am now whole


1 November 2021 at 00:08
By: Tyson

What does it feel like to have your experience centered?  How do you find your own center?



CLF Member, incarcerated in TX

When I think of “centered,” several concepts pop into my mind. Spatial reckoning. Centricity. Centrifugal forces. Center punch, meaning the tool I used to mark metals and plastics for precision drilling — and the center punch that I used to use to swiftly break car windows when I was a “bad kid.”

What makes me feel most centered is the sky at dawn. Looking at the sky, I often think, “wow, all of this for me right this moment. Thank you for allowing me to share it with everything else.” I get pretty emotional these days, seeing the sky at dusk, and at midnight… the sky and me seem to have a thing going lately.

My experience feels centered when the sky tells me that I am precisely as insignificant as I am suppose to be. The sky tells me to stop belittling myself even more; I have the entire world between my ears and the universe is in my mind and the sky is in my eyes. So what else could matter?

How do I find my own center? When I can’t find it, I go outside and look up. Maybe it finds me?

“When all else fails…”

1 November 2021 at 00:10

WTF?!?! Those three letters and what they mean seem to come to mind and sometimes roll off my tongue with more regularity these days. Honestly, there was a time in my life when I would never have admitted that, especially as a clergy person. There’s a spoken and unspoken expectation that those of us who are ministers will be more put together, more pious than others. We definitely shouldn’t use four-letter words that aren’t “love.”

I get it. People want and expect their spiritual leaders to have a certain level of control. The work we do is sacred, and I am by no means trying to evade the responsibility of what it means to journey with others through the highs and lows of life. However, sometimes all you’ve got in you, no matter who you are, is, “WTF?!” COVID-19 has been one of the greatest WTFs as of late, but so is the presence of ableism, racism, sexism, and so many other isms present in our world today.  W…T…F…? It’s 2021! When will we get beyond where we have been and where it feels we still are in so many instances?

Some may choose not to use certain words or language to express their frustrations or dismay. But, again, I get it. Eloquent articulations come easier to some than others. In any case, I want to convey more than anything the collective need for lament. We lament the loss of loved ones and friends, the loss of work and provision, the loss of community, the loss of *a sense of* balance. Loss. The weight of it all is tough to bear. And so, I am; we are all seemingly screaming, “WTF?!”

I said earlier that the only four-letter word ministers should use is love. But, unfortunately, the English language (my native tongue) and its conventions make this an impossibility. To adequately convey a thought using English, one would need to string together a collection of words that are maybe four letters or more, and perhaps even less. For example, the words that comprise the fullness of WTF are 4, 3, and 4.

Now, some might critique my message as being crass or irreverent. I’m not trying to be. What if we experienced WTF as an invitation to create and hold space for our collective lament at this moment? Space to cry, space to yell, space to pause and ponder. A space that is absent the policing of language and the angst of respectability? One open to the lament of our hearts? Over the last eighteen or so months, WTF has become my most honest prayer. It is a lament and a statement that seeks to make meaning out of what has been confounding.

May we all experience the kind of liberation that frees us to lament those things that weigh heavy on us, with whatever words we choose. May we be reminded that we are held together by a word that is just four letters long yet is so much bigger than that, LOVE.

We're acting on our shared responsibility to protect democracy

10 November 2021 at 13:15

When we launched the Side With Love Action Center this summer, we imagined it as a place where UUs and other people of faith and conscience could easily find the resources they needed to dive deeply and faithfully into the campaigns that were important to them and their communities. The Action Center is a way to unify our shared labor and ministry based on a vision of creating a beloved community, grounded in our UU faith. 

 This week, we celebrate the hundreds of Unitarian Universalists who have joined the Action Center to learn, grow, and act in service to building beloved community. In just 2 months, we have hosted 27 events with 2000 participants and welcomed over 100 new people to our organizing.  Learn more about how you can grow our faith’s social justice campaigns at one of our upcoming events

 Today, we celebrate more than 10 UU congregations joining the Declaration for American Democracy coalition for a Week of Action to pass the Freedom to Vote Act and John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. UUs around the country have organized public events in their communities. Together we are building grassroots power to build a mulitracial democracy that affirms and protects the voices of all and dismantles the systems that have historically excluded Black, Indigenous, and people of color communities from political participation and power.   

The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act already has the declared support of 51 Senators, including Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski. Yet a minority of Senators have blocked votes on all voting rights bills this year by invoking the filibuster -- effectively requiring a 60-vote supermajority. 

 We cannot allow a group of Senators to exploit the filibuster in order to stall critical voting rights, climate, and economic policy that our communities need. 

 Together with the Declaration for American Democracy coalition we are mobilizing folx across the country to call on our Senators to build a democracy that truly represents, reflects, and responds to all of us.

 Our faith holds that it is our shared responsibility to fight for each other until all of our communities are free and thriving. Stacey Abrams reminded us in her 2021 Ware Lecture, that what we imagine can be made real when we struggle together towards our goals. She declared, “I imagine what we need and then I demand what we must have. And I don’t do it alone because doing it alone means I will lose every time!” We are so grateful for those who have organized events this week and for our volunteer leaders who are supporting these teams. 

 Together, with the Action Center, we imagine better, demand more, and organize to harness the power of love to build a beloved community today. Join our community and in collective work. The Action Center is for you. 

In faith and solidarity,

Nicole Pressley 

Field and Programs Director 

Side With Love

We're acting on our shared responsibility to protect democracy

We who believe in freedom cannot rest.

19 November 2021 at 16:10

“Until the killing of Black men, Black mothers’ sons, becomes as important to the rest of the country as the killing of a White mother’s son—we who believe in freedom cannot rest until this happens.”

Ella Baker (1903-1986)

In weeks like this one, it can be particularly heartbreaking to see just how far the aspirations of our faith and the realities of our society are from one another. 

In Kenosha, Wisconsin, after a ghastly display of the racism inherent in our judicial process, the jury just returned a verdict of not guilty on all counts, acquitting a young white man of the murders of two pro-BLM protesters participating in the uprising that occurred after the police shooting of Jacob Blake.

In Brunswick, Georgia, the defense has just finished its arguments about why three white vigilantes were justified in murdering Ahmaud Arbery as he was out for an afternoon jog in his own neighborhood. And yesterday afternoon, while Governor Stitt of Oklahoma commuted Julius Jones’ sentence to avoid execution, he pointedly denied any possibility of parole, in spite of vast evidence suggesting Jones’  innocence and against the recommendation of the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board. 

White supremacy is deadly. It is dehumanizing, violent, and it continues to hold our nation in its death-grip. We know that the criminal-legal system cannot deliver real justice, policing will never truly keep us safe, and liberation will not be realized without a radical reimagination of our current structures. And still, events like these are a painful reminder of the inequity and hypocrisy that are at the foundation of our so-called “justice system.” 

One of the most radical assertions of Unitarian Universalism is that every single human is endowed with inherent worth and dignity. We are all born from an unimaginable, unshakable Love that brought us into being, and from which we cannot ever be separated. Our faith insists that any system that works to erode our full humanity is unjust and harmful, and must be dismantled. Unitarian Universalism urges us to dedicate our hearts and our life forces toward dismantling white supremacy, and creating a world in which every single person has the ability to live free and thrive. 

Simply: our faith unequivocally joins with all those who declare that #BlackLivesMatter, and who recommit our hearts and our hands to building a world in which that is true. 

However your heart is today, Beloved, know that you are not alone. If you are receiving this message, you are already a part of a wide network of people who are working in a thousand ways to bring more justice and liberation into being. You are part of a cloud of witnesses and workers, living and dead, whose hearts are both cracked open by all that there is to mourn, and mended again and again by the power of Love to heal and connect us to one another. 

If you are someone who needs to stop and make space for grief, rage, despair--we are with you in that pause, holding you and witnessing. It is true that we who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes -- but the “we” is so much larger than any individual, and all of us must take our shifts. If you need a moment to pause, know that others are ready to move and take their turns now. Perhaps this version of “Ella’s Song” will be a balm to your spirit, as it has been to ours.

If you are someone who channels your brokenness quickly into action, we are with you, too. March with your people in the streets. Donate to the Milwaukee Freedom Fund, which will be providing jail and legal support to protesters fighting for Black liberation this week. Double down on local struggles to fight white supremacy and curb the deadly impacts of policing and the prison industrial complex. Visit our Action Center and support the People’s Response Act, a new federal bill that emphasizes an inclusive, holistic, and health-centered approach to public safety rather than the current system of policing, incarceration and punishment.

May you find what you need to hold your spirit today, dear ones. The struggle continues, and we are blessed to be in it together. 

In faith and solidarity, 

The Side With Love Organizing Strategy Team

We who believe in freedom cannot rest.

2021 UUA Transgender Day of Remembrance Chapel and Resources

24 November 2021 at 11:26
Text reads: UUA Transgender Day of Remembrance, Friday November 19th.. Special guests: Rev. Ali KC Bell and Imara Jones; Musical Guest: Spirit McIntyre and Shana Aisenberg. Grahpic includes UUA logo in transgender pride colors on black background

I’m so grateful to everyone who came together to affirm the dignity of lives lived in truth and connect to the tragedy of the at least 46 lives lost due the compounded violences of transphobia, racism, classism, and capitalism.

This service was a reminder that we are all responsible for the epidemic of violence against the transgender community…and must do everything we can to celebrate the lives of the transgender, genderqueer, and non-binary community by dismantling any and all barriers to total equity and full inclusion in our congregations, institutions, and society at large.



Rev. Michael J. Crumpler :: He/Him/His

UUA LGBTQ and Multicultural Programs Director

2021 UUA Transgender Day of Remembrance Chapel and Resources

Build Back Better: Getting It Done in 2021!

1 December 2021 at 15:32

Right now, our communities need action. We need humane protections for millions of immigrants who face the constant threat of detention and deportation. We need systems that keep families and children out of poverty. We need infrastructure investment. We need to honor the dignity of all and our sacred interdependence by building systems of support and care where our disabled siblings can thrive. We need a multiracial democracy that works for all of us. We need a radical revolution of values where we Side With Love-- declaring our commitments to justice, equity and compassion in all of our relationships.

That is why we are joining the Poor People’s Campaign for a Moral Monday March on Washington on Monday, December 13th, at 12 p.m. ET on Capitol Hill to demand that our Senators pass Build Back Better and voting rights legislation by the end of this year! Right relationship is a spiritual commitment we as Unitarian Universalists make to one another and to our world. It requires a recognition of shared humanity. It demands accountability. The Build Back Better bill is an imperfect and absolutely necessary shift towards our systems moving into right relationship with the people it governs or impacts. Protecting and expanding voting rights to ensure that all have a voice is an essential part of this sacred relationship.

Join us, the Poor People’s Campaign and partners to demand an economy that centers care, dignity, and compassion and a democracy that is accessible to all.

Join the phonebank to UUs December 6th at 7 ET Join the phonebank to UUs December 9th at 2 ET Join the action in DC with Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray - December 13th at Noon ET

Build Back Better will provide free universal preschool for all three and four year olds, funding for in-home health care, Medicaid coverage for people living in states that have locked them out, billions of dollars for clean energy incentives, the creation of a Climate Civilian Corps, four weeks of paid family leave, and more.

 Now is the time for Unitarian Universalists to show up to get us to the finish-line. Join us for a Build Back Better & Voting Rights phone bank calling UUs in the DMV area to invite them to an urgent action to pass this historic legislation. 
If you live in or around DC or feel called to travel for the action, please sign up here
Our faith calls us into collective work for justice. This essential element of Unitarian Universalism is why hope and action are sacred resources that are available to us everyday. I will not pretend that this hasn't been a frustrating legislative session. And we cannot ignore the failure of our Senate to act on several pieces of legislation that will help move us into a just recovery. But I am rooted in our UU legacy that shows us that possibility lies in our collective struggles towards justice. 
It is in our collective struggle that we find joy, healing, and a love that sustains us until we win. Will you join us to build beloved community and mass action to pass Build Back Better and Voting Rights? 
Join the Poor People’s Campaign for a Moral Monday March on Washington, DC on December 13, 2021 at 12pm ET to tell Congress: Get It Done in 2021! There will be opportunities to witness and to engage in civil disobedience.
The build back better agenda is a critical piece of legislation that responds to the crisis of care, economic exploitation, and climate with real solutions and investments. It is not perfect, it is not enough, but it is a necessary beginning. Our communities need action now.

On December 13th our elected leaders plan on going on recess. We need to let them know we are done waiting. We need to lift our voices and declare that recovering from the pandemic means investment in care, climate justice, workers, democracy, and more. We are telling them: Get it Done in 2021!
Will you help by joining the action in D.C.? Can you sign up for a phone bank shift to call fellow UUs to action?
In faith and solidarity,

Nicole Pressley, UUA Organizing Strategy Team Field and Program Director
Rev. Beth Johnson and Rev. Abhi Janamanch, UUA Poor People’s Campaign Leadership Council Co-Chairs

Build Back Better: Getting It Done in 2021!

Join UUA President for Moral March on Washington Dec. 13th

6 December 2021 at 10:58
banner graphic image of Susan Frederick-Gray with a sign that says count every vote, the UU the Vote logo, text that says "Sign up for the Moral March with Side with Love, UU the Vote, and regional UUs!" and another image of someone in a yellow shirt

Our communities deserve action, now! The UUA is partnering with the Poor People’s Campaign and other faith and justice organizations for a Moral March on Washington on Monday, Dec.13 to pass Build Back Better and democracy legislation. 

 We are excited to announce that UUA President Rev. Dr. Susan Frederick-Gray is joining the march and speaking at the rally.

 On December 13, the Senate is scheduled to start recess and we're mobilizing folks to demand that they finish the job and pass Voting Rights and Build Back Better legislation. We will be telling them "Recess Can Wait, Democracy Can’t, Our Communities Can’t!"  We need a just economic recovery and voting rights, now. We need the Build Back Better, Freedom to Vote, and John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Acts passed by the end of the year. Help us Get it Done in 2021!

 We’re calling UUs across the country to ask them to call their Senators and the White House to demand they take action. We're also inviting local folx to the March on Washington on Dec. 13 to get this historic legislation passed. If you live in or around DC or feel called to travel for the action, please sign up here.

 Take action now, by joining one of these events: 

Join the phonebank on Dec 6 Join the phonebank on Dec 9 Join the Moral March on Dec 13

In this Holy Season, it is time to raise a prophetic moral voice for justice. Our UU Contingent at the Moral March will gather with Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray before the march and rally for fellowship, reflection, and a centering prayer circle as we head into the action. We will witness together and some of us will engage in civil disobedience. 

Side with Love and the UU the Vote campaigns are partnering with the UUA Poor People’s Campaign Leadership Council and UUSJ to organize for the Moral March. Relational organizing is how we build our movement and our power! 

Join the Moral March on Washington on Dec 13th at noon at the Capitol! We are taking action to declare that “democracy is sacred, the filibuster is not.” Congress and the White House must do everything in their power to expand voting rights and protect our elections and our communities. 

UUA PPC Leadership Council Co-Chair Rev. Beth Johnson—Minister of the Palomar UU Fellowship in Vista, CA—and Council member Rev. Robin Tanner—a minister at Beacon UU Congregation in Summit NJ (and a former national faith liaison at the Poor People’s Campaign) will be providing orientation at the phone banks. You can also just come for the first 20 minutes to get oriented, inspired, and trained, and then make calls on your own time.

It is in our collective struggle that we find joy, healing, and a love that sustains us until we win. Will you join us to build beloved community and mass action to pass Build Back Better and Voting Rights?

In faith and solidarity,

Nicole Pressley, UUA Side with Love Organizing Strategy Team Field and Program Director and
Susan Leslie, UUA Side with Love Organizing Strategy Team Coalition & Partnerships Organizer

P.S. We build moral courage by building community. Watch this short video from UU the Vote volunteer, Paige Bacon de Ortiz from First Unitarian Church of Baltimore.

Paige organized a Freedom to Vote visibility event during the Week of Action and engaged in civil

disobedience for the first time on Nov. 17th. She is coming to the Moral March on Dec. 13th. Hear her message and invitation about why she took action as a UU and how you can take action in this moment. See our Action Center for everything you can do!

Join UUA President for Moral March on Washington Dec. 13th

Reproductive Justice & Our Faith: Ground, Grow, & Act in 2022!

18 December 2021 at 09:00

With indications that Roe v Wade may be overturned, and knowing that abortion and reproductive care have long been inaccessible to many communities, our faith compels us to take action for reproductive rights, health, and justice. Many of you and your congregations are already taking courageous action and speaking prophetically; more are needed in this shared work, now and in the future. 

Side With Love and the Unitarian Universalist Ministers’ Association are partnering to support all religious professionals in grounding more deeply in a theology of Reproductive Justice, including providing resources for leading worship. Together, we invite all religious professionals to: 

1.) Participate in "Our Calling to Reproductive Justice: A Webinar for Religious Professionals" (Tuesday, Jan 11, 3-4:30pm ET), to reflect on our history and theology related to reproductive justice, how this work connects with ongoing pastoral care needs, and what strategies and action(s) can be most helpful. Led by Revs. Rob Keithan and Darcy Baxter. Register at https://secure.everyaction.com/9uZj_fJNpk2RBWGhuKnekQ2.


2.) If you haven't already, sign up to host a Reproductive Justice Sunday (suggested date: January 23, to coincide with the Roe v Wade anniversary, although you may choose any date that works for your congregation). Sign up to receive free-use videos and liturgical resources, to be published online by January 17 (all videos will include captioning and downloadable versions). Register at https://secure.everyaction.com/IpTuERSqJ0OUUfhuFh2HHA2.  

3.) Submit your own poetry, reflections, litanies, rituals, and stories for all ages to be included in our online Reproductive Justice worship resource guide! Submissions may be video or written; videos will be captioned for final use. These may include your new or past writings. By submitting, you agree to allow your words to be used freely by any congregation. Email submissions to Rev. Ashley Horan at ahoran@uua.org by January 6. 

We are grateful for the pastoral and prophetic work so many of you are already doing to ensure access to abortion care and to more broadly live into the vision of Reproductive Justice. We are grateful to be in this important work together.


In faith,

Rev. Ashley Horan

Organizing Strategy Director

Side With Love

Reproductive Justice & Our Faith: Ground, Grow, & Act in 2022!

A Solstice Reflection

21 December 2021 at 09:34

When I was a child, I would spend part of my summers visiting with my mother’s family in the mountains of Lebanon. I remember sitting out back of the house we shared with our aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins - drinking tea and playing card games with mismatched decks. Some of my clearest memories are from our nights spent outside, because it was then I noticed things that I hadn’t quite picked up on before. The scent of the jasmine blooming around the front yard. The flicker and flight of the bats that lived in the mountains. The persistent, if not foreboding, sound of mosquitoes on the hunt for a meal around our heads. 

There were reflections of life around me that, were it not for the darkness of night, I might never have had the privilege of knowing. Though I didn’t consciously realize it until years later, I learned an incredibly valuable lesson over the course of my childhood summers. Some beauty can only be noticed in the darkness of night.

As we approach the Winter Solstice, that lesson is just as true and important to our lives. On December 21st (in the Northern Hemisphere at least), we begin our shortest day and prepare for our longest night of the year. It is a turning point as we transition from fall, a time of harvest, to winter, a time of rest. And it celebrates a re-turning point, as we honor the rekindling of the light that warms our world in the increasingly longer days to come. 

But before we re-turn to that light, our Solstice time can and should be an opportunity to relish the beauty of what comes alive in the dark. This longest night is a time for us to, as the poet Wendell Berry invites us, “find that the dark, too, blooms and sings, and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.” In this longest night, we have the gift of time to deepen our awareness of what is always around us in the light, but soars and sings in the dark. During this longest night, we are given an extended chance to shift our attention and intention to appreciate the sounds, sights, smells, activity, and interconnectedness that only finds their fullest form in the infinite richness of the dark. 

What comes to life when darkness falls upon us? When we are resting, what is walking around us? When we are quiet, what sings? When we are still, what soars?

When there is no light of certainty, what do you find in the dark of possibility?

graphic of horizon with trees and northern lights. text reads "Winter Light: a Solstice Celebration. Join in worship & wonder with UUMFE

Winter Light - A Solstice Celebration
Dec 22, 2021 at 8pm ET / 7pm CT / 6pm MT / 5pm PT

Join Rev. Elizabeth Nguyen and UU Ministry for Earth for Winter Light, a special Zoom service celebration of the Solstice.

This sacred gathering reminds us of our interdependence with Earth, life, and the universe. Enjoy an hour of music, reflection, ritual and meditation as we gather in the sacred darkness of Winter to honor all that life brings. Register now.

image of a horizon with conifer trees and the northern lights

This Winter Solstice, I am taking this time to consider those relationships and perspectives I can only know in the peace of darkness, in the quiet of my personal rest. Who are the people and communities I have never seen or encountered, but my life is dependent on theirs? What are the movements and celebrations that have deep roots in the rich and fertile night? Why do I only notice them when there is no distraction of light?

And as we turn again in the days to come, as the light re-turns to our lives, how do we keep noticing that which the darkness brings? How does this time of awareness and appreciation of what is alive in the night stay with us in the light of the day? How do we shape the growing light to ensure that what we have loved in the dark, what has loved us in the nights, is not diminished but honored as the darkness fades? How is our perspective forever changed by what we would never have known if it were not for our longest night?

The Side with Love Organizing Strategy Team invites you to join us in essential practices that sustain our work for justice - slowing, pausing, resting, and noticing what comes alive in the dark. As our team takes time off this season, a spiritual practice that helps keep us nourished enough to stay in the long haul movement towards collective liberation, we hope that you too are able to find the space to slow down and appreciate the beauty and possibilities of our longest nights..

In faith and justice,

Rev. Ranwa Hammamy

Congregational Justice Organizer

A Solstice Reflection

Untouched and Still Possible

31 December 2021 at 09:18

The cusp of the New Year is always a moment for pause and reflection, looking back over the winding paths that have brought us to the present while gazing ahead toward the road stretching before us. Here at Side With Love, we too join in this practice of breathing in all that has been, and exhaling our hopes for all that is to come. 

2021 brought us both the unprecedented, and the all-too-familiar. And while we could catalogue all the heartbreaks of what it means to be alive in this moment, at this turning of the year, your Side With Love team is choosing to look back on this year through the lens of gratitude. Today, we reflect and offer our deep thankfulness for our life-giving faith, for the movements that are leading us and imagining a new world into being, and for YOU–Unitarian Universalists across the land who are doing the brave, difficult, gratifying, maddening, mundane, critical work of embodying our faith in our shared work for justice. 

There are so many inspiring stories of your witness and your action, and we are blessed to hear them day in and day out as we collaborate with UU individuals, congregations, and organizations. Today, we lift up just a few of these beacons of hope: 

Image includes photos of UUs at various public witness events, holding signs and showing banners. Text reads: "We offer our deep thankfulness for YOU - Unitarian Universalists across the land who are doing the brave, difficult, gratifying, maddening,
  • During the critical runoff election in Georgia, our UU the Vote volunteer Squads ran 14 phone banks in partnership with Reclaim Our Vote, training and supporting over 800 volunteers to make calls to voters in Georgia. UU the Vote contributed more volunteer time and organizing than any other 501(c)3 non-partisan organization in Georgia.

  • Unitarian Universalists answered the call of Water Protectors to show up to fight the construction of the Line 3 Pipeline. On several occasions, and in collaboration with an interconnected network of UU organizations, UU activists showed up, putting their bodies on the line and supporting the leadership of the Anishinaabe and Lakota peoples leading the #StopLine3 movement. 

  • More than 170 people made up 21 cohorts of our It Starts With Faith: Organizing School. These teams worked together to deepen their skills, strategize about their shared work, and sharpen their political analysis. These teams are now putting their learnings into inspiring practice. To name just a few examples, the DRUUMM cohort is focusing on the 8th Principle, the new Kentucky state action network (SAN)  is working for reproductive justice, our North Carolina SAN is organizing for fair mapping and hosting a defund police camp, and UUs in Schenectady, NY have been mobilizing for the Freedom to Vote Act. 

  • UU congregations continue to show up prophetically in their communities, meeting the political moment with skill and courage. During the national #Faiths4ClimateJustice week of action this fall, several UU congregations engaged in or hosted local events, such as First Unitarian Society of Madison, who organized an interfaith demonstration at the Capitol building to collect and send messages to the United Nations prior to their 26th Climate Change Conference. 

  • More than 40 Unitarian Universalists traveled to Washington, D.C. in October to participate in the People vs. Fossil Fuels week of action. The week centered Indigenous leadership and youth organizing, and brought our UU kin into movement and solidarity with thousands of people and partner organizations who are fighting for a fossil-free future. Dozens of UUs were arrested at the White House and the Capitol as they engaged in civil disobedience with the GreenFaith delegation to tell President Biden and Congress to build back fossil free. Read UU young adult leader Zoë Johnston’s firsthand account of the experience here

  • In the first three months following the launch of Side With Love’s Action Center, UUs have participated in more that 50 justice-centered events, both local and national, with nearly 3,000 people engaging. Most recently, on the national day of action for the Freedom to Vote Act, 10 congregations hosted or participated in their own distributed actions in local communities.

  • Close to 100 UUs from across the country converged at the Poor People’s Campaign national action earlier this month, urging the passage of both Build Back Better and the Freedom to Vote Act. Six UU clergy and 2 lay leaders engaged in non-violent moral direct action, including UUA President Susan Frederick-Gray. 

There is so much we are grateful for, today and every day. It is such a gift to be in an ever-deepening relationship with this network of faithful, courageous people working to build a world in which all people are truly free. 

We know that time is not linear–we spiral forward and back, again and again, generation after generation. And yet, at certain precious moments, we can find the stillness of a long pause, perched on the threshold between past and future. As the poet W.S. Merwin writes:

so this is the sound of you

here and now whether or not

anyone hears it this is

where we have come with our age

our knowledge such as it is

and our hopes such as they are

invisible before us

untouched and still possible

–W.S. Merwin, “To the New Year”


We are so thankful to be in the work with you, sharing our faith that another world is possible. 


In faith and solidarity,

The Side With Love Organizing Strategy Team (Adrian Ballou, Michael Crumpler, Audra Friend, Rev. Ranwa Hammamy, Rev. Ashley Horan, Susan Leslie, Jeff Milchen, Nicole Pressley, Rev. Cathy Rion Starr, & Aly Tharp)

P.S. Want to go deeper with Side With Love in the new year? Subscribe to our newsletters, join one of our volunteer Squads, and host or join an upcoming event.

Untouched and Still Possible

Join We the People: Jan 6th Day of Remembrance & Action

4 January 2022 at 14:59

A new year brings fresh possibilities and is often a time when our spirits rise. And yet a year ago as we prepared for progress we were confronted with a deadly insurrection where armed right-wing militants attacked our Capitol and tried to overturn the results of the 2020 election. We have worked hard all this past year to build a multi-racial democracy and combat the attack on voting rights and democracy waged on our Black, Indigenous and people of color communities. Finally, the Freedom to Vote Act, and other democracy legislation may be taken up by the Senate. Yesterday, Majority Leader Senator Schumer called for a rules change in the Senate to keep the filibuster from blocking democracy.

At the same time, the same faction that led the insurrection on January 6th has continued their work of silencing voices through partisan gerrymandering, blocking critical democracy legislation, and building systems for future attempts to undermine free and fair elections.

We must not forget what happened -- and we must demand action from our leaders to prevent another attack on our democracy.

So on January 6th, exactly one year later, we are grounding in our commitment to building a beloved community–a multi-racial democracy where our leaders are accountable to the people, and voters decide the outcomes of elections. Democracy is not a partisan issue, but a foundational element of a just society that recognizes the worth and dignity of all.

Logo for Jan 6 Day of Remembrance and Action

Join a candlelight vigil or democracy action in your community on Jan. 6!

There are close to 300 events being held around the country.

There’s also still time to host a vigil in your community if you can’t find one near you. We need many events across the nation to demonstrate the groundswell for democracy in this urgent moment. Sign up to host a candlelight vigil on Jan. 6! You’ll receive a toolkit and support from our democracy coalition. Whether your event is large or small it makes a difference and can have an impact in your community.

As people of faith, we are called to public witness, to name sacred truths, in the midst of big lies. Whether it is the lie of a stolen election or the lie that senate rules are more sacred than voting rights, or the lie of white supremacy, we must shed light on truth and justice.

There is much work ahead of us. Systems of policing and voter suppression and this right-wing movement to consolidate power in the hands of the few are deeply rooted in white supremacy and capitalism. Legislation alone will not eradicate those evils from our systems, but like all justice movements, passing robust legislation is essential to win for our communities right now. Our elected leaders must pass urgent legislation that will protect this country from anti-democratic forces who are continuing their efforts to destroy it.

That’s why we must show up together in this moment –– we need to keep up the momentum for our freedom to vote.

Join a candlelight vigil or democracy action in your community on Jan. 6!

The January 6th attack by right-wing militants demonstrates the dangers facing our nation and only further underscores the urgency with which we need to transform our political system into one that works for all of us. The U.S. Senate and President Biden must do whatever is necessary to pass the Freedom to Vote Act, Protecting Our Democracy Act, John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, and DC Statehood.

Coming together, we can prevent another January 6th attack and realize the promise of democracy so that we all have an equal say in the decisions that shape our daily lives and futures.

In faith and solidarity,

Nicole Pressley

UUA Side with Love Organizing Strategy Team Field and Programs Director

PS - Let us know how the event you organized or were a part of went. Fill out our short Side with Love Action Center Activity Report at bit.ly/whatwevedone.

Please note this is about a Jan. 6th Action in the last question describing the event. Thank you!

Join We the People: Jan 6th Day of Remembrance & Action

Mysterious Ways

1 December 2021 at 00:10

About a decade ago, my husband and I traded in our old cell phones for iPhones, a move that heralded a subtle but profound change in our lives.

You see, wherever we go, we have instant access to the internet in our pockets. With Google, Wikipedia, the Internet Movie Database and other sites at our fingertips at all times, most questions that come up in conversation can be answered in a matter of minutes. Our shorthand for this phenomenon is “no mysteries.”

There are many fewer mysteries in our lives since this technology attached itself to our hips. And that’s not always a good thing.

You see, I love mystery.

I love being surrounded by the unknown and the unknowable.

I love living in a universe whose known parts are dwarfed by the immensity and vastness of those parts yet to be discovered.

I love being a human whose knowledge is just deep enough to reveal all of the things I do not know and never will.

As a child, I devoured mystery books by the dozens, graduating quickly from The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew to Agatha Christie and beyond. I was invariably upset at the end when everything was tied together neatly.

What makes a good novel, I guess, isn’t the stuff of real life, in which the right answers are, more often than not, never known. I’m pretty sure there’s not a single book in which Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple gathered people together at the end and pronounced “I haven’t the foggiest idea who did it.”

Now that would be a mystery. And I’d love it.

I knew I had found the right college for me when the essay I was asked to write was to ponder “a question with no provable answer.” I should have re-examined my intended major, though, when I wrote my es say on belief in God—it would have saved me lots of time wandering in the desert of cell biology.

I became a scientist not because I thought it would be a way to find answers, but because it was a field based on questions.

I loved asking questions, probing their depths, removing successive layers of ignorance to reveal deeper and more numerous questions at every turn.


I loved the mysteries of science. I loved making guesses at the unprovable, amassing evidence for the unseeable, moving deeper into the unthinkable, and asking more questions than I ever answered.

I loved contributing to the mystery of the universe.

Ultimately, the mysteries of science weren’t enough for me, though. I moved on to being part of a greater mystery, a greater question: What is the purpose of our existence?

I know that there will never be an answer to that question that satisfies me. Rather than turning me off from the pursuit, though, it ignites my love, my passion, and my drive.  I am energized and fed by the pursuit of unprovable knowledge—I am inspired to pay closer attention to all that I experience, lest I miss a clue, a path to the ultimate or an experience of the true.

I love mystery, and I love thinking that there is an unknowable love that surrounds us all—a love that can be sensed, but whose source remains beyond our comprehension.

It is this mysterious love that drives my ministry and asks me to seek connections with all the beings with whom I share this universe.

In their 1991 song “Mysterious Ways,” the group U2 sang of love that came from an unknown and unknowable source. Their song has the added bonus for me of mysterious meaning: people have debated for almost 30 years whether the song is about love between two humans or the love of God, referred to in the feminine. The band members aren’t saying. Good for them.

In that song, they sing:

One day you’ll look back,
and you’ll see
Where you were held now by
this love.
While you could stand there,
You could move on this moment
Follow this feeling.

That mysterious love holds us now—and yet we have no idea where it comes from. One day, it might be clear, but for now, just go with it. Just feel it, just kneel before it and make yourself humble in its presence. Wherever it comes from, whatever it means, whoever or whatever is its ultimate source—just let the love surround you.

It’s all right, they conclude, she moves in mysterious ways.

Quest December 2021

1 December 2021 at 22:37

December 2021

The possession of knowledge does not kill the sense of wonder and mystery. There is always more mystery. –Anaïs Nin


For Your Reflection

1 December 2021 at 00:07

In this section, we offer questions for reflection based on ideas explored in this issue. 

You may wish to explore it individually or as part of a group discussion. To submit your reflection for possible inclusion in a future issue of Quest, tear off your answer and mail it back to us using the envelope included in the middle of this issue, or mail a longer reflection separately.

Do you love mystery, or do you often look for a way out of it? In what ways do you feel the presence of mystery and/or answers to it around this time of year?

If you would like us to be able to publish or share your writing in the future, remember to include “You have permission to edit and publish my words” somewhere on your submission.

Collective Lights of the Holidays

1 December 2021 at 00:08

The theme of this issue is mystery, which is defined as something difficult to figure out. It conjures up images of unclear paths, murky environments with the way forward vague, narrow, and tricky to follow. If the idea of mystery feels fitting for the darkest time of year, perhaps the traditions and celebrations of this month offer us a way forward.

On the first Sunday of December, I was amazed and somewhat relieved to find the altar at my brick and mortar church’s worship service filled with many lit candles creating a brilliant light. As always, we began this service by lighting our flaming chalice, the symbol of our faith. Every time the chalice is lit, we recommit to building Beloved Community, creating a safe harbor for all. It restates our commitment to love, acceptance and working on social justice. The light from the flame serves as an anchor for the service. It helps to light our way.



Also on the altar was a Hanukkah menorah, with seven candles lit on that day. Hanukkah is also called the Festival of Lights. By the end of the festival, the Hanukkah menorah will have nine candles lit, producing a glorious light which is traditionally placed in a window to amplify the glow. This is the time of the year that, through this holiday, Jews celebrate, dedicate and re-dedicate themselves to justice and freedom.

Sitting next to the Menorah were Advent lights, with four candles signifying the four weeks of Advent. Some Christians light them with the idea of hope, love, joy and peace. Two candles were lit on the first Sunday of December, the second Sunday of the Advent season. This is the season of preparation for the mystery of Jesus’ birth. It is the time of year when we are reminded of the importance of creating heaven here on earth; when we hold both the divine and human inside of us, and when, true to Jesus’ life, we must feed the poor, heal the sick, and redistribute wealth.

Although not represented yet, Kwanzaa will be added at the end of the month. Seven candles will be placed inside the Kinara. Each candle represents one of the seven principles Umoja (unity), Kujichaglia (self determination), Ujamaa (cooperative economics), Kuumba (creativity), Ujima (collective work and responsibility), Nia (purpose) and Imani (faith). For African Americans, Kwanzaa is a celebration of our culture, our history, and each other.

The entire month of December will have all of these lights coming from our shared altar. They will be extra beacons showing the way, acting as anchors, reminding us that we belong to a group that cares about creating a Beloved Community. A chalice flame will continue to be lit at the center, to remind us that love is a principle that we embrace.

This is often a difficult time of the year. In this culture, there can be so much pressure to smile, pressure to be merry. Adding to regular difficulties, this year has been particularly hard; in addition to the toll of the pandemic, there has been increased violence against trans people, Black people being targeted for more violence, gun violence escalating, homelessness on the rise, opioid drug abuse increasing, more and more Black and brown people being incarcerated, and increasing demonstration of white fragility.

I want to hold on to hope, love and peace — but if I’m honest, I am really tired of 2021. I would like to be done with it and try anew. Here’s hoping and praying that 2022 is less violent, includes fewer deaths caused by guns, and that it begins a dismantling of the prison industrial complex and a redistribution of wealth. Is that too much to ask? Maybe. But I think the holidays of this season call us to dream big. With the bright lights of many traditions sharing space on our collective altar, let us rededicate ourselves making the promises of those traditions come true in the world around us.


1 December 2021 at 00:09

What role does wonder and mystery play in your life?

Dark Forest



CLF Member, incarcerated in TX

Mystery is defined in the Webster’s Dictionary as “something unexplained, unknown, or kept secret…” It is, essentially, the void of knowledge. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. As I’ve pointed out to many students in my tradition, sometimes the fact that there isn’t an answer is the most beautiful thing about the question. The purpose is to seek, not to know. Mystery gives us something to strive for, and even if we don’t really need the answer, the journey we take shapes us and helps us grow.

Imagine a world where all information is readily accessible. Sound familiar? Today, finding wonder and mystery is truly a gift, and one that, in my opinion, shouldn’t be overlooked. Take joy in the mysteries you come across, whether it be something as simple as whether or not it will rain today (without the assistance of the local news), or something as deep as who and what

Divinity is. Remember that even if the answer isn’t one you wanted or expected, you went on a journey for this wisdom, and you are forever altered by it.

What will tomorrow bring? I truly don’t know, but I do know that I will face the day with courage, honor and joy. I challenge all who read this to do the same. May the Gods and Goddesses of the Northern Traditions watch over you all on your journeys.


CLF Member, incarcerated in TX

“The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. Whoever does not know it can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead” — Albert Einstein

“Oh mystery! Oh mystery! It’s you…” — Yeah Yeah Yeahs

The first prayer I ever actually “felt” was labeled a Native American prayer, and a friend had brought it back in her stuff from rehab. She showed it to me and I insisted that we hit our knees at the edge of the bed to say it… My own spirituality was still operating within the Western Christian paradigm (or prayer-adigm, rather) at the time.

I remember that the prayer started, “Oh Great Mystery, we pray to the North, South, East, and West” (maybe not those exact words but that’s basically how it started).

What I “felt” then is that if any prayer I’ve ever prayed could fly, it’d be that one. Oh Great Mystery.

Today, I see mystery as what hides the seams between the world and dimensions of the life I live in. Mystery keeps my ego in check when universal synchronicity lines up exactly as I wanted, when I wanted it, how I want it. Mystery delivers humbling failures during the most seemingly simple operations or endeavors, just to let me know I can’t ever know Her, let alone master Her. Harsh yet beautiful. Baffling and elegant.

Mystery is also a place. The place where waves become particles that function as waves. It’s the space between our consciousness and the moon when we look up at the night sky. Mystery is that island we reach when we just know this ocean called life is about to drown us.

The Mystery that I find essential to my emotional and intellectual survival everyday, especially the days we call today, is the mystery of why and how the lost are often the first to try to give you directions; the haters are often the ones to tell you how and who to love; the spiritually dead tell you how to live. This mystery removes all the mystery from why I am, who I am, and why I’m a UU.

Starry Night Sky



CLF Member, incarcerated in FL

​​The Holy Bible is full of mystery. I am fond of the men and women of God (prophets and apostles), who explained the mystery of God and his wonderful traits that produce light and life in all created things. Furthermore, by studying what role wonder and mystery played in their lives through wonderful miracles and fantastic, mysterious assertions, I have been able to understand how it plays out in my life.

Wonder is the wisdom gained through hard work and studying, and mystery is how I’m going to use these great gifts; on what platform will I be able to explain my mysterious revelations to share with all living humanity. Moreover, the role of mystery and wonder will play out in my life through mentorship and counseling to whoever will listen or is in need. I desire to lift our collective conscience, that I see as the literal consciousness of God. I rebuke all doubt, fear, guilt and all evil thoughts. I acknowledge that the devil is only a manifestation of evil thoughts like doubt, anything less than truth, and fear that can only materialize as death and hell.

So, today try to think only the thoughts of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control (Galatians 5:22-23). Keep your conscience clear and do not let guilt have any place in your mind, and do not let the adversary of doubt, lies, guilt, and fear possess you, leading down the road of death and hell. Instead, choose the road of wonder and unpredictably keeping only good thoughts and shunning evil as you walk down the road of light and life. Although, I may stumble and it may hurt my perseverance and endurance will help me get back up to that mysterious, wonderful place with you!


CLF Member, incarcerated in SC

The old television show, “The Wonderful World of Disney,” would begin with a song “the world is a carousel of color.” Truly, if one stops and looks, the divine is present in our everyday life. Even in prison, amidst the drab colors and harsh contours, the beauty of a snowfall drapes the ugliness with a mantle of beauty. The glint of barbed wire can be ignored when one beholds the swath of red, purple, and pink as the sun rises in a burst of magical colors that no artist but the Creator could possibly exact. Have you ever watched a hummingbird hover? Or a bee gather nectar? Or the changing colors of Autumn, like a quilt of patchwork as nature puts on a show every year? The world is filled with the intricate mysteries of nature and the marvelous wonders that we are often too busy and rushed to consider.

This spectacular daily display fills me with a humble reverence for our world. We are stewards of this celestial orb and caretakers of its treasures. With this role comes responsibility for its care, just as parents care for their children. But earth is not our child; in many spiritual traditions, the earth is understood as our mother.

We have no other home. No place else to go. Alone here in our “Cinderella belt” of the solar system, the very hand of the divine is present and available to us, if we only (as the old saying goes) stop and smell the roses. Yes, Disney was right. The world is a carousel of color.

Liberation and Salvation

10 January 2022 at 16:09

Rev. Dr. Michael Tino preached this Sermon on December 5, 2021 in the Church of the Larger Fellowship’s Online Sanctuary

Our Universalist ancestors believed that a powerful, radical love awaited them at death, a love so powerful as to be able to cleanse them of even their most vile sins, a love so radical as to be freely available to all. In the days when John Murray ran aground on a sandbar on the coast of New Jersey, it was a wild and heretical theology, this stuff of Universal salvation.

Over the ensuing two hundred and fifty-one years, a theology that holds that all people will ultimately be saved, a theology that rejects the eternal damnation of hell in favor of a reconciliation with a greater love, that theology is not so wild anymore. It is barely even heretical in some corners.

And yet, since Thomas Potter convinced John Murray to preach Universalism  in his little chapel, our faith has struggled with the question of what Universalism calls us to in this life, before we die, right here. After all, if we’re all going to be saved anyway, why bother doing anything in this life? Why even bother being good?

Through the generations, our Universalist ancestors came up with decent responses to these questions. And today I want to call us to an answer that Clarence Skinner gave us some 80 years ago.

I don’t always agree with Clarence Skinner, 20th century Universalist theologian. For starters, his history of embracing eugenics is more than a little problematic. 

But in particular, I think he led us astray by claiming that big-U Universalism was little-u universal—that we uniquely had a religion for all people and should strive to make it so. That’s modernist, colonizer talk right there, that little-u universal religion stuff. It asks us to point to the existence of a truth that is equally valid for all people, and to claim as that truth a theology of white Europeans and Americans. I don’t believe such a truth exists, much less that white folks would hold it, so I don’t do little-u universal religion.

But when Skinner asked the question “What does Universalism demand of us in this life?” he got to some things I find worthy of holding up. 

Universalism, he insisted, call on us to fight the perpetuation of racism. In his 1945 work “A Religion for Greatness,” he wrote that racism is based in selfishness, superstition, and distortion. “If we ‘see life steadily and see it whole,’” he wrote, “we can appreciate all the parts. the part becomes misunderstood only when we see it without relationships, as an end in itself.” Each race, each culture, each difference in humanity, he wrote “has its own genius and each may contribute to a life that is ‘rounded, divine, [and] complete.’”

I believe it is our call to once again make our faith a radical, prophetic, challenge to the way things are. It is time to reclaim our place as the wild heretics pushing society forward, pushing theology forward, pushing humanity forward. It is time to re-think the powerful love our ancestors believed awaited them when they died as a powerful love available to us in the present, while we live.

I believe it’s time to re-think our theology of Universal salvation as a theology of universal liberation, right here.

I believe it’s time for Universalists to claim the radical, powerful love that our ancestors once attributed to God as a possibility of humanity.

Not as an automatic of humanity—we all know that real evil exists in our world, and that systems created by humans perpetuate evil daily—but as a possibility. Which makes our call, as Universalists, making it happen.

In 1915, ten years into his ministry and two decades before he became a professor at Tufts, Clarence Skinner published “The Social Implications of Universalism.” Here’s some of the non-problematic part of what he wrote:

“Universalism was born out of the new humanity; it is the gospel of the new heaven and the new earth. It throbs with hope. It was part of the great world movement to reinterpret life in terms of a regenerated, buoyant, self assertive human nature. Universalism believes in the world and in its potential goodness. It repudiates the gloomy and disastrous outlook of the old anti-social theology. It is not frantically searching for an escape from life.”

He continues, “Only those theologies which frankly and persistently align themselves with the world, and openly champion its potential goodness, can logically enter the great reformation of the twentieth century. They alone believe that salvation comes in, by and through a saved world. This is social salvation. All others believe that salvation comes by escaping from a world which is inherently unsavable. That is the individualistic, anti-social, mediæval faith. Goethe once said that the ideal is not an escape from reality but a completion of it. The Universalist conception of religion is not that of an escape from reality, but that of the harmonious and spiritual development of all the elements of real life.”

How do we persistently align ourselves with the world? How do we openly champion the potential goodness in our midst? What is our call? It is the collective liberation of all of humanity.

And not just the spiritual liberation of all of humanity, but the physical and emotional liberation of humanity as well. These things cannot be separated.

As long as we are not naming the white supremacy culture in our midst and openly, explicitly, constantly working to dismantle it, we are failing in our call to champion the goodness of humanity.

As long as listening to the voices of those who have experienced marginalization and naming the ways in which racism is systematized in our society are somehow controversial things to do, we are failing in our call to champion the goodness of humanity.

As long as violent, extractive capitalist systems are allowed to make policy—to block action on climate change, to enact colonial foreign policies, to abrogate the bodily autonomy of people with uteruses, to let this deadly virus run rampant in communities of color and schools because we insist that certain adult bodies are needed to show up for work, we are failing in our call to champion the goodness of humanity. These evils exist because someone is making money off them, and their money is power in a society that falls short of the radical love that is possible in this world.

And as long as our siblings are locked behind bars, as long as their bodies are fuel for the fire of our prison-industrial system, as long as we insist that punishment by dehumanization is a necessary response to breaking laws, as long as our nation’s constitution allows a loophole in our abolition of slavery for incarcerated people, we are failing in our call to champion the goodness of humanity.

And let’s make no mistake—the systems of injustice that I’m talking about today, these systems are using the very beings—the bodies and the spirits—of black people, indigenous people, people of color, of poor people, of disabled people, of queer people, of women and transgender people, as fuel for the creation of wealth for a very small number of folks.  

Let me repeat that—the very bodies of those who are marginalized in so many ways around the world are being used as fuel. Our systems dehumanize people and then turn them into commodities to be used.

As surely as the fires of hell that John Murray rejected burned, human systems of evil burn. 

And so it is our call as Universalists to reject that fire consuming our siblings.

It is our call as Universalists to amplify the radical, powerful love that we know humanity is capable of.

It is our call as Universalists to work for the liberation of all of humanity—for the spiritual emancipation that Clarence Skinner wrote of in 1915 as well as the physical emancipation so desperately needed in 2021.

“Light the fuse,” Skinner wrote, “and the fire will reach the bomb.” It is time to set off a love bomb on our world. It is time to act like we are worthy of the God of John Murray and Hosea Ballou, the God of Olympia Brown and Joseph Jordan, the God of Gloster Dalton and Amy Scott. Like we are worthy to call ourselves inheritors of a faith in which all are saved, in which all are free, in which all are loved.

It is time for us to practice radical, powerful, life-saving love. Liberation and salvation. Right here. Right now. Over and over again.

30 Days of Love 2022 is here!

15 January 2022 at 13:10

This Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend, there is so much weighing on our hearts. Our nation is again in the grips of an enormous surge in Covid cases, overwhelming our hospitals and destabilizing schools, businesses, and more. Voting rights legislation is being held hostage yet again by elected leaders who refuse to protect us from election sabotage and voter suppression. Cultural battles are making their way into courtrooms, legislative sessions, and school board meetings, with opponents to abortion care, transgender rights, and honest conversation about race and white supremacy dominating the news and social media. 

If ever there were a time our spirits needed nourishment, it is now.

So in the midst of all that is hard, Side With Love is honored to invite you to join us in this year’s 30 Days of Love – our annual season of spiritual nourishment, political deepening, and collective action to embody our values and work for collective liberation.

This year, each week of 30 Days of Love will focus on one of Side With Love’s intersectional justice priorities. Although each week will have a primary focus, you will notice a lot of overlap – demonstrating just how truly intersecting these issues are. Every week will include a variety of resources, activities, and opportunities for engagement for people of all ages. Check out our offerings here.

In addition to the Multigenerational/Family Playlist that has been so popular in previous years, Side With Love is pleased to introduce a few new features this year, including a robust spiritual nourishment program led by our 30 Days of Love Minister-in-Residence, Rev. Ali KC Bell. We will also feature weekly opportunities to take concrete action for justice, both individually and collectively, through Side With Love’s Action Center. And finally, each week we will offer a live, interactive opportunity to sharpen our analysis through a Political Education event focused on one facet of the week’s theme. Finally, we will cap off the month with our Side With Love Sunday Worship Service.

More than anything, 30 Days of Love is an opportunity for us all to recharge our spirits and reconnect with hope through shared grounding, growth, and action. These offerings are our love letter to you, the faithful people who embody our shared values each and every day. We hope you will find them profoundly nourishing and that you will engage with them along with your family, your congregation, and our wider community. We are so excited to travel these 30 Days alongside all of you.

With our overflowing love for you, 

The Side With Love Team

PS: This Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, let’s honor Dr. King’s memory by keeping the pressure on our Senators to pass voting rights legislation and stop letting the filibuster hijack our democracy. Click here to make a free call to your Senators.

30 Days of Love 2022 is here!

Week Two of our 30 Days of Love is On!

23 January 2022 at 09:53

We enter week two of 30 Days of Love lamenting the immoral blocking of the Freedom to Vote and John Lewis Voting Acts. It is disheartening to witness our elected leaders sided with vote suppression and against democracy. As a faith community committed to showing up for justice and for our communities, this will not stop us. 

 Join us for Week Two of 30 Days of Love. From January 24-30 we are focusing on Democracy & Voting Rights. This week’s offerings include multigenerational resources, healing meditations, political education, and collective action to support our community in our democracy and electoral work. 

Our live events this week include:

The sharp increase in voter suppression tactics and laws in the last year not only reflects how much work remains, but also how much power we have already shown. In 2020, communities showed up in force to get out the vote, register voters, and promote the values of care, equity, justice, and a liberating love as we cast our votes. Unitarian Universalists around the country organized to #UUtheVote, #VoteLove, and #DefeatHate in our national, state, and local elections. Our movement towards achieving a mutliracial democracy gained so much momentum because we the people claimed our power. 

Because of the strength of our love, hate is doubling down its efforts to remain in control. The suppression tactics we are witnessing today - from state legislatures in places like Georgia and Texas, to national electeds refusing to alter legislative procedures shaped by Jim Crow segregation - are fights we are facing because we are a liberating force that hatred fears.  

One of the essential truths we must acknowledge is that the colonized land currently known as the United States has always been based on accumulation of wealth through racialized capitalism. The attacks on democracy are a part of that legacy. Resisting oppressive power has always depended on people's movements that have fought for democracy, equity and justice. The fight for a multiracial democracy that is accountable to the people, is rooted in our ability to build the networks and communities that build enough power to contest and defeat these attacks. 

For this second week of our 30 Days of Love, we are inviting you to deepen your connection to community, and strengthen your engagement in the movement to create the true democracy we have yet to realize in this nation. Within all of us lives the legacy of prophets, the wisdom of ancestors, and the fierce power of community to continue the momentum of not just the past two years, but the past 200+ years. There is so much we and those who came before us have accomplished to create a world where every vote counts and every life is treated as sacred. And there is still so much more that we can generate together. 

This week, we are focusing our faith and power on Democracy and Voting Rights with a series of offerings that remind us that our liberation is built on organizing and change that happens at the local level, in our own neighborhoods and communities. 

Join us for our January 27 Political Education session “Building Power and Democracy,” where UU the Vote leaders and local activists share why this election year is critical for our movement towards multiracial democracy and collective liberation. 

Practice (or brush the dust off!) your phonebanking skills with our January 30 Democracy Phonebank to mobilize Unitarian Universalists for critical voting rights actions. 

Find community amongst other UUs ramping up to #UUtheVote in 2022 at our monthly Action Center Community of Praxis gathering on January 31, whether you are looking to build up specific skills or learn new strategies for engagement in your community. 

And save the date for our February 20 #UUtheVote Skill Up to learn how to amplify a faith voice through Letters to the Editor, Op Eds, and other media.

You are essential to our faith’s dream of Beloved Community. We invite you to take the time to nourish your spirit with this week’s worship offerings. Together we can care for one another and build resiliency to remain committed to showing up. The love that drives our work during and beyond these 30 Days is here to hold you and welcome you to take action as we move into midterm elections and UU the Vote 2022.

In faith, love, and power -

The Side with Love Organizing Strategy Team

Week Two of our 30 Days of Love is On!

Week 3 of 30 Days of Love is here!

28 January 2022 at 13:08

For many of us, it is hard to imagine a world without police, prisons, and punishment as “justice.” Fear-mongering about a lawless society in which we all have to fend for ourselves has become a talking point in the culture wars reacting to abolitionist calls to defund and dismantle the violence of our current policing and punishment system. Even for those of us who have confronted the ways our current system evolved from structures designed to control and enslave Black bodies and continues to enforce the death-grip of white supremacy on our society, we are so shaped by what exists now that many of us have a hard time conceiving of a different way.

And yet, our theological forebears (especially our Universalist ancestors) articulated the radical notion that there is no vengeful God waiting to “save” sinful humans through retribution and punishment. They unequivocally declared that the only hell that exists is the one created by humans on earth and that suffering and punishment are a part of that hell–not its antidote. And today, our contemporary principles remind us that no one is disposable–that we all deserve safety and security in our homes, our communities, and society at large–because each and every one of us has inherent worth and dignity.

At our UUA General Assembly in 2020, shortly after the murder of George Floyd and the global uprisings for racial justice of that spring, our delegates overwhelmingly passed an Action of Immediate Witness called “Amen to Uprising: A Commitment and Call to Action”. It read, in part:

THEREFORE, we will create systemic change within our congregations by:

  • Revising agreements and policies to create alternatives to policing (including developing plans for safety and accountability);

  • Choosing not to involve police departments and deactivating security systems that mobilize police response when triggered;

  • Engaging in creative, transformative, justice processes;

  • Pursuing abolition of policing systems within the congregations and institutions in which we have power;

  • Moving congregational and institutional resources and endowments towards Black liberation organizing and long-term redistribution; and

  • Rooting ourselves in theologies of liberation and abolition.

This was a bold moment for us as Unitarian Universalists, in which we articulated an aspirational theology that we will have to stretch our souls and our imaginations to fully incarnate. To do that, we will need to practice together, again and again. And so, in this third week of 30 Days of Love, we invite you into the collective spiritual exercise of moral imagination.

Whether you are a longtime abolitionist who is heartened to see Unitarian Universalism finally engaging with the calls of the abolitionist movement, or someone who is just beginning to grapple with the violence of our current system and the challenge of building another way, we invite you to join us. Let’s dream together about a world in which all of us are truly free.

In faith and solidarity,

Rev. Ashley Horan

UUA Organizing Strategy Director - Side With Love

Week 3 of 30 Days of Love is here!

Natasha Walker joins BLUU as the Developmental Board Chair

31 January 2022 at 11:10

Natasha Walker joins Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism (BLUU) as the Developmental Board Chair of BLUU’s Organizing Collective Board of Directors. She will focus on OCB recruitment, project management, and training during the strategizing for and implementation of BLUU’s restructure process.

St. Paul, Minnesota

(L-R): The BLUU Organizing Collective Board welcomes Natasha Walker as its new Developmental Board Chair. Natasha is pictured with her children.

After a competitive search, BLUU is excited to welcome Natasha Walker as its new Developmental Board Chair.

“We took our time and were very intentional about finding the right person to help lead BLUU onward in our journey,” said Executive Director Lena K. Gardner.

The Organizing Collective Board of Directors (OCB) is a working board that serves as the governing body of BLUU. Natasha will lead project management for the OCB, support OCB skill development, and serve as the OCB’s primary liaison betwen BLUU and community members and partners.

“I’m excited at the prospect of amplifying the impact and continuing the strong legacy of the BLUU Collective,” Natasha said. “I believe you can’t complain if you’re not in the fight, trying to make things better. We all have something to contribute to building a new way. Get engaged, share your voice, and creative solutions will appear.”

Natasha brings key experience as a Black Unitarian Universalist and project manager. She attends services at Unity Temple (Oak Park) and the First Unitarian Church of Chicago (Hyde Park). Natasha is also a Project Manager at Google, with deep expertise in efficiency, process improvement, and organizational design. Prior to Google, she worked at Disney, McKinsey & Company, Pepperidge Farm, and General Motors. She is also active on the Board of Free Spirit Media, an organization focused on helping underrepresented youth in Chicago tell their stories.

“We feel honored and thrilled that Natasha brings not only high-level project management and leadership skills and experience, but also a deep understanding of BLUU, connection to our BLUUBerries programming and attended the historic Convening in 2017 which truly birthed our community,” Lena said. “We couldn’t have dreamed of a better candidate and are thrilled to be bringing her aboard!”

About BLUU:

Formed in the wake of several conversations among Black UUs at the July 2015 Movement for Black Lives Convening in Cleveland, OH, Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism is committed to expanding the power and capacity of Black UUs within Unitarian Universalism; providing support, information, and resources for Black Unitarian Universalists; and justice-making and liberation for Black people through our faith.

Week Four of 30 Days of Love is here!

6 February 2022 at 08:42

As week 4 of 30 Days of Love begins, I’m thrilled to introduce myself to you. I’m Rachel Myslivy, Climate Justice Organizer for the UUA’s Side With Love Organizing Strategy Team. 

As someone who has worked in the climate movement for roughly fifteen years, I know that we all come to the work from different places with different perspectives and strategies. Climate justice requires us to see climate change not as a technical problem to be solved, but as a moral and ethical challenge that we as people of faith need to rise to meet and overcome.  

Climate justice requires us to act on the reality that the communities hit first and worst by climate change are the least responsible for climate impacts.  Similarly, climate impacts exacerbate existing inequities. We must balance the urgent need for rapid action with the critical yet sometimes-slow process of building trust and developing collective strategy led by communities most impacted. On top of all of that, we need to dismantle institutionalized racism and systemic oppression while co-creating new systems that prioritize justice for all. Yet, we still need beauty, laughter, and love to truly flourish in the new world we create together.  

As my friend Marcus says, “healing begins at the wound.”  Those most impacted know the best solutions for their communities, and we, as climate activists and organizers, must follow their lead and support their efforts.  When I come to this work, I find grounding in the following quote from adrienne maree brown: “Humble yourself to what is.  Accept that this is what has unfolded so far.  Notice that you have your whole life to shape what comes next.”   

Throughout this last week of 30 Days of Love, we encourage you to listen, learn, reflect, and take actions through the lens of climate justice to shape a more just and equitable future for all.

We have the Order of Service posted for this year’s Side With Love Sunday, and will have the entire service available on February 7.

Climate change is a wicked problem that does not have one simple, easy fix, but rather holds an abundance of possibility grounded in hope for our shared future.  I’m grateful to be doing this together with you.

In community,

Rachel Myslivy
Climate Justice Organizer, UUA Side With Love Organizing Strategy Team

Week Four of 30 Days of Love is here!

I’m learning and growing – join me? Announcing Side with Love’s Skill Up Spring Series

8 February 2022 at 17:02

As we gear up for UU the Vote 2022, I am excited to tell you about our Spring 2022 Skill Up Series!

But first, let me tell you about my learning journey last week, participating in the UU Ministers’ Association Institute for the Learning Ministry. I immersed myself in worship and thought-provoking keynotes. I played cello as part of a ritual of lament with fellow members of the Committee on Anti-Racism and Anti-Oppression and Multiculturalism. I had FOMO (fear of missing out) as I made dinner for my children during seminar time, but I also got to take in some parts of it that fed my soul and challenged my mind in evocative ways. 

Lifelong learning and the ever-unfolding of our paths is central to Unitarian Universalist practice. For me as a “good student,” my habit is to want to show up on time, fully, for everything, and do it all right. 

The lesson I keep learning – with many of you all as my teachers and community of accountability – is that there are no “good students” in organizing for love and justice. There is no such thing as straight A's in organizing (or in life, for that matter!). There are simply learners and fellow learners.  

There are those many of us who ”have to cast [our] lot with those who age after age, perversely, with no extraordinary power, reconstitute the world,“ (to quote white queer poet Adrienne Rich)

I am so grateful to have cast my lot with you all and am honored to join the Side with Love staff team as a permanent staff member – this will allow us to keep building our learning and organizing opportunities like the Skill Ups, Squads, and Action Center gatherings. Our Skill Ups are designed to help you learn AND practice a concrete skill  so that it’s in your toolbox when your organizing calls for it.  

Will you join us to sharpen your skills this spring with our Skill Up Spring Series: Action Center 101 Soup to Nuts?

What is a Skill Up?

This is our monthly series of trainings on organizing skills to help build our UU the Vote and Side with Love Volunteer Squads and help YOU build stronger teams in your congregation and community. We'll start the session with some spiritual fun and then launch into our training. This is also a chance to find out how to get more involved as a Side with Love volunteer and meet members of the Volunteer Squads.

Sign up now to come live, or be the first to get the recordings!

Watch January

Hosting Events on the Action Center with Sarah Berel-Harrop, Squad Leader

February Sign Up

Creating Effective Guest Opinions and Letters to the Editor with Jeff Milchen, UUA Justice Communications Associate

March Sign Up

Grounding, Welcoming & Energizing with Canedy Knowles & Rev. Kristina Church, Side with Love Fun & Spiritual Nourishment Squad Coordinators.

April Sign up

The Art of the Ask with Nicole Pressley, UUA Side with Love Field & Programs Director

May Sign Up

"How Do I Get People to Care?!" Building Strong Grassroots Actions for Justice with Susan Leslie, UUA Side with Love Partnerships & Coalitions Organizer

Past Skill Ups

View past Recordings and resources on our Skill Up Resource Page . Topics include Slack, Canva, Zoom, recruitment, faith framing, one-on-ones and more! 

I look forward to seeing you in a Zoom or in Slack soon! 

 In service of faith, love, and beauty,

Rev. Cathy Rion Starr 


Side with Love Squads Coordinator / UUA Leadership Development Specialist 

I’m learning and growing – join me? Announcing Side with Love’s Skill Up Spring Series

The Eclipse of Our Lives

1 January 2022 at 00:06
By: Jack

CLF Member, incarcerated in TX

I’m a volunteer Suicide Companion, assigned to watch over and talk to other prisoners who are in crisis, severely depressed, who hear voices telling them to harm themselves, those who have found prison life beyond their ability to endure.

My schedule had me leaving my unit at 3am recently, only to find a gaggle of officers outside staring up at the moon, as it was nearing a total eclipse, something no other inmate was blessed to be outside to see.

As a Druid and practicing UU, we are taught that there are three facets we must honor—the Earth Path of nature awareness and natural living, the Sun Path of seasonal celebrations honoring the Sun’s cycles and the yearly cycle of growth and harvest, and the Moon Path. To live the Moon Path is to touch the divine energy that creates the universe and lives in all things. We do this through meditation and prayer, opening a wider awareness of the universe, ourselves, and our place in it.



Locked up, I seldom see the moon, since prison yards are islands of light at night, making the moon and stars invisible, and seldom are we even allowed out at night. So to see the full moon at 3am is true soul food. To see the moon nearly covered by the Earth’s shadow put my mind to thinking, meditating for days after.

The moon’s white color comes from the Sun’s rays. The blue tint is a reflection of the blue marble that is the Earth during the eclipse, the white and blue had become a dusky red-brown disk. I began to wonder if it was a reflection of my soul, my daily life. Prison has a way of tainting our lives with negativity and endless drama. It taints our Moon Path meditations and prayers.

Seeing the moon fainted by Earth’s shadow rather than the pure blue made me take stock of the red-brown reflection of my current life and the place I’ve allowed negativity to grow in it. The only way I’ve been able to do nearly 20 years behind bars has been to be positive, to reflect the pure blue, the pure white light of positivity, to not be drawn into the prison dramas and voices of negativity. Yet like the Moon’s eclipse, I’ve been eclipsed by those who live negative lives, those whose lives are drama, those who stare vacantly at nothing while the drug courses through their veins, and whose every waking minute is focused on finding something to alter their minds. I’ve allowed those who live negative lives, who live for drama, who live for conflict, and who live to escape reality to affect me.

My meditations since that 3am shocking visage have shown me the way out of my frustrating and negative prison games. The first way is to say: “No! I’m not going to play your games. I’ll be here to talk, if you need me to be a sounding board, to counsel you as a friend, but don’t bring your drama, your negativity to me. If you are going to do drugs, take it somewhere else, but I’ll gladly support you if you want to quit.”

At 76 with seven years to go on my sentence, I’m considered one of the trusted people by some, but to become a part of the problem negates my status as “old school,” and I begin to reflect the dull red-brown of the Moon’s eclipse and I begin to wallow in the my pity pot of negativity.

It was fated for me to see the total eclipse while over 1200 other inmates slept behind locked doors. It was fated for me to see the Moon’s Path when I had been sinking into the pit of negativity and feeling helpless to escape it. Once again the Moon’s path of reflective meditation allowed me to see the road to freedom from the negatives of prison life. It allowed me to be a touchstone for some who need me to listen and reflect, to help them overcome the ever-present negativity of prison life, the trap that we all face.

Buddha, the Goddess, Allah, or God of three persons — whichever — we are led when we open our lives to the creation of the universe, and we open our lives and our hearts to hear them speak to our souls.

To Whom It May Concern

1 January 2022 at 00:08
By: Gary

Dedicated to the CLF

CLF Member, incarcerated in SC

To Whom It May Concern
Last picked for softball
first to be blamed
taunted and jeered at
hiding in shame

To Whom It May Concern
Last born child of eight
awkward and confused
never feeling love
knowing only feeling abused

To Whom It May Concern
Told there’s no place for me
I would never fit in
God’s love is not for you!
no way to win


To Whom It May Concern
Rejected and ashamed
life as dark as night
love finally parted the clouds
at last I saw the light

To Whom It May Concern
I found a place at Christ’s table
there really is room for me
I have emerged from the abyss of despair
and at long last I am free


1 January 2022 at 00:09

When have you felt invited and welcomed as your full self?

CLF Member, incarcerated in SC

Growing up gay in the South, especially in the turbulent 1960s, was a childhood of secrecy and shame. The established mainstream churches preached intolerance and damnation on being “queer,” just as 11am on Sunday is still one of the most segregated hours of the week. I attended Sunday School, worship services, youth fellowship and never once did I truly feel part of all that was going on. I knew I was “different.” Sneaking into my father’s den, I scoured books, trying to decipher this mystery of who I was and where I fit in.

As the confusion of childhood became the certainty of adulthood, I was active in political campaigns on a local, state, and national level, and even sought local office myself. Still, the “full” person of me, who I am, could not be admitted, accepted, or even acknowledged. A gay politician in the South doesn’t go far. So I closeted myself and denied myself the freedom I observed others enjoy.

Strangely, as I’ve said before, incarceration has been a liberating experience. Having lost virtually everything (home, bank account, reputation), I had nothing to lose by emerging from the shadows of shame, and being me.


Still, my spiritual life lay vacant. I maintained a belief in the Divine and sought books on being gay and Christian, but could find no house of worship accepting. I gravitated to Buddhism, Wiccan, and explored Humanism, but my ingrained belief in “God,” and yes, in Jesus, would not let me enjoy any other faith fully. I tried the Metropolitan Community Church, which a friend had told me about, but could not find a willingness to admit a prisoner by those I contacted.

Then I discovered Unitarian Universalism and the CLF, and it was as if (waxing poetically), the clouds of gloom parted and a shaft of light finally appeared to my battered soul. Here was what I had sought! A church home. I can not only be me, but the CLF wanted me.  I felt the warmth, the love, the genuine desire to welcome me and show me the love of the Divine that I had been so long denied. I am still on a spiritual journey as I evolved in my relationship with God. The CLF allows me the freedom to explore, to reach for beyond the limits of church dogma, to finally enjoy my road to religious liberation. For I can be Wiccan, Christian, Buddhist, or none of the above, but most importantly, I can at long last be me — fully invited and welcomed just as I am.

CLF member, incarcerated in VA

I have found my home in music. Music is forgiving and it resonates not only physically, but also spiritually.

In singing with my congregation, the very attempt to harmonize with each other brings a sense of inclusion and belonging. Each note I contribute lends itself to the melody of the community’s worship. There is no past, no regrets — only a collaborative effort to unite our efforts into making something beautiful. There is a selfless giving of our individual talents, great and small alike, to convey the melody of a given piece of music.

In music, I feel valued and at home.

CLF Member, incarcerated in MA

What is to be truly invited in? Being yourself, letting who you truly are shine through, not be covered up, hidden. Not only that, but when you felt welcomed to be that person.

Growing up, there was always that expectation to fit in, to be like the rest of my family, so I was never able to relax, ultimately for my entire childhood. Being myself was frowned upon, because otherwise I was just too odd.


The side-effect of that was my happiness. I was typically a bit too serious, a bit dour, if you will. I existed but never really lived. It took major changes in my life, where and how I lived, to not only feel welcomed, but comfortable in my own skin.

Like many things in my life, the turning point, the linchpin, occurred once I became a husband and became a father. The first time I felt like I belonged was when our daughter was Dedicated.

My wife and I, by the Church’s altar, having our little one blessed. Her whole life was in front of her, and my life was now just truly starting. The two most important people in my life, the ones that I would lay down my life for, were there: one in my arms, one right next to me.

At the party afterwards, the celebration of introducing her to the world, was when it was acknowledged by my aforementioned family. My uncle came up to me and let me know that seeing me up there, with my wife and daughter, was the first time in 25 years that he had ever seen me happy.

Periodically. I think back on that, both the Dedication, and what my uncle said afterwards. That sense of belonging is hard to put into words, for it transcends description. It’s a feeling of perfection, a pinnacle obtained, a sense that everything is right in the world.

I miss that feeling. I miss them. In here, I don’t have that access; you’re not allowed to be your true self, to show that vulnerability. There’s a need to always have a front, a “tough guy” persona, which I am not. To be able to relax, welcomed to be yourself, is a treasure, and not noticed until it is lost.

Inviting You into Community

1 January 2022 at 00:10

As we enter the third year of the global pandemic, there has been a general malaise and exhaustion. We wonder when it will be over and we long for socializing in person, we long for gathering carefree. We long for the time when we receive an invitation to meet in person and we gratefully accept the opportunity to be with those we love.

Some of our most sacred moments in life start with an invitation. We are invited to witness weddings, celebrations of birth, memorials of loved ones just to name a fraction of the ways we gather. These times remind us of our connections to each other and to the community.

In community, we are invited to learn and grow. In community, we are invited to listen to the experiences of others and to share your experiences with them. In community, we are invited to be a part of a constant process of change that pulls us all towards liberation.

Choosing to be a part of a Unitarian Universalist religious community comes with a host of invitations.

It is in the religious community that we are invited to a way of being with one another. Through bringing our skills and gifts to bear in service to others, we find and express our calling. We invest in the institution of our congregation in real and meaningful ways. We are invited to be faithful stewards of a common mission.

Often, when we think about the invitation to stewardship, we understand that to be a request to financially support our congregation. And certainly, it is that, but it is so much more. We are also invited to participate. Members of the CLF serve our church as facilitators and moderators of online community groups, as members of committees that write grants and monitor our finances, leaders in our governance, and authors for our publications (like this one). Our congregants serve each other as pen pals, witnesses to the joys and sorrows in each others’ lives, and members of our circles and groups. Our congregants serve the world by working to make everyone free and building beloved community one small piece at a time.

You are invited. You are invited to the stewardship of the Church of the Larger Fellowship. To support one another and our common mission of liberation and justice. Over the years, the CLF has invited Unitarian Universalists to engage with our faith in myriad ways. We began as a monthly snail mail packet to soldiers in WWII and we have evolved to provide worship each week through a weekly live stream. We provide a ministry to incarcerated UUs who find sustenance in a liberatory faith. We are finding new and creative ways to invite all those who seek a liberal, loving community to engage with this expansive and inclusive faith.

As you flip through the pages of this month’s Quest, let it be an invitation into deeper reflection and contemplation.

In Faith from the Lead Ministry Team,

Christina Rivera
Aisha Hauser, MSW CRE-ML
Rev. Dr. Michael Tino

30 Days of Love is over. Now what?

16 February 2022 at 10:05

Our annual celebration known as 30 Days of Love has finished. This beloved tradition, which runs approximately from Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in January through Valentine’s Day in February, is an opportunity for us to collectively nurture our spirits, deepen our understanding of our shared faith, and take action on our values for collective liberation.

 Whether you joined in every event or haven’t heard of 30 Days of Love yet, we want to lift up some of the amazing gifts generated by our contributors and invite you to continue bringing love and justice to our world. The materials are free for your continued use, individually or in your congregations, and we invite you to share them widely in your community.

 While each of these weeks was thematic, we hope you saw how much overlap there was -- that each of these issues is deeply connected. Far from competing with each other, these four intersectional justice priorities that guide the UUA and Side With Love’s work are inextricably intertwined. When we deepen our analysis, build our skills, and nurture robust movements for justice in one “issue area,” we inevitably find ourselves working toward a shared vision of liberation with an ever-expanding circle of comrades in the struggle. 

Spiritual Sustenance

 Over the last five years, Side With Love has increasingly focused on offering events, resources, and recommendations to nurture joy, comfort, and relief to all of us who are fatigued by a world that can be hard, hurtful, and scary. What we call ‘spiritual sustenance’ is a range of offerings that we believe will feed your soul and hopefully replenish you when you are flagging. For 30 Days of Love 2022, our minister-in-residence Rev. Ali K.C. Bell curated weekly chalice lightings and meditations. These brief offerings, under 10 minutes, are original creations. Bookmark them for when you need a moment of respite or to share in an upcoming worship service or small group gathering. Explore our spiritual sustenance offerings.

 Political Education

 Each week of 30 Days of Love was dedicated to one of our intersectional justice priorities, and we invited organizers and thinkers who are leading in these areas to help ground us in why we need to do this work now. These sessions have been recorded and are available to view so individuals and congregations can anchor themselves in our prophetic justice-making moving forward. Explore our political education offerings.

 Multigenerational Playlists

 In addition to our political education webinars, we created ‘playlists’ around each week’s theme with shorter offerings for families to use together. The offerings range from music, read-alongs, poems, podcast episodes, and more, all oriented around a shared learning experience for people of all ages. Listen with your kids during a car-ride or watch a read-along before bed, and talk about our shared values of love over fear. Explore our multigenerational playlists.

 Side With Love Sunday Worship

 This year’s Side With Love Sunday Worship is called “What If I Only Had 30 Days to Love?”. It is available as a single video of the entire service or as discrete videos of each of the respective elements. If you haven’t yet planned your Side With Love Sunday, these resources are our gift to you and will remain available for use by congregations for free throughout the year. View our Side With Love Sunday Worship.

 So What’s Next?

 In this time that is full of tensions, stress, and competing demands, Side With Love is focused on identifying the campaigns and events in which we, as people of faith and conscience, can make an impact. As always, you can find ways to deepen your skills, connect with others, and take concrete action for justice through the Side With Love Action Center. These activities are updated regularly and are appropriate for individuals and congregational teams. 

 On March 30, join the UUA Commission on Social Witness for their Spring Social Witness Convening to organize, collaborate, and find support for your congregation's work on recent social justice statements as well as plan for justice-making in 2022.

 We also want to lift up the upcoming season of climate justice activism and organizing, Spring For Change 2022! We’re joining with UUMFE to offer this series of gatherings and actions to educate, inspire, and nurture connections, running March through May. Learn more and register at www.uumfe.org/resources/spring-for-change-2022.

We're grateful to be doing this work for shared liberation with you, and we're excited for what good we can do together this year.

30 Days of Love is over. Now what?

Representing the CLF at GA 2022

1 February 2022 at 00:05


Would you like to represent the Church of the Larger Fellowship at General Assembly (GA) this summer?

The CLF is entitled to 22 delegates at the UUA’s General Assembly, which will be held both online and in-person in Portland, OR from June 22-26, 2022.

You will be able to attend online or in-person workshops, programs, and worship services. Proof of vaccination for COVID-19 is required to attend in person.

As a delegate you will be able to vote during General Sessions. General Sessions will be held from 9:30-12:30pm PT on 6/23-6/25 and 12:30-2:30pm PT on 6/26. Delegates should be able to be online or in person to attend the majority of these General Sessions. CLF delegates vote their conscience on matters related to the denomination of Unitarian Universalism, and are responsible for their own expenses.

If you’d like to participate in GA 2022 in this role, please fill out the online application at clfuu.org/delegate-application. Visit the UUA’s General Assembly website at www.uua.org/ga for details.

Daily Compass

1 February 2022 at 00:06

The Daily Compass is a ministry of the Church of the Larger Fellowship crafted by Rev. Michael Tino of the Lead Ministry Team and other CLF staff members. It offers words and images to inspire spiritual reflection and encourage the creation of a more loving, inclusive and just world. Short reflections and prompts related to monthly themes are posted every day at dailycompass.org. The following are a few selections from February Daily Compass offerings.

Jumping for joyJoy

Amidst the harshness of our world, it is an important spiritual practice to claim (or reclaim) joy. To wrap it around us like a blanket against the coldness of our world. Joy keeps the ember of our soul burning when forces outside of us would conspire to snuff it out.

Find something today that makes you rejoice. Find something that makes you feel warm and alive.


Black, smiling womanResistance

In recent years, I have come to embrace joy as an act of resistance. There is so much evil and sadness out there and it was through reading and following Black activists that I realized that we can’t get lost in the idea of finding joy wherever we can.

How do you resist the evil and sadness of our world?


Mayhem bannerMayhem

We must find places to restore “our deep knowing that we have to take care of ourselves and each other with love and joy if we are to soulfully survive the world’s mayhem.”
—Heather Rion Starr

What is your place of refuge amidst mayhem? How is your joy restored?


Smiling, black womanWholeness

“I have learned to trust those who are witnesses rather than gurus, those who express their confusion as well as their knowledge, and those who share their suffering along with their joy.”
—David Rankin

Practice being a whole, authentic person with someone you trust.

Lead with Examples

1 February 2022 at 00:08
By: Adrian

CLF Member, incarcerated in FL

What do I think of the Quest Monthly theme?

How joy from within will be as a light beam,
when you live in the present moment,
connecting and uniting with humanity
Start now and make a covenant,
with the I am I am within

Interconnectedness through humility,
We are one so count me in…

Balance, spirit, covenant, and race:
all part of my daily compass
Union, embodiment, creativity, and grace:
What I will express en-mass

But first I must connect
with divine love within and not neglect,
the mission of compassion today,
touching hearts with my words and
leading with examples one way.


1 February 2022 at 00:09

How do you practice and cultivate joy, especially when times are hard?

Double-Edged Joy

CLF Member, incarcerated in CA

“ I slept and dreamt that
    life was joy.
I awoke and saw that
    life was service.
I acted and beheld
    service was joy.”
—Rabindranath Tagore

Joy is one of the few things we humans desire for its own sake. It inspires us to pursue our highest ideals and is the fuel of hope when the fell clutch of circumstance gives us no season to continue. The swell and rush, the soaring of the heart, the urge to smile and laugh and dance: we dream of life being filled with such joy.

There is, however, a dark side to joy. Too much can be an easy lure into complacency or can feel like a veil hiding our problems from ourselves. Depression has its secret joys — the enticing liberation from the duties upon our weary shoulders. Drugs are abused exactly because they throw a euphoric haze over the brain, even as they rob it of chemical self-reliance. Then there is the dogmatic zealot, who condemns, while reveling in the joyous throes of blind faith. Joy can lead away from service to our better angels.

Where does that leave us? Should we moderate our joy? I think we are better off rethinking joy: it is a practice we can cultivate. We can learn to find joy in the small details of life, the everyday gifts we largely take for granted. We do not have to wait for disaster to rob us of our bounty to finally appreciate it — that is the power of a spiritual practice. For me, having a liberal spirituality calls me to love the world as it is right now. It helps me see the beauty everywhere and resist the darker joys that try to pull me away from my own path. I want joy to better serve me so that I might better serve others. That is a joy worth having.


CLF Member, incarcerated in NY

Joy is all too rare behind bars, yet it is here that I experienced its power.

After a year of legal proceedings, I was transferred to a state facility. Arriving well into the evening I was physically stunned at the intimidating walls, razor wire, and unearthly lights from the towers creating a forbidding estate — ghostly and lifeless. If the prison designers intended to conjure Dante (Abandon All Hope All Yet who Enter Here) they succeeded.

Soon I received a letter from my aunt saying she was planning to visit me. I considered writing to wave her off. I longed to see her, but how can I be so selfish as to allow her to experience the visceral injury that is arriving here and being subjected to visitor processing. I did not write.

After a long hug and happy greetings, I told her how I worried for her, entering a totally depressing environment. She held my hand and said, “As I pulled up, all I felt was joy for seeing you.”

What an incredible gift! Circumstance did everything to defeat joy. Ignoring the circumstance, she lovingly created joy for both of us.

CLF Member, incarcerated in NC

How do I cultivate joy, especially when times are hard? Well, the first thing I do is wiggle my toes, move my legs and arms, open and close my eyes, remembering that all things I can physically do with my body should not be taken for granted, and I thank the higher power for those gifts.

I also give thanks for many other things. Even though I am in prison, there are many blessings if I count them. Food, water, shelter, clean clothes, and a clean comfortable bunk to sleep on. Even though many of the people surrounding me have been sentenced for violent offenses, I somehow feel safe and serene.

I have plenty of time to study and plenty of material to fuel my desire for self improvement, as well as knowledge of self. I have a budget that allows me to buy things I want. I have a job that allows me opportunities to serve others, which allows me to take my mind off myself for a change as well. I have a release date, which some people in here do not.

I have developed a meditation practice which has begun to calm the stormy hail-field of my mind, parting the clouds and fog slowly, allowing me to realize many things and gain insight on developing a purpose-driven life.

So anytime things seem to get hard, and I feel down and out, I practice these steps, and I pray to my creator and all is good, and ask forgiveness for any past violation against the order of goodness and love. I ask for the peace that surpasses all understanding to come over me, and that’s when I receive the gift of joy, and how I cultivate it daily. This was not an overnight result, it is a practice, one that I have and will continue to revise and allow to evolve in my life. Even though I am in prison, and still have some time to go, I have significant hope for the future, and I’m filled with joy when I think of how far I’ve been brought out of the pit of despair that I found myself in prior to being incarcerated. I am blessed and look forward to future opportunities to bless others as part of my spiritual quest here on this earth. ′

CLF Member, incarcerated in VA

I practice and cultivate joy by helping others through these times of hardship — and I still take time for myself to connect with our Creator and Savior so that I can remain in a joyous spirit, to continue passing joy to those that come to me, or I find in my walk of the day.

I surround myself, even when the negativity surrounds me, with the light from who created us, and remind myself that this is all part of the “plan.” I believe that all is part of the trials and tribulations that we have to go through until it, the whole plan, is put to rest and made new and everlasting.

So, surround yourself with this knowledge — seek and you shall find, as all you have to do is ask and receive and know that one must have faith. Believe and fight the good fight and it (the Joy) will come in time. Seek friends, company, to help bring you out of the funk you might be in.

Be hopeful, be around others, and activate the energy to create the joy needed for our lives.

CLF Member, incarcerated in TX

I’m a 50-year-old menopausal Black mother of three, who has been living in a non-air conditioned solitary confinement cell the size a parking space for the past five and a half years.

In this environment, which has been designed for human torture and suffering, the holidays are always a time of increased suicides and suicide attempts. I practice and cultivate joy by “mothering” the many 17-19 year old adolescents living with me in here.

It’s fulfilling to offer guidance and life lessons in kindness to other people’s children, as I would my own. I can only pray and hope the Universe will reciprocate for my three children. These acts of love and kindness provide an immense sense of purpose for me.

Whole and Holy

1 February 2022 at 00:10

SpiralI came fractured, I healed, and now I live in a stained glass mosaic of faith. The ME you see is a collection of shards, reconfigured and made into a whole new kind of beautiful.

I am proof that spiritual growth is both possible and worth it, proof that life is such a beautiful, complicated mess.

I grew up in a home where faith was spoken but never personally practiced. I know the words of belief, but not the behaviors. We swore to g*d, but we never visited a house of worship. I learned reverence for faith, but I never adopted a faith ideology.

As a teen, I came out to myself as a bisexual. This knowing was huge and shaped much of my life at the time. In parallel, having always been drawn to topics of faith, I began seeking out a faith community.

The churches I attended told me two things: I was a divine creation of g*d, AND g*d was casting me into hell for being bisexual. I tried to reconcile these two juxtapositions. I lived as a sacred creature of g*d who was also hell-bound. I took on the posture of the unredeemable.

In 2000, I took a job at a local Unitarian Universalist (UU) Church, a faith/church/ way of relating to g*d that was new to me. I treated that first community like a hostile suspect. I took on the posture of a disbeliever. Who were these people? Where is the sales pitch? When do we talk about my time in hell? 

My suspicion dissolved when I learned more about the seven principles of UU, communal rituals, and social justice dedication. This faith was not asking me to worship a book or man; the ask was to join a beloved community aspiring to be their best self.

This invitation was the gateway I needed to dive “heart first” into the faith community and bring myself whole/ holy. You can see the evolution of my journey as I have moved from lay leader, paid staff, and now as a minister in training. I have come a long way in 20 years. And over time, I have gained a posture of spiritual maturity and curiosity.

My faith looks like being a community member, volunteering on different committees, and financial stewardship. It includes the hosting of altars for African Ancestors, participating in seasonal rituals, movement as prayer, and by no means is bound to Sunday morning.

I used to say I came to UU whole, but that was not true. I stumbled into this faith with open wounds and deep scars that needed severe tending.

I stayed because the approach to healing was holistic, encompassing, and expansive.

I remain because I believe that access to spiritual healing will be a crucial component in our freedom fight.

Can you imagine what systems we could dismantle if we came to work from a place of healed + honored wholeness?

That is what I am working toward, what I believe is necessary and possible.

A stained glass mosaic of faith, reconfigured and made into a whole new kind of beautiful.

Whole and holy.

From Texas to Ukraine: Interdependence Over Imperialism

25 February 2022 at 13:15

Dear Beloveds,

There is so much to mourn. As Russia invades Ukraine, the violence has already killed hundreds and displaced thousands, and presents terrifying possibilities for escalation toward global war. In Texas, Governor Abbott’s most recent efforts to prevent kids from receiving life-saving gender affirmation care will lead to the trauma and death of our precious trans and non-binary children. 

Our hearts are heavy today. On top of the deep weariness and fear we collectively have been navigating, these latest headlines feel like too much to bear. We are with you in grief and rage. 

Both the invasion of Ukraine and this latest attack on trans children stem from legacies of imperialism and colonization, rooted in the belief that one group of people should have authority over the decisions and freedoms of another. And as centuries of human history have shown, whenever the State prioritizes its own ideology and interests over the agency and self-determination of the people, violence is inevitable. 

Our faith aspires to build a different kind of world. At its best, Unitarian Universalism gracefully holds at its center a reverence for both the individual and the collective. Our congregations covenant to affirm and promote “the inherent worth and dignity of every human being” alongside “respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.” In practice, this means working for a world in which individual freedoms are in balance with collective thriving. It means we must unequivocally reaffirm our commitment to protecting and supporting our trans and non-binary family, in Texas and across the globe. It means we must elect and hold accountable leaders who have the power to resist and repair the wounds of colonialism and imperialism, working at the global level for policies that uphold the dignity of all peoples and the well-being of our Earth and the entire human family. 

Sometimes, the overwhelming flood of emotions on a day like today can make us freeze with fear and powerlessness. The good news, however, is that because our struggles for justice are so deeply interconnected, we can always take meaningful actions that are part of much bigger solutions. In the words of the Transgender Education Network of Texas today: 

From denying our freedom to decide when, if [and] how to start a family, to blocking Black, young [and] new Americans' freedom to vote, to banning children from learning the truth of our past so they can shape a better future, politicians… hold onto power by dividing us. This handful of politicians know that if we join together, we will demand the basic rights and resources that all of our families need and deserve – and we will win.

In the coming days and weeks, there will be lots of opportunities for collective action in service of that world we yearn for and imagine together. As always, Side With Love will be in conversation with our partners, discerning how Unitarian Universalists can best serve the movements working for justice–and we will support UUs across the country in taking meaningful action. Interfaith coalitions are already making plans to secure refugee and temporary protected status for people displaced by the invasion of Ukraine, and we are working closely with state and national organizations to mobilize protection for trans children in Texas and to strategically combat anti-trans legislation nationwide. Stay tuned through our Action Center for concrete ways to get involved.

Until then, know that you are part of a great network of people working in a thousand different ways to create that world in which we are all both radically free and radically interdependent. Pray, weep, march, connect, agitate, fundraise, shout–do whatever your spirit needs to ground again in the wellspring of hope and imagination that will sustain you to take your shift when the time comes. 

We are grateful to be in it together for the long haul.

In faith and solidarity,

Rev. Ashley Horan
Organizing Strategy Director 
Side With Love - Unitarian Universalist Association

From Texas to Ukraine: Interdependence Over Imperialism

Quest March 2022

1 March 2022 at 00:00

March 2022

All are caught in an inescapable
network of mutuality, tied in a single
garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects
all indirectly.
–Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


General Assembly Delegate Information

1 March 2022 at 00:05

UUA General Assemby


The February 2022 issue of Quest included information about 2021 General Assembly by error.

 Apologies for the mistake! Below is information about becoming a CLF delegate for the 2022 General Assembly.

Would you like to represent the Church of the Larger Fellowship at General Assembly (GA) this summer? The CLF is entitled to 22 delegates at the UUA’s General Assembly, which will be held both online and in-person in Portland, OR from June 22-26, 2022.

You will be able to attend online or in-person workshops, programs, and worship services. Proof of vaccination for COVID-19 is required to attend in person.

As a delegate you will be able to vote during General Sessions. General Sessions will be held from 9:30-12:30pm PT on 6/23-6/25 and 12:30-2:30pm PT on 6/26. Delegates should be able to be online or in person to attend the majority of these General Sessions. CLF delegates vote their conscience on matters related to the denomination of Unitarian Universalism, and are responsible for their own expenses.

If you’d like to participate in GA 2022 in this role, please fill out the online application at clfuu.org/delegate-application. Visit the UUA’s General Assembly website at www.uua.org/ga for details.

A Message To The Community: A Letter From Prison

1 March 2022 at 00:06
By: Reggie

CLF Member, incarcerated in PA

Drawing of hands holding sunflowerI offer my condolences to the families who have lost loved ones
And became victims to the violence

I offer my apologies for having been derelict in my duty and responsibility as a man
In not being the guardian, educator, and leader my communities needed
In order to be vital and life-affirming

I want to inform you that it is my goal to counteract
the insanity of the destructive mindset
And I do not embrace those who prey upon any people
But particularly, my people

I want my voice to be heard:
Let the violence, drug dealing, physical, and spiritual
abuse of the communities stop

As a man, I want it to be known that I have come to value and recognize
That the children need and deserve a safe and secure
environment in which to grow and develop,
Be educated, have access to equal opportunities to excel
And become who the Creator intended them to be

I ask that everyone reading or hearing this looks at a child
Whether at home, school, at play, in church, or mosque, and consider these words:

I am the African child

The whole world awaits my coming, all the earth
watches with interest
To see what I shall become
Civilization hangs in the balance; for what I am, the
world of tomorrow will be

I am the African child

You have brought me into this, about which I know
You hold in your hand my destiny
You determine whether I shall succeed or fail
Give me, I beg you, a world where I can walk tall and proud
Train me, as is your duty unto me
To love myself, and my people
And to build and maintain a great nation
It is I who proclaim

I am the African child

The whole world awaits my coming, I shall not delay it
For I too have a dream

Forgive Us Our Trespasses

1 March 2022 at 00:08

In April of 2019, I led a youth and adult delegation from the local congregation I serve on a service-learning trip to Pine Ridge, South Dakota. We engaged in a year-long series of learning sessions about Native American history, with an emphasis on the history, spirituality, teachings, and practices of the Lakota people.

Our time at Pine Ridge began with a tour of important sites on the reservation. I wrote this after returning from Wounded Knee, site of the 1890 massacre of nearly 300 Lakota people by the United States Army. I was reminded then that our interdependence transcends not only place but also time—and that in order to make a better future we must learn about and atone for the sins of the past.

Forgive Us Our Trespasses

(Pine Ridge Reservation, 4.14.19)

How do you prepare
to visit the site of genocide?
Where the soil has been stained
with the blood of innocents?

If you’re Jewish, perhaps
you find a small, smooth stone
and carry it reverently
to place on the grave of
Lost Bird, infant survivor,
kidnapped and sold and displayed
like a trophy.
We remember you, you might say.

I took a walk with friends
up a steep, snowy hill
to pray,
to see the sun set,
to feel close to the Earth.
Along the muddy path
the meadowlarks trilled and chirped
from their hidden nests
amidst the dry grass
blessing the journey
with their song.

At Wounded Knee, we listened.
First to an oral history of a people who survive, told
with sage burning for purification,
eyes closed in memory of
the inherited trauma of generations.

And then,
after the stories,
to the meadowlarks.
The lost birds singing
through time
across borders
announcing the holiness
of the ground on which we stood.


1 March 2022 at 00:09

What does it mean to live interdependently?

CLF Member, incarcerated in TX

RiverTo be interdependent is to depend on one another. Living in a way that not only allows interaction and participation with others, but encourages and is founded on such principles.

It can be one living within a fully functioning community of like minded individuals, or simply a fellowship of individuals living separately operating as a collective. Either way, it is an active union amongst individuals.

To live interdependently is to give, receive, and share what one has to offer with others. It is to allow yourself to rely on and trust others outside of yourself to meet needs in your life.

In a way, it is an acknowledgment through lifestyle choice that we as humankind are meant to live in connection with life outside ourselves. It is a need that when not fulfilled, we are left with a feeling of incompletion. Can anyone truly make the claim that they have met every need in their life without the assistance of anyone else?

When I have people around me as a part of my life whom I can depend and rely on, my life seems as though it flows more easily and is not as restricted. It opens up more and new possibilities in my life to explore.

CLF Member, incarcerated in VA

Island with palm trees“No man is an island.” This is a quote that most of us heard early in life, along with such aphorisms as, “two wrongs don’t make a right,” and “slow and steady wins the race.” But what does it actually mean, this figure of speech that brings to mind palm trees and coconuts?

I would like to think that the meaning of this saying lies under the fact that each of us, as individuals, as families, as communities even, live in ways that are interdependent with one another. By this I mean that each of us, whether intentionally or not, affect the lives of those around us — and it is up to each of us to decide whether it is for the good of others or not. In the same way that a soft breeze can throw a flurry of oak leaves in the autumn, so can the simple act of a friendly gesture, a smile, or a sharp word affect the outcome of someone else’s day.

In this way, each of us is interdependent with everyone else — we are each free to act as we will, but with the knowledge that our actions affect others, not just ourselves.

CLF Member, incarcerated in WA

I used to believe that the only way to be successful was to be independent, and that meant that I needed nobody’s opinions, teaching, or help. This worked well all the way up until about 4th grade. At that point, I wasn’t getting picked to play on anybody’s team. I was an outcast and alone.

I had to come up with a solution, and my solution was to ask for help. Knowing who to ask and when developed over time, and I created a network of friends, family and spiritual leaders that guide me interdependently.

Please don’t ever be afraid to ask for help. I believe that God intends for us to need each other!

CLF Member, incarcerated in MA

Spider webAs COVID has shown us, we live in an interconnected world. One life affects another, distance no longer isolating each of us. Mind you, to combat this virus, we physically had to distance — which highlighted our need for physical connection, many not realizing until it was too late how much we depended upon each other, needed each other.

For we do need each other. We all have something to contribute. Some may say that those of us in prison don’t do anything to help; I feel the same way about the talking heads that say this. It may be hard, and there are those that feel they don’t owe anything to the greater world, but we do help, in our own way.

Beyond that dichotomy, looking all around, you see new and inventive ways for people to connect and stay connected. That human interaction cannot be stopped, for it is a part of our core, as essential as the air we breathe.

There are those that isolate, not in a medical sense, but a geopolitical one. They feel that they don’t need anyone, that caring for the hurt and downtrodden is not only beneath them, but it is their right to, well, tread on them. It’s sad, for in the end, not even they gain from these actions.

For we all need each other, Everyone has something that they can do, something that is needed by another, not only to live, but to thrive. You can exist without others, but can only prosper with the support of others.

The Aunties Have Always Known

1 March 2022 at 00:10

When I was a teenager, I loved Ralph Waldo Emerson, particularly his essay on self-reliance. Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind. I repeated these words to myself often. Back then my family was large and everyone knew everyone’s business. This was by design. As somewhat recent immigrants, we had learned how to keep our family safe. My mom and aunties would often prod me on the details of my life, cross-referencing information, verifying. I kept several diaries at that time, some of them in code, because I knew that if my diary was discovered it was getting read. Probably by more than one person.

All of this was done for your own good, they liked to tell me, because they loved me. And I felt loved. I also felt stifled. I planned my escape to a mythical land of self-reliance, where one day I could do for myself alone and not worry what anyone else thought. Think Henry David Thoreau, but Doc Marten boots, drug addiction, and a basement apartment in downtown Seattle.

My journey of rebellious self-reliance indeed led me to some mythical places, but they were scary, too. And self-destructive. It took many years of sobriety for me to finally appreciate my family. During some of the worst days of my addiction, those same aunties helped my mom pull me out of drug dens and bring me home. These are the kind of aunties who will drop everything when called, pick you up from anywhere you ask, and bring along a plate of salami and bread in case you’re hungry. They arrive early to help and stay late to clean up and they never ask for anything in return. They know how to care for you because they know you. They take the time to get up in your business and ask.

The aunties know that Emerson’s idea of self-reliance is a white supremacist lie. And it is always, ultimately, self-destructive. None of us, no matter who we are, relies on ourselves alone. Not even Thoreau, who was famously cared for by his aunties, too. The aunties have always known. We are all inherently interdependent, meaning mutually dependent, dependent on one another to survive. Without community care—without a multitude of generations leaning into that interdependence and making use of it—none of us will make it. The earth and its creatures can live no other way.

Emerson was wrong. It isn’t self-reliance that secures the integrity of my mind, but self-care. And even that doesn’t secure the integrity of my soul. For the integrity of my soul, I look to my community: my family, my ancestors, the earth, all the communities of people who claim me, and my body, as I claim myself. For the integrity of my soul, I build resilience by building relationships. I follow the example of my aunties, asking for help when I need it and showing up for others when they need me. Interdependence means we rely on one another. We depend upon each other. We actively care. It is the very opposite of self-reliance. And in this time of global pandemic and social revolution, it is the only way we will survive.

Join us on 3/15 to learn how to combat anti-trans legislation in your state

9 March 2022 at 15:50

Refusing someone affirming care does not make them less trans, it makes them less safe. Trans kids are just kids. They deserve protection and admiration, not legalized bullying from the government.  

 Trans kids are Divine. Trans kids are God, Godde, Goddess, Love, Life embodied. Trans kids are holy.

 -- UU Church of Tallahassee Director of Religious Exploration Helen Cassar

Currently, there are approximately 150 anti-transgender bills moving through state legislatures across the country. From banning participation in sports, to so-called "bathroom bills," to legislation that criminalizes providing life-saving gender affirming health care, these bills are deadly for trans and nonbinary people of all ages.

To those of you who are trans, non-binary, genderqueer, gender fabulous, and those of you with children, grandkids and other loved ones who are gender fabulous: we see you in your beauty and wholeness. We send you our love in these scary times.  Our upcoming training may be exactly what you need, or you may have other ways you need to take care of yourself as you and your family face these attacks. Take care of yourself.

To our allies, and gender fabulous folks ready to take action: join Side With Love's Rev. Michael Crumpler and Rev. Ashley Horan for a conversation on March 15th with our friends at the Trevor Project about this horrifying trend, and what we can do to Side With Love on behalf of our trans and nonbinary kin everywhere. This 101 level webinar will educate and inspire so we may side with love and publicly declare that trans lives are sacred. 

Register Now

Join us on 3/15 to learn how to combat anti-trans legislation in your state

How do we center justice in the climate movement?

11 March 2022 at 14:02

How do we center justice in the climate movement? Like many climate activists, the urgency of climate change drives my action.  That urgency encouraged me to affirm solutions like 100% renewables no matter the cost…until I started recognizing the costs. Without centering justice, our climate work “saves the planet” for a select few at the expense of countless others. Without climate justice, we sacrifice the people who are least responsible and most impacted.  

It’s easy to say, “we must center justice!” We know it is much harder to do the work.  Even with the best of intentions, we struggle to create the trusting relationships critical to transforming our future.  And even with the deepest of convictions, we struggle to sustain our energy for the long haul climate justice journey. As people of faith, we are called to transformative justice. We are called to deep reflection that moves us into intentional action. We are called to life-affirming hope. And we are called to strengthen and celebrate one another in our work for faithful climate justice.  

image of invitation to climate convergence

As individuals and communities, we also must recognize that complex problems like climate change don’t have a single, easy solution. The intersecting impacts of colonialism, extractive energy practices, corporate greed, and dominionism require us to think and act strategically at those intersections. We have to listen to and learn different ways of understanding and being as we cultivate accountable relationships with frontline communities.  We need to - we are called to - embrace curiosity, shared leadership, and transformation in our shared climate justice movement.

So, how do we develop those real relationships? How do we welcome and expand a broader leadership potential in our communities and our congregations? What can we do to create climate justice in ways that honor the sacred relationships we have with each other and our global community?

In the spirit of collaborative transformation, we invite you to join the upcoming Congregational Climate Convergence on March 22. This convergence will help us share and shape our various climate ministries with a systems approach and framework for engagement. Featuring case studies from Unitarian Universalists centering justice in the climate movement and engaging a broad spectrum of leadership, we will hold community conversations about how our climate work reflects our shared values. We will explore how to amplify and ground our work in Unitarian Universalist community with support from the Side with Love Action Center. We will remind ourselves and each other that we are not alone.

We are excited to have the opportunity to come together to connect, learn, and share. See you at the Convergence!

In community,

Rev. Ranwa Hammamy, Congregational Justice Organizer  

Rachel Myslivy, Climate Justice Organizer

UUA Side With Love Organizing Strategy Team

How do we center justice in the climate movement?

BLUU Announces 2021 Survey Results and Gives Restructure Update

14 March 2022 at 10:15

In spring 2021, BLUU launched a survey for all Black folks who are in community with us. We wanted to know why our community engages with us, when BLUU’s work is most impactful, and where we have some opportunities for growth.

Sixty-three people responded to the survey and gave us in-depth feedback about their experiences with and hopes for BLUU. Those who responded represented many ages, sexual orientations, regions, and genders.

While we released this survey last year, we still believe these survey results can teach us about the current state of what our community needs. We took a programmatic pause shortly after the survey was released to do organizational restructure work. (Most of BLUU’s programming is still on hiatus.)

Here is a summary of our survey results and how they impact our current restructure process.

Why does our community need BLUU?

BLUU represents many things to different people, but there were three main themes that draw people to learn more about BLUU. 1. Community (Black Sacred Space, Black-Centered Space, Black-Exclusive Space, Black-Affirming space.) 2. Worship (Spiritual Sustenance, Justaposed to UU congregations, Welcoming/Belonging, Liberation.) 3. Social Justice/Activism. (Making UU more inclusive, Equality, living the values, Building a new way.)

Based on survey results, there are three main reasons Black folks are a part of BLUU’s community. BLUU community members are seeking community, worship, and connection to social justice/activism.

It is important to BLUU community members that BLUU offers Black sacred space, or space specifically for and centering the voices of Black people. People who had an interest in BLUU social justice/activism had a particular interest in making Unitarian Universalism more inclusive.

More than 50% of respondents reported that they had no unmet needs from BLUU. For those who would like additional offerings from BLUU, the requests spanned across three main categories: Spirituality, Localization, and Additional Programming.

What is BLUU doing well?

a picture of a Black person smiling, looking away from the camera. Text next to the picture says: Conclusions: Love BLUU programming and want more of it. Supporting conclusions: Want recordings of worship, want in person programming, want expanded programming. Programming = offerings directly accessible by participants; opportunites to engage with the organization.

People enjoy how we gather. BLUU virtual worship continues to be a meaningful resource of spiritual sustenance for our community. Our community lives in many regions, so many of our community members would value having worship available to watch later if they can’t make a live, virtual service.

“There has been this beautiful sense of community and love in every service I’ve been able to attend,” one survey respondent said. “I have attended a number of faith communities over the years and this has been the only one that felt real.”

Another survey respondent said, “It really aligns with my current beliefs and where I am in life and it leaves room and supports growth. I love that it centers Black voices and our Black experiences in all its various forms. I do not have to dismiss my religious upbringings to grow in my spirituality and adopt new practices.”

While worship is a core part of BLUU’s offerings, our community wants us to expand our programming so folks can also gather in other ways.

BLUU Convenings and the Harper-Jordan Symposium were powerful experiences for people to embrace the liberating power of Unitarian Universalism through a Black-centered experience. Although we’ve understandably not been gathering during the COVID-19 pandemic, people miss our in-person gatherings.

What are BLUU’s opportunities for growth?

Picture of Black person looking into distance, wearing scarf. Text reads: Conclusions: Don’t know how to engage/support. Supporting conclusions: Mission unclear. Structure unclear. Hard to know where to get answers. Engagement is ties to an organization, feeling part of the mission and compelled to support efforts.

The survey makes it clear that we have work to do to make sure our community members know how to engage with us and know how to give us feedback. People in our community expressed not knowing how to get involved with BLUU and feeling frustrated they can’t get a response to their questions about our work or our programming. Folks also said they experience a lack of engagement with their ideas when they share them with BLUU leadership.

Others named positive interactions with individual leaders in BLUU that keep them engaged with BLUU despite dissatisfaction with overall community engagement.

“All these experiences, but especially the website content and application questions, put me under the impression that I am not welcome… like BLUU is a restrictive and exclusive club,” one survey respondent said. “And that is absolutely bizarre because everyone is so nice via Zoom and email. l decided to just be content participating in the online worship gatherings for as long they are offered.”

Community members also shared confusion about BLUU’s mission and vision. People were confused about both our organizational structure and what it means to be a BLUU member, or “BLUU Beloved.”

What’s next?

There are three pictures. One is of BLack people in worship, one is of Black folks at a protest marching, and one is of a Black masculine person giving a speech. Text says: Programming: Reassess programming against the defined needs reported by respondents. Structure: Clarify structure and goals. Communication: Define a comms strategy that prioritizes responsiveness and cohesiveness so that information is accurate and timely.

We have been working with AORTA, a movement-based organizational change organization, to do a deep dive into our organizational culture and how that culture contributes to some of the opportunities for growth named in our survey. We know that how we work and communicate together impacts how we show up for the wider BLUU community.

Our new Developmental Board Chair, Natasha Walker, is doing an organizational diagnostic. This will help us consider what structural changes need to be made so that our work is clearer internally and therefore easier to explain and engage people in more broadly.

After our organizational pause is complete, we will have a new structure and refined mission for our organization that we can share with our community. This clarity of our structure will create the container for expanded capacity, which will help us expand our programming.

After our structure and workflows are clear, we will design and implement a communications strategy that prioritizes community engagement. This includes finishing work on a simplified, streamlined website that includes password-protected recordings of worship for Black folks.

We plan to engage our community members soon in our restructure conversations. There is no BLUU without community! We’re taking time to be discerning about the containers we create for community engagement and will share opportunities to connect with the Organizing Collective Board soon.

Thank You to Everyone Who Responded to Our Survey

We are so grateful to everyone who filled out the survey. We don’t take you for granted–the survey wasn’t short and the questions asked respondents to be vulnerable.

We are learning from your feedback and integrating it into our restructure work. Thank you for your continued support and trust in us.

Recording & Resources from Combatting Anti-Trans Legislation 101 Training

17 March 2022 at 15:45

Currently, there are approximately 150 anti-transgender bills moving through state legislatures across the country. From banning participation in sports to so-called "bathroom bills," to legislation that criminalizes providing life-saving gender-affirming health care, these bills are deadly for trans and nonbinary people of all ages.

Held March 15, 2022, this training featured Sam Ames, Director of Advocacy & Government Affairs for The Trevor Project; Rev. Erin Walter from Texas Unitarian Universalist Justice Ministry; and Rev. Lisa Garcia-Sampson from UU Justice Ministry on North Carolina, in addition to Side With Love staff Rev. Ashley Horan, Rev. Michael Crumpler, Rev. Ranwa Hammamy, and Adrian Ballou.

Recommended Actions from the training

  • If you are subject to a child protection investigation for supporting your trans/non-binary child, file an Investigative Complaint with the Office for Civil Rights 

  • If you are a cisgender congregational leader or religious professional, take our Spokesperson Training to learn how to talk about protecting trans lives 

Recommended Resources from the training

and finally, be sure to subscribe to our emails to be updated on our campaigns.

Recording & Resources from Combatting Anti-Trans Legislation 101 Training

Celebrating a More Inclusive Judiciary

18 March 2022 at 15:56

The timing of Judge Ketanji Brown Jack­son’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court--one day after Russia invaded Ukraine--understandably distracted attention from her selection. But Jackson’s ascent is a milestone we would appreciate and celebrate for multiple reasons. 

We knew President Biden’s nominee would be the first Black woman so honored, but the lack of surprise shouldn’t minimize the importance of breaking through 230-plus years of excluding Black women from the Supreme Court. Jackson brings impeccable credentials that inspired the Unitarian Universalist Association to join in supporting her nomination. Among decades of achievements, Jackson graduated with honors from Harvard Law School; clerked for Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer; and currently serves as a judge on the U.S. District Court of Appeals in Washington, DC. 

Jackson also will break another pivotal barrier by becoming the first public defender ever to serve on the Supreme Court and the first criminal defense attorney since Thurgood Marshall retired in 1991.

Such experience directly impacts the fates of criminal defendants, who are disproportionately people of color. Federal judges with criminal defense experience less often impose the longest potential sentences, a tendency true regardless of whether a Republican or Democratic president appointed the judge. Insight into the lives of defendants also leads those judges to more often assign community service or probation without incarceration.

Grassroots work driving change
Democratic and Republican presidents alike have stacked the federal courts with corporate lawyers and prosecutors. Those judges’ rulings overwhelmingly have facilitated mass incarceration while favoring large corporations over competing public interests. Under Chief Justice John Roberts, a stunning 70 percent of Supreme Court rulings aligned with briefs from the largest corporate lobbyist, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

President Biden’s pre-election calls to further escalate law enforcement spending and sustain criminalization of marijuana use, among other stances, raised concern among people seeking to reform the systemic class discrimination and racism embedded in our legal system. 

So justice advocates built a campaign to influence judicial appointments, including a “shortlist” of Supreme Court candidates who would diversify the bench (Judge Jackson was among them) and lobbied Biden’s advisors. Their work helped inspire a remarkable letter circulated by Biden’s transition team. It sought recommendations for judgeships, specifying “individuals whose legal experiences have been historically underrepresented on the federal bench, including those who are public defenders, civil rights and legal aid attorneys, and those who represent Americans in every walk of life.”

The promise of the letter is being fulfilled. Nominees to lower courts have diversified the bench in every way, including record numbers of women, people of color, public defenders, and civil rights lawyers. Biden filled more than three-quarters of open judgeships thus far with women and more than two-thirds with people of color—doubling the percentage of President Obama. 

Like Judge Jackson, those nominees proved building a more inclusive federal bench requires no compromise in the judges’ level of accomplishment. 

Though Jackson’s experience representing indigent clients in Washington, D.C. appears lower in news reports, that involvement gives her grounding likely to advance core UU principles of justice, compassion, equity, and the inherent worth of every person. She knows first-hand how our criminal justice system often mistreats the most vulnerable among us.

Of course, Jackson will likely be joining many dissents against a regressive supermajority until we install a Senate willing to expand and restore balance to the Court, but the accounts of justices who served with Thurgood Marshall—the first Black Supreme Court justice—tell us a unique personal perspective can influence the Court well beyond their vote.

As we and our congregations confront the urgent threats to peace, voting rights, LGBTQ+ rights, and more, let’s cherish the landmark nomination of Judge Jackson and the grassroots work helping improve our entire federal judiciary. Through celebrating our victories, we can draw needed inspiration to energize our ongoing struggles.

The writer, Jeff Milchen, is UUA’s Justice Communications Associate. Learn more about the UUA’s justice priorities.

For an in-depth and more nunanced look at now-Justice Jackson, see Ketanji Brown Jackson Is Neither Our Champion Nor Our Enemy.

Celebrating a More Inclusive Judiciary

UU the Vote 2022 launches April 10!

23 March 2022 at 10:21

Elections have consequences. Progress is not an incident, but the cumulative impact of our commitment to justice. Right now, we are witnessing one amazing and crucial consequence of the 2020 election, the nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jack­son to the US Supreme Court. 

But we know our work is not done. In both Judge Jackson’s confirmation hearing and in state legislatures across the country, hateful ideology and rhetoric are used as a political tool to win points or gain power at the expense of marginalized communities. We see reproductive rights under assault and attempts to systematically strip away voting rights. Our 2022 midterm election will have consequences. It is our work to support and build power in our communities to make justice the consequence. 

In 2020, UUs came out in historic numbers, responding to the moral call to combat the rise of fascism and white supremacist culture. UU the Vote reached millions of voters and made a discernible impact in pivotal states like Georgia, Wisconsin, and North Carolina.

This year, we’re leveraging the power we built in 2020 to grow our work and our impact. This year, we’re investing more resources in our state action networks, frontline partners, and volunteers. But we can’t get the work done without you! 

Join us for the launch of UU the Vote 2022!

We plan to kick off our UU the Vote work on Sunday, April 10 at 1pm PT / 2pm MT / 3pm CT / 4pm ET. This 90-minute live webinar will feature UUA President Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray, our state partners, and our new UU the Vote Campaign Manager. Learn how our program is going deeper into values-based conversation, showing up for ballot measures to combat voter suppression, fight for reproductive justice, and resist the criminalization of BIack, Indigenous, and people of color communities.

Will you join us to launch UU the Vote 2022?

Unitarian Universalists understand that democracy is a process and a practice. A movement for radical democracy requires us to create new coalitions and community partnerships to put power in the hands of the many, instead of the few. UU the Vote is part of Side With Love, which shares four intersectional justice priorities; we hope you’ll join us in connecting reproductive justice, LGBTQ+ justice, and climate justice with electoral justice.

Friend, you are a part of this sacred work. Please join us for the launch and learn how you can UU the Vote in 2022!

 Register for the launch event for UU the Vote 2022.

UU the Vote 2022 launches April 10!

Resources & Recordings from the 2022 Congregational Climate Convergence

29 March 2022 at 14:21

Over 300 people signed up for community nourishment, inspiration, and skillbuilding around climate justice on 3/22 as part of Spring for Change: A Season of Sacred Activism.

Quick links from the event:  

Summary of the Congregational Climate Convergence


After a warm and grounding welcome from Rev. Ashley Horan, the event started with a quick introduction to systems thinking and making connections on climate justice.  Climate Justice Organizer, Rachel Myslivy, shared two frameworks to shape the event, including the What? So what? Now what? framework from the Human Systems Dynamics Institute and a framework for cultivating meaningful dialogs through deep listening, direct speech, appreciative inquiry, and genuine appreciation.  


Case Studies.  Two congregations shared case studies to seed conversations among small groups.  Eva Berringer from First Unitarian Congregation of Ottawa and frontline partner, Kayoki Whiteduck, discussed ways to cultivate relationships with frontline communities focusing on the emerging partnership with First Unitarian Congregation of Ottawa and the youth Future Food Warriors at the Ajashki Food Security Initiative.  Ian Goddard from Northshore Unitarian Universalist Church (NSUU), located in Danvers, MA discussed the ways their Green Sanctuary Team reached out to front line organizers and by so doing also increased the percentage of congregation members and friends engaging the work with a particular focus on creative ways to increase engagement throughout the pandemic.   Ideas generated from the small groups were collected through Mentimeter and are available for viewing here and here.

Deepening Engagement.  After each case study, small groups came together to process the information, consider the implications, and frame next steps.  Using the What? So what? Now what? framework, Congregational Justice Organizer, Rev. Ranwa Hammamy posed questions for each group to consider.  Ideas generated from the small groups were collected through Mentimeter and are available for viewing here and here.

Action Center Spotlight.  The final portion of the convergence focused on the Now what? portion of the framework featuring a deep dive into the Side With Love Organizing Strategy Team’s Action Center.  Rev. Cathy Rion Starr provided participants with several actions to take, including joining Skill ups and Community of Praxis events.  Participants shifted from learning to action on the UUSJ Water Resources Defense Act (WRDA) action alert.  Hundreds of UUs learned about WRDA and took action!  Share the WRDA Action with your friends, family, and congregations!  Watch for a follow up click-to-call to contact your congressional representatives on WRDA.  

Throughout the event, Canedy Knowles of the Side With Love Fun & Spiritual Nourishment Volunteer Squad helped integrate mind and body and spirit with engaging activities that reinvigorated the group and helped us refocus for each section of the event. 

Side With Love would like to thank everyone who helped bring this Convergence together including

  • Rachel Myslivy, Climate Justice Organizer

  • Rev. Ranwa Hammamy, the Side With Love Congregational Justice Organizer

  • Rev Cathy Rion Starr, the Side With Love Action Center Squads Coordinator

  • Karen Brammer, Green Sanctuary Program Manager

  • Aly Tharp, Co-Director of UU Ministry for Earth,

  • Rev. Ashley Horan, Side With Love Organizing Strategy Director

  • Audra Friend, Digital Communications, Technology, and Data Specialist

  • Squad members Beth Posner-Waldron and Canedy Knowles

See upcoming programming for Spring for Change 2022, March 20 - May 22!

Resources & Recordings from the 2022 Congregational Climate Convergence

Hilary Otey joins BLUU as the Development and Administrative Coordinator

31 March 2022 at 11:15

Hilary Otey joins Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism (BLUU) as the Development and Administrative Coordinator. She will focus on supporting BLUU’s fundraising efforts, specifically connecting BLUU with UU congregations committed to ongoing financial support.

Selfie of a white woman smiling at the camera. She is wearing a light sweater and has shoulder-length hair.
Hilary Otey is BLUU’s newest team member.

Hilary Otey brings years of leadership experience and administrative coordination to her new role as BLUU’s Development and Administrative Coordinator. Before joining BLUU, she worked in organizations focusing on affordable and transitional housing, food justice, and economic development.

“I’m grateful I’ve had a wide variety of work experiences and opportunities to learn,” Hilary said.

Hilary will use her experience in justice-oriented work to support BLUU building fundraising and administrative infrastructure.

“I enjoy collaborating to build innovative approaches to mission-driven work,” Hilary said. “I’m excited to join BLUU to support the team in manifesting our shared values and strengthening BLUU’s capacity. I’m eager to learn and appreciate the opportunity to work with such a dedicated group.”

Hilary lives in St. Paul, Minnesota where BLUU headquarters is located. She will work closely with BLUU’s Executive Director, Lena K. Gardner, to process donations and other communications that come to BLUU’s office. Hilary will also work to build relationships with congregations who want to help sustain BLUU with pass-the-plate donations, multi-year giving commitments, and other forms of ongoing support.

“We’re grateful to have Hilary joining our team part time,” said Lena. “She is experienced, thorough, and committed, and we’re looking forward to continuing to build BLUU together.”

When she is not spending time with her three children, she is crafting, doing home repair projects, and playing dodgeball. Hilary also loves to learn and is currently learning American Sign Language (ASL).

Recording & Resources from Speak Up for Trans Lives: Spokesperson Training

7 April 2022 at 13:41

Hosted in March 2022, this training featured Sam Ames, Director of Advocacy & Government Affairs for The Trevor Project as well as Side With Love staff Rev. Ashley Horan, Rev. Ranwa Hammamy, and Adrian Ballou.

Webinar recording with video (80 minutes)

View our earlier webinar, Combatting Anti-Trans Legislation 101 with the Trevor Project

Other Links:

Recording & Resources from Speak Up for Trans Lives: Spokesperson Training

Statement from Side With Love on AL SB184

7 April 2022 at 13:47

Hours before the close of the 2022 legislative session, the Alabama state senate introduced some of the most harmful, comprehensive anti-trans legislation that has been proposed anywhere in the nation. If AL SB184 passes today, it will include a “Don’t Say Gay/Trans” provision, forced outing of LGBTQIA+ students, a bathroom ban, and the most extreme healthcare ban in the US, which could send doctors who provide gender-affirming healthcare to trans youth to prison for 10 years. 

Let us be clear: our faith unequivocally, fiercely, and unapologetically affirms that trans people are a divine and a beloved part of the human family. There is no law, no political rhetoric, that can diminish the inherent worth and dignity of trans and nonbinary people – that is endowed from the moment of birth, and can never be taken away. 

And, precisely because of this truth, our faith compels us to fight like hell against any law that would deprive trans and nonbinary people of  the basic human and civil rights that are necessary for human flourishing. Please, join us in taking action right now and demand Alabama House Speaker Mac McCutcheon vote no on SB184. Wherever you live, help make it clear that all eyes are on Alabama, and we’re ready to fight back against this cowardly, repressive legislation. Click here to call. 

Unfortunately, AL SB184 is just the latest in a national surge of anti-trans bills that are being used by the radical right to disseminate disinformation and whip up emotions (and votes) from the most regressive parts of their base. As we grow closer and closer to the midterm elections, we know we will see more of these cynical ploys by politicians – and we must respond by both fighting these insidious laws, and doing everything we can to reduce the harm they will inevitably cause to the trans and nonbinary beloveds in our communities

Trans beloveds, if you are struggling today, please know that you are not alone. If you need help, please connect with some of these affirming resources now:

We’re with you in the struggle, dear ones, and ready to fight for a world in which every single one of us is safe and thriving. Thank you for working toward that future with us. 

In faith and solidarity, 

Rev. Ashley Horan, Organizing Strategy Director

Side With Love

p.s.) What is happening in Alabama today is directly tied to attacks across the country on democracy, voting rights, reproductive freedom, and more. We will be joining our movement partners working on the 2022 elections to resist this oppressive wave of policy disasters and the politicians behind them, and to fight for a more affirming and democratic society. Join us THIS SUNDAY for our 2022 UU the Vote Launch to find your role in this work. 

p.p.s.) Want to know more about the wave of anti-trans legislation sweeping the country, and what you can do about it? Watch our recent Anti-Trans Legislation 101 and Speaking Up for Trans Lives Spokesperson Training webinars today. 

Statement from Side With Love on AL SB184


1 April 2022 at 00:09

How do you honor memory in your life?

Post-it notes


CLF Member, incarcerated in TX

I feel like I am going to take this topic in a direction most are not expecting. The way I honor memory in my life is by trying to remember it. I know that may sound strange, but allow me to explain. Due to a past of very heavy drug use, I have done some pretty severe damage to my brain. My thoughts are slow, my ADHD is harder to keep in check (and yes, I actually have ADHD, unlike the massive numbers of people who have been falsely diagnosed). I will lose my train of thought, and if I don’t have a good reminder it stays lost, no matter how much I rack my brain to retrieve it.

When I think of things I need to get done, I either have to do them right then and there, or I have to make a note of it, or it won’t get done until something reminds me to do it. When I pick up a book I’m reading at the time, I have to skim the last page or two to remember what happened before I put it down. When I write a long letter, I periodically have to reread the letter to remember what I have already written (I’ve already done it once with this essay). I used to be quite skilled at mathematical calculations in my head, but that’s impossible now, I have to do it on paper.

I have been sober going on two years now, and unlike all the other times I quit using, I honestly have no desire to use anymore. Yes, on occasion I feel a slight urge, but it’s so fleeting that I have already decided I don’t want to before the thought is even finished. I know from experience that if I indulge in any kind of intoxicant, even slightly, it’s a full on cannonball into the pool. I’m that kind of addict. I know this about myself. Ten years of experience taught me, so I stay away from everything.

Since I’m sober, the ongoing damaging of my brain has stopped. I was told by a highly intelligent friend of mine that my brain can slowly heal the damage that I have done to it, and omega-3 fish oils will help. So I take two 1000mg gel tablets a day. He also told me that exercising my memory by memorizing things helps. I memorize song lyrics. I’m also trying to teach myself to speak Russian and read and write Cyrillic. Tackling a new language at thirty with a brain that drugs have turned into oatmeal is difficult, but I persevere.

I’m doing my best to honor my memory. I really hope that I can bounce back from my poor decisions. But if I can’t accept the consequences of my bad choices, I really have no choice, right?

Mobile phone


CLF Member, incarcerated in MA

Memory can be a fickle thing, especially with me. “You have autism, so you must have a photographic memory!” Well, a) it’s technically called idyllic memory, and b) I don’t have it either way. My memory just functions differently than the norm; some things are just easier for me to recall, and others less so.

Pretty much anything that involves static events and not people, I can recall, even if I can’t recall them that quickly. When people become involved, even in those life-changing, life-affirming events, I struggle to remember. I may know that something happened, the “wide-strokes” if you will, but the nitty-gritty details can escape me.

But not always. Not in the sense that when I was younger I could and that as I got older the ability lessened, but that there was a time for me when I could recall all memories with the same level of clarity.

The time is simple to define: it was when I was able to be with, be near, my one and only, my Forever & Always. When in her presence, I could bring to mind all those things that mattered so much. When I first met her and when our daughter was born, everything, good and bad, felt as if it just happened. (Though mind you, the bad wasn’t really that bad, for it was always a learning experience, and something greater always came out of it.)

Then with the separation, brought about from me being charged and incarcerated, things started to slip. Now it’s a struggle to hold onto any little detail, every smile, every hiccup, fading away to nothing.

What hurts even more is that I know that there’s a hole there, a missing spot within my memory, like an empty folder in a filing cabinet. Something important was there, I just don’t know what it was.

Nowadays, people bemoan social media and living your life online, taking needless pictures, posting irrelevant information that only matters to them. But that’s the thing: all of that matters to them. It’s a digital record, a “backup” of your memories, that allows one to easily go back and relive those memories. I find the expression of the self and the sharing of it to be a wonderful thing. Through that, one can live true to themselves, and remember all they were, are, and can be.

Memory jar


CLF Member, incarcerated in CO

When I reflected on this question I realized I don’t really honor the memories in my life. What I do is long for them, grieve for them, reminisce, and become nostalgic. Memories come all the time, triggered by sights, smells, sounds, and stimuli that I can’t always put my finger on.

When these memories arise now and flood me with emotion, I will pause and rest in whatever it is I am feeling. I give that memory the proper place it deserves, and give myself the extension of that time and place. This will give that memory the honor and respect it deserves — good or bad, there is always a knowledge and understanding to be grasped.

What is Memory?

1 April 2022 at 00:09

I am terrible at remembering names. I have tried all of the tricks to be able to do that, but nope, not for me. Thank goodness for name tags!

But I remember so many details about so many people, even if I have forgotten their names. I could list them all, but one stands out — the nurse’s aide who held my hand in the emergency room after I was in a terrible car accident when I was 19.

Is it necessary for me to remember this? What if I forgot? Would it matter?

Thinking about memory suddenly became important when my

husband, Sky, was diagnosed with dementia in 2016. I had known something wasn’t quite right with him for a few years. He denied anything was wrong, but eventually agreed to be tested: probable early stage Alzheimer’s. We were stunned.

As we processed this devastating news, Sky said he assumed he would eventually forget his family, but he was mostly afraid that he would forget his Self.

So we read books about memory. It turns out that there are several kinds of memory — ranging from memories of how to do things (ride a bike, tie our shoes) to memories of things that happened to us (however incomplete those memories are) to memories of factual information (Where is the bathroom? What is the capitol of Mali?).

Then Sky wrote:

As the attacks on our intellects and memory continue, we feared changing into people neither we nor our loved ones would value spending time with.  What is left for us if the glue of memory no longer holds our selves together?

As time went on, Sky gradually lost the ability— the memory — of how to do many things. What clothes to wear. How to button buttons or zip zippers. How to read. How to get into bed. How to pull up the covers.

Did he still know his Self?

Sky spent his last year in a memory care facility. He walked the corridors, interacting with other residents and the staff, singing songs, making jokes. Sky was one of those people that had a song lyric for every occasion. Me? I can’t remember song lyrics, never mind who starred in what movie.

When he was dying, he was still singing, and he seemed happy. He told me I was beautiful, and he told me the end was near.

He may not have remembered his Self, but I sure did. It was all there, in its blazing glory.

Is it only memory that is the glue that holds our selves together?

I think there is a fourth kind of memory — emotional memory. We all have negative emotional memories, but we all have positive emotional memories as well.

I was so, so grateful for the nurse’s aide who soothed me, scared and in pain, as I waited in a cold, stark ER. I can still feel her love and care fifty years later.

And when I remember Sky these days, a year after his death, of course I remember all the things we did together.  But mostly I remember the love we shared.

And what could be more important?

What about you? What memories are important for you to remember? Are they factual? Emotional? How would it feel to not remember?

Quest April 2022

1 April 2022 at 00:10

April 2022

One lives in the hope
of becoming a memory.
–Antonio Porchia


    What is Memory?

    Rev. Jane Dwinell
    I am terrible at remembering names. I have tried all of the tricks to be able to do that, but nope, not for me. Thank goodness for name tags! Read more »


    Quest for Meaning
    How do you honor memory in your life? Read more »

    Notice of the CLF Annual Meeting

    Quest for Meaning
    Per Article VII, Sections 1 and 2, of the Church of the Larger Fellowship (CLF) Bylaws, the 49th Annual Meeting will be held via video/telephone conference call and screen sharing on Sunday, June 5, 2021 at 7:00PM EDT. Read more »

    The Shape of Memory

    Rose Gallogly
    A phrase landed in me during the week that my mother was dying, as I grasped at any words I could find to make sense of the enormous shift in front of me. Read more »

Ready to #VoteLove in 2022? Recording & Training from the launch of UU the Vote 2022!

14 April 2022 at 10:28

When we organize, we build power in our communities for justice, accountability, and healing. In the last two years, UU the Vote has built new networks of spiritual and political communities to #VoteLove and #DefeatHate. We know what's at stake; LGBTQ rights, abortion access, voting rights and democracy itself are all on ballots all over the country

 With UU the Vote 2022 we’re organizing on the state and local levels to fight for fair elections, advance voting rights, protect abortion access, and resist the targeting and criminalization of Black, Indigenous, and people of color communities. 

 Last weekend, we officially launched UU the Vote 2022 and you're invited to join us!

  • Watch and share the recording of UU the Vote 2022 Launch

  • Download the new 2022 UU the Vote Launch Guide

  • Download the slides from the event

UU the Vote Campaign Manager JaZahn Hicks shares his two asks now that we've launched:

“I know the amazing work that you all did in 2020, and hearing from you at the launch, I can see how you did it. You are all dedicated, passionate, fired up about justice and grounded in your faith and principles. We lift up and are truly thankful for those of you who have already started the hard work in your congregations and communities, and we want to hear about it!”
— UU the Vote Campaign Manager JaZahn Hicks

1) Get counted! We know many of you are already acting in primary elections, voter registration drives, and much more. Share your work in the Story and Report form and give your work counted in our national goals.

2) No good campaign can exist without a good volunteer base. Volunteers are the backbone of every movement and ours is no different. We need YOU! We need phonebankers, canvassers, tech and data specialists, trainers, volunteer coordinators and so much more if we are going to be successful in 2022. Be a part of that.

Find a role that works for you at our Volunteer Activation Huddle, Apr 21, 2022, 7:30pm-8:30pm EST! Sign up and share the link to 5 of your friends.

This campaign is only going to work when we all get involved. We have opportunities all over the country and priorities we need to address and we can’t do it alone. We have to join together and fight for our beliefs, our values and our democracy. Take that next step with us on April 21st at 730pm EST. I hope to see you all there."

Ready to #VoteLove in 2022? Recording & Training from the launch of UU the Vote 2022!

The Shape of Memory

1 April 2022 at 00:06

A phrase landed in me during the week that my mother was dying, as I grasped at any words I could find to make sense of the enormous shift in front of me.

The shape of every memory is changing.

I was seeing with painful clarity what anyone who has experienced big loss knows: I would now have two lives. The first life was the previous 26 years in which I was lucky enough to have my beloved mother with me in life, and the second, however much time I have in front of me, in which I would have to hold her close as a beloved ancestor. And every memory from that first life was now changing, shaped by the reality of this sudden ending.

My mother was a constant in all of the life I’d already known. Her steady presence, her love and care, was a backdrop to all things — a backdrop so fundamental to my experience of life that it was hard to see it clearly at times. Her love had always been at the center of my life, but I wouldn’t have named it as such until I realized I would have to live without her living presence reinforcing it. Perhaps that’s just the way of everything that is fundamental. We assume there will always be air to breathe, until there isn’t; we assume the sun will rise every day, until it doesn’t.

Now, the backdrop of my every memory was suddenly shifting into focus. Now, in the constant foreground: the gift of having had my mother for any time at all, my gratitude for any moment we spent together in life. The shape of every memory had changed.

So many other things have come into clearer focus along with that shift. There is painful truth to the cliche that major loss makes you realize what’s most important. I’ve moved through the past year with much more clarity about how I want to use my time and energy, letting go of past insecurities and narratives that no longer serve me. With my mother’s love at the center, I understand the sacredness of my life more fully. The shape of my every memory has changed, and with it, the shape and direction of my life.

Memory is not static, an unchanging account of events and relationships and facts. It is the source of our meaning-making, a collection of threads from which we weave the narrative that holds our life. The shape and texture of our memories change along with us, as we need them to, to make sense of the ever-changing reality we are faced with.

Letting the shape of my memories change to foreground my mother’s love is one of the things that has saved me, that has made surviving this first year without her possible. How we remember matters — and the shape of our memories can shape our lives as we move through them.

May you each find a shape to your memories that allow you to move through loss and change with more ease. May you know, always, that you are loved, and let that holding shape all of your life to come.

Notice of the CLF Annual Meeting

1 April 2022 at 00:07

To all members of the Church of the Larger Fellowship, Unitarian Universalist:

Per Article VII, Sections 1 and 2, of the Church of the Larger Fellowship (CLF) Bylaws, the 49th Annual Meeting will be held via video/telephone conference call and screen sharing on Sunday, June 5, 2021 at 7:00PM EDT.

To join the meeting, click here.

We will be distributing materials electronically to all CLF members for whom we have a current email address, and posting the documents to our website (www.clfuu.org/annualmeeting). All incarcerated members will automatically receive paper copies of the materials along with postage-paid ballots to return. Others may request hard copies mailed to you by sending back the form on the final page of this issue of Quest, or calling the CLF office at 617-948-6150.

All those who have access to the Internet or phone are encouraged to join our meeting via Zoom and participate in the discussion. Meeting materials will include absentee ballots for those unable to attend in person.

The purpose of the meeting is to:

  • Report on highlights of CLF activities and finances
  • Vote for the following leadership positions (see nominations from

Nominating Committee in the packet):

  • Elect three members to 3-year terms on the board of directors,
  • Elect one members to 1-year term on the board of directors to fill a term vacated before the term was finished,
  • Elect one member to a 3-year term on the nominating committee,
  • Elect a clerk and treasurer for one year

We will elect a moderator from among members present to preside at the meeting.

Aisha Ansano, Board Chair

The Fight for Abortion Access Isn’t Over

3 May 2022 at 15:03

Since well before Roe v. Wade, Unitarian Universalists have declared unequivocally that we support every person’s right to make decisions about their own bodies and reproductive health, including the choice to seek abortion care. Throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, UUs have supported movements working to make abortion accessible and affordable and to destigmatize abortion within our society. Given that legacy, today is a heartbreaking day for all of us who believe that our bodies, and the choices we make about them, are sacred. 

Yesterday afternoon, Politico broke the news that through an unprecedented breach in Supreme Court security, they had obtained an early draft of the SCOTUS majority opinion in Dobbs v Jackson–a case in which the Court’s new conservative supermajority has the opportunity to overturn Roe and revert the country to an era in which abortion rights are determined on a state-by-state basis. In the leaked draft opinion, Justice Alito speaks for the majority in declaring, “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start,” and goes on, “We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled.” In effect, unless the final version of this ruling is dramatically different than this draft, abortion will no longer be a federally protected right, with “trigger laws” criminalizing abortion care going into effect immediately.

To be clear: The conservative supermajority–enabled by a majority of justices appointed by Presidents that did not win the popular vote–is suggesting they will renege on their confirmation reassurances that Roe was the settled law of the land. Should this decision be finalized, it will be an intentional choice to side with white supremacy and Christian nationalism, and it will be an attack on all people with uteruses, particularly and especially BIPOC, poor, rural, and disabled people. It will have immediate and deadly consequences for millions of people. 

And still: pregnant people have been seeking and providing abortion care for hundreds and thousands of years. As so many have said, banning abortion will simply make it more difficult for people–especially poor, rural, and BIPOC people–to obtain surgical abortions safely and legally. To those of you who are in need of an abortion: your fear is valid, your body is sacred, and a wide network of people who acknowledge these truths are ready to help you access the abortion care you need. And, abortion is still legal right now. To get connected with medical providers and logistical and financial support, go to ineedana.com or abortionfinder.org to find the clinic nearest you.

The truth is that the conversation about abortion and reproductive rights has always been about Christian nationalism, misogyny, and white supremacy. Under the guises of “religious liberty” and “states’ rights,” the white, owning-class Christian right has been working since the end of the Civil War to subjugate and criminalize Black and brown bodies, maintain power, and hoard wealth. In the post-Roe era, with the rise of the Evangelical right, politicians quickly discovered that abortion was a highly motivating electoral issue to their base, and have been waging culture wars ever since. Meanwhile, the Christian right has ensured that unless you are urban, white, and middle class, you likely face significant barriers to obtaining an abortion even if it is technically legal.

For those of us who have poured our hearts into Reproductive Justice work, the likely overruling of Roe is heartbreaking. Many of us are terrified not only of what this will mean for people seeking abortions and other reproductive care, but for the precedent this ruling could set for bodily autonomy and privacy in countless other arenas. 

Our Unitarian Universalist faith affirms that all of our bodies are sacred, and that we are each endowed with the twin gifts of agency and conscience. Each of us should have the power to decide what does and doesn’t happen to our bodies at every moment of our lives because consent and bodily autonomy are holy. And when disparities in resources or freedoms make it more difficult for certain groups of people to exercise autonomy over their own bodies, our faith compels us to take liberatory action. 

As a people of faith, Unitarian Universalists have committed to working together for Reproductive Justice, following the lead of movement partners who have been in the struggle and on the frontlines for years. Here are six things you can do today to take action:  

  1. Turn out tonight wherever you are to answer the Women’s March’s call to Rally for Roe.

  2. Join Side With Love and the National Network of Abortion Funds for our upcoming political education event, Heart-to-Heart: Abortion Conversations & Action for a Post-Roe World, Tuesday, May 17 at 8pm ET/5pm PT.

  3. Support local organizing for abortion access and Reproductive Justice. Form a congregational team, educate yourselves, join with other progressive people of faith, follow the lead of your local Reproductive Justice organization.

  4. Donate to your local abortion fund to ensure that everyone who needs an abortion can afford one.

  5. Get involved with SACReD, the Spiritual Alliance of Communities for Reproductive Dignity, which is building a multi-racial, multi-faith movement of congregations across the country that publicly proclaim their support for reproductive dignity. It’s so new that it doesn’t have a full website, but you can sign up for future communications here.

  6. Get involved with the work of the Liberate Abortion Coalition, and consider participating in the upcoming Abortion Crisis Caravan this June.

The fight is far from over, beloveds. Every popular poll shows that the overwhelming majority of Americans support the right to safe and legal abortion, and the Reproductive Justice movement is powerful and mobilized. As Renee Bracey Sherman, Executive Director of We Testify, recently noted, “Abortion is not a divisive issue, it’s a gerrymandered issue.” So we take a deep breath together, and prepare to carry on the work of those who have gone before and to follow those already leading us into the future. In the words of SisterSong, “ABORTION IS STILL LEGAL and we will always fight to keep it that way, but our work and our liberation has always been bigger than laws. It is also about culture change and mutual aid and US SHOWING UP FOR US.”

 Blessings and love to all as we show up together.

In faith and solidarity,

The Side With Love Team

The Fight for Abortion Access Isn’t Over

Interminable Affinity

1 May 2022 at 00:06

(an intermission of love’s omissions)

Chase Cole
CLF member, incarcerated in MA

this memory unfolds
spilling over my shoulder
with Hyacinth coolness
shades of hair
spiral downward
rose and sweet a meadow’s breath
tickles my tongue
tingling red wine kisses
little sips of you

pale fingers caress shadows
cinders spear lambent gazes
never wandering eyes
tease my vibe
you are the bee
who robs my hive
unfolding myself beside you
will this last?

you ask
shivering autumnal sun
folded legs tucked under mine
petals of fallen white
holding me
shaping your outline
a nimbus of startling height
passes above us
our love
falls before us

we are a tangle of consciousness
steep and wild
merging rivers crashing together
hidden in veils of light
small wild fruit grows upon your
stop and speak
to me
your silk-blue eyes
purple crescent skies
plum blossoms inhale you
I steal your smiles
cup them inside my heart
trap them inside your warmth
hold me lovely tell me I’m yours

you will come dazzling beside me
risen from jelly shaking your soul
I calm your tremors
kissing you lightly on night’s wind
this world hints of you
your rise and fall
inhaling a life we built together
exhaling empires we destroyed
forever promises eternity
love demands it
—we rise mountains
smooth summits—
sail thermals


1 May 2022 at 00:07
By: Gary


In the beginning
it was all darkness and fear
I saw no way out
no end to my anguish
a place that conveys death
yet, can offer life?
to become new
I entered into this cocoon,
a target of transformation,
the time out in darkness
becomes a metamorphosis
death and life working together
to bring about a transformation
from the ruins of the old
like a butterfly, to emerge
forever changed
a person I have never been,
but the world, this life
isn’t all rainbows and butterflies,
for you can’t change the mind
if you have not touched the heart


1 May 2022 at 00:08

What does love look/feel/sound like to you?

CLF Member, incarcerated in IL

That has always been a difficult question for me. As a kid, when I was being abused, I was told it was for my own good and because my dad loved me. My mother told me she loved me, then ran away to the other side of the country. As a teenager, my stepmother said that she loved me, then cut all contact with me for fear my father would find her after he got out of prison.

The only person who has told me that loved me and not abandoned or abused me is my aunt. Through all of the institutions and all of the trials and pain I have had to deal with, my aunt has supported me. Though she didn’t and doesn’t condone the behaviors that got me institutionalized, she has stood behind me. That, to me, is love.

I have never had a girlfriend and never had a date, so I don’t know what that kind of love is like. I have experienced the love of a pet. I had a dog as a child named Alfred. He made the nightmare of my childhood a little less dark. He could always make me smile and even make me laugh when all I wanted to do was cry.

Once I began to walk the pagan path and began to understand who and what I truly am, I have felt a serene love when communing with nature, and an unconditional love from my brethren in the pagan services here.

Now, as for loving myself: that has also been a difficult road. As a child, I was made to believe that I was nothing, that I was worth nothing, that I would never amount to anything. It has been very difficult for me to overcome that. It has taken years, a number of people helping me, and a lot of self-reflection and growth for me to get to where I can love myself and accept myself. As it  has been said over and over, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

So love to me is supporting someone when they need it most, even if you don’t like what they did. It is making someone feel better, making them smile or laugh when they are hurting. Love is accepting someone for who they are, without judgment or reservations. Love is casting away negative external and internal perceptions and truly figuring out who you are and accepting that person.

What is Love?

CLF Member, incarcerated in FL

L-O-V-E. Probably one of the most misunderstood words in the English language. Mostly due to the fact we only have one word for it. The Greeks however have multiple words to describe different types of love. Here are four of them:

Eros, the easiest, is physical love. This is where we get words like erotic. It’s the love of how things look/feel/smell/taste or any other physical property. This might be an initial feeling towards someone we’re attracted to.

Philia is brotherly love. Think of philanthropy, coming together to raise money for a cause. This describes the love towards friends, co-workers and even humanity as a whole.

Storge is familial love. Not a common root word in the English language, but this is the love one typically feels towards parents, children, siblings or cousins.

The most powerful form of love is agape, or unconditional love that continues despite and perhaps even due to our flaws.

This is sometimes the hardest to achieve because as humans we put conditions on so much, usually unconsciously. This is what we as UUs strive for, especially in our acceptance of the LGBTQ+ and incarcerated members. This is the love to strive for.

What about your love?


CLF member, incarcerated in CO

Love is a simple yet complex emotion for us to truly describe. However, we seem to know it when we feel it. Problems arise when we grasp at, try to control or desire love. Problems also happen when we reject or do not reciprocate love.

Love is at its best when we just allow it to be, and in turn, when we just “be” in it. Love exists outside of us, sometimes with, sometimes without us. We are not necessary for love, but love is a necessity for us.


CLF Member, incarcerated in MA

To put into words that which transcends words is something the greatest poets all throughout time have tried to do (with varying success). Since I consider myself to be a bit of an amateur poet and writer, this is something that I have thought on many times.

An over-simplification is that love is just a basic chemical reaction, impulses that are instinctive. Perhaps you can say that of lust, but not love, for love is not a physical reaction, but a social construct, a characteristic of thinking beyond the self.

When I think on love, an old Greek story comes to mind. There was a creature that walked the Earth that was so powerful, it could overthrow the Gods themselves. It had four arms, four legs, and two heads. Zeus, being fearful of what these creatures could do, rendered them in half; to this day, these now split creatures look for their other half, so that they may once again be as one.

What this story is talking about is humans and the concept of soulmates. I always liked the idea that when you are with your soulmate, that the love you have, is the greatest power in all the world.

Another way of looking at it is a puzzle, composed of two pieces. On their own, you have a slight understanding of the image. Maybe two pieces that are not truly matching can be put together, but the story told is disjointed, and doesn’t make much sense. But when they match up, a story for the ages is told.

Nearly 20 years ago, I found that one, the missing piece, my missing half. With her, I felt at peace. The best way I can describe that feeling is with a smile. It’s a special smile, one that only came across my face when I looked at her. It drove her crazy, because one could consider it a “I have a secret” smile.

In a way, I did, and I’ll let you in on it. Now come close, for not everyone can handle this, so they shouldn’t hear it: my love for my wife is the power that makes the Gods themselves tremble. Forever & Always.

Teaching Love

1 May 2022 at 00:09


Just four letters.

Inspiration for artists and musicians, poets and dancers, an elusive, harkening, echoing, beckoning promise of what is and might be, no multi syllabic synonyms are needed to evoke Love’s deep complexities.  A foundational influence from the time we are born, if we are lucky to have it, binding us to its mysteries and intricacies, some might even think of Love as God.

Minstrels and sonnet writers praise its wonders. “All you need is love,” sang The Beatles. “Love is all you need.”

Some spend an entire lifetime unraveling the enigma — is love a social construct or something that is hardwired into our physiology? Does it belong in the spiritual realm? Whatever form or shape it takes, one can be certain that an examination of love is not likely to make an appearance on a standardized test. Many of us devote decades to exploring Love’s many facets through the prism of our own understanding and experience.

For me, love means commitment and consistency, devotion and dedication. Love is present in the joy that results when understanding and transformation occur. Love is at its best when it gives rise to that other four letter, equally powerful word that makes us or another say: “Free.” And when it does not, we can know that Love is being mis-used.

For me love takes the form of sexuality education; offered freely, offered with commitment and consistency, devotion and dedication. For me sexuality education is offered through Our Whole Lives (OWL), a comprehensive values based sexuality education program developed by two religious groups, the UUA and the UCC (and yet completely secular).

Sexuality education is much more than learning about sexual intercourse and all it’s inherent dangers; it is about body image, self esteem, friendships, intimacy, whom we chose to love, how we see ourselves, within or beyond gender binaries, how we consent to love and  loving; it is an exploration of what makes us who we are, the most fundamental of human questing.

I’ve been an OWL facilitator for almost two decades — and I have to ask, “Am I getting complacent?” What if I were asked to double down on love? What would that look like for me and how I offer sexuality education?

I know that I have work to do in widening the circle to include people beyond those who “find themselves in our group.” I am called to engage the large community, whether through schools, neighborhood programs, adult schools, justice systems, or families. I need to work more intentionally with communities of the global majority whose access to and engagement with sexuality education might be compromised.

What of you, Beloved? What if you were asked to double down on love? What would you do differently?

With blessings for each of your journeys of exploration and discovery, deepening, questing, and questioning,

— Tuli