social justice

The Peach State

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UUCG Standing on the Side of Love, 2012.  Photo credit:
UUCG Standing on the Side of Love, 2012. Photo credit:

Standing on the Side of Love, Peter Mayer in concert, and the National Preach-In on Global Warming had the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Gwinnett in Lawrenceville, Georgia, and its minister Rev. Jan Taddeo, in a whirl this past Sunday.  Not to be weighed down by a busy schedule, the community affirmed Love with grace, enjoyed Peter Mayer with the strength of UU spirit, and was moved by Rev. Taddeo’s emotional plea for our Earth.

Standing on the Side of Love is “an interfaith public advocacy campaign that seeks to harness love’s power to stop oppression. It is sponsored by the Unitarian Universalist Association and all are welcome to join” in this fight for social justice.  And join it has, as with many other congregations in the United States, the UUCG has joined in the “30 Days of Love” movement which ends its annual drive this Sunday, February 17th, 2013.

Rev. Taddeo focused her moving talk, “Living the Beauty Way,” around the need for Unitarians to focus their lives lessening our footprint on the earth, and in taking steps such as lowering the use of its resources by simple means like recycling and driving electric vehicles.  Of course, her concern was far deeper, bringing her emotions within reach as she discussed a documentary, “The Hungry Tide,” about a tropical island that is slowly disappearing due to Global Warming and in the process taking the home of its residents and the land from our earth.  Joining Rev. Taddeo, the congregation signed postcards to be mailed to the White House requesting that President Obama and the United States exert itself as the international leader in the war against Global Warming and in the support of peoples displaced by its destruction.

Peter Mayer, photo by Paul Dols
Peter Mayer, photo by Paul Dols

Lifting the spirits of everyone was the addition of one of our own, Unitarian folk singer Peter Mayer, to the weekly service.  Mayer sang three of his songs including “Blue Boat Home” and “Church of the Earth,” following the day’s theme on the wonders of our earth.  A bonus for me was meeting Mayer and sharing our pilgrimage with him, and then enjoying one of the CDs he gave me, “Heaven Below,” as we drove east through the Georgia rain.

Unique to the service was the format of the day’s events, a once monthly practice.  After attending the regular service, we then got our drinks and snacks and formed circles of six people where we joined in listening groups focused on the monthly theme “Evil.”  On the surface a strange topic, but we took turns discussing evil and how it has affected our lives. It proved to be a moving and bonding exercise for all in our circle. And while the adults were focused in our groups, Austin was with the middle-school kids discussing topics related to the congregation’s quest for becoming a Welcoming Congregation.

For information on attending the UUC of Gwinnett:

Standing on the Side of Love:

Interfaith Power & Light, A Religious Response to Global Warming:

Video trailer for “The Hungry Tide” documentary about the nation of Kiribati:

To see Peter Mayer’s concert schedule or purchase CDs, visit:

For information on the UUA and Welcoming Congregations, click on the chalice to the right or go to:

The Magnolia State

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Sanctuary art at UU, Photo credit:
Sanctuary art at UUCO, Photo credit:

Mississippi is a land of hospitality, history and unlimited beauty, and there was no shortage of that true southern hospitality as we arrived to the home of Ole Miss in Oxford (University), Mississippi.  With weekend parking and electric hookups provided by the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Oxford, Austin and I were able to get comfortable and even disconnect the Jeep to do some more personal tourism in the area.

A young community by Unitarian standards (formally joined the UUA in 1997), this lay led congregation is overwhelmingly representative of our seven principles while ready and eager for the growth it is destined to receive.  On this Sunday, guest minister, the Rev. Fred L. Hammond (The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Tuscaloosa, Alabama) presented “Violence in America,” focusing on the existence of micro-aggressions within society.  Rev. Hammond expressed the need for the recognition and reevaluation of our own roles as UUs in the presentation and acceptance of micro-aggressions in our communities and in our governments as these apply to social justice needs and improved gun ownership legislation with mental health provisions.

After the service was an amazing “potluck,” (a term not fitting the cloth napkins, table coverings, and dinnerware!)  Also not fitting the term was the fabulous diversity of food for vegans, vegetarians and carnivores alike.  I can honestly say that I have never attended such a thoughtful potluck gathering–and amongst such wonderful people–before this day.

Welcoming chalice, Photo credit:
Welcoming chalice, Photo credit:

Not to be outdone, Rev. Hammond came back after our meal and presented an eye-opening workshop on Heterosexism, including revealing unethical and even unenforceable laws within the state of Mississippi that limit and undermine the education of Mississippi’s youth about the LGBTIA community (sexual minorities) within society.  And, although already a diverse and open community, the UUC of Oxford is currently working towards the formality of becoming a UUA recognized “Welcoming Congregation,” arranging the workshop as a part of their venture.

For information on attending the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Oxford, visit:

For a wonderful sampling of Rev. Hammond’s thoughts, visit his blog “A Unitarian Universalist Minister in the South”:

To better understand the requirements for becoming a Welcoming congregation, visit:

The Pelican State

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There’s something about being in the Deep South for such an important national holiday as the celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday.  Fortunately for me, the service at The Unitarian Church of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, was one of progress, enlightenment and growth amongst adversity.

The sermon centered on a scene from “In the Heat of the Night,” in which Chief Gillespie (Carroll O’Conner) finds himself struggling with his own institutionalized racial discrimination.  Walking into his office, Gillespie finds his newly appointed African American Chief of Detectives, Virgil Tibbs (Howard E. Rollins, Jr.)  hammering a nail into the wall to hang a picture.  Innocent enough until he realizes that the picture Tibbs is hanging is that of Martin Luther King, Jr.  After suggesting that Tibbs replace it with something ‘more personal’ like a ‘desktop photo’ that can be whisked away into a drawer, he in turn finds himself attempting to defend a much larger portrait above his own desk (which appeared to be a portrait of General Robert E. Lee), only finding within himself the response, “It came with the office.”  A small scene, but such a powerful testament to those that practice life by keeping the status quo regardless of how those practices affect the lives of others.

The Unitarian Church of Baton Rouge
The Unitarian Church of Baton Rouge with proud display of its symbolic circular window

The sermon was not just one of history, but of the difficulties of overcoming racial degradation in modern America.  As the Rev. Steve J. Crump, Senior Minister, expressed the pride of sharing the second inauguration day of President Obama–a monumental event in modern history–he also shared the struggles of today’s Baton Rouge, a city with a higher murder rate than Chicago and only second to Atlanta for HIV cases.  A city where the average age of those murdered is at a mere 26-years-old, and of those committing the murders at an even younger 22-years-old.

Although laced with the importance of our continuing fight, the service also celebrated modern progression and reminded all Unitarians of our own role in the advancement of social justice and racial equality.  There were beautiful voices raised by the church’s own Marie Flowers and Seynabou Diack, and a poignant dance presentation by the LSU MLK Dance Ensemble.  All framed by the sanctuary’s large circle window inspired by an Edwin Markham poem stating, “They drew a circle and shut me out,  A heretic, a rebel, a thing to flout.  But love and I had the wit to win,  We drew a circle and took them in.”  So perfect an homage to this church and the wonderful members and staff that I had the privilege of meeting!

For more information on attending The Unitarian Church of Baton Rouge:

To enjoy the works of Edwin Markham, visit:

Link to a previous performance by the LSU MLK Dance Ensemble at the Unitarian Church, 2009: