5 Reasons to Visit the UUCSJ Booth at GA

5 Reasons to Visit the UUCSJ Booth at GA

Are you going to Kansas City for the UUA’s General Assembly 2018? UUCSJ is and we would love to have you stop by our booth to say hello. If you need some convincing, here are the top 5 reasons YOU should visit us at GA!

Get this year’s button!

Every year, we at UUCSJ pick a quote that connects to the theme at GA and spreads a message aligned with our values. General Assembly is your first (and often last) chance to get each button as we never print more than what we bring with us. Stop by our booth in the exhibit hall (this year we are with the UUSC) and grab yours.

2Talk to UUCSJ staff, Program Leaders and Alumni Leaders

As usual, Heather (our Senior Associate for Outreach, Enrollment and Administration) will be at the booth the most often, but you will also have chances to talk to Deva Jones (Senior Associate for Service Learning and Internships), Gina Collignon (Senior Associate for Immersion Learning), the Rev. Kathleen McTigue (our Director), our three alumni leaders and maybe even some of our fabulous program leaders.

Get a daily meditative reading in

This year, we will have a daily meditation at our booth, so wander by and take some time to spiritually center yourself during the hustle and bustle of GA.

Ask about our new congregational starter kits

Are you interested in getting a group from your congregation on one of our immersion learning journeys? Do you want more people to know about our internship and volunteer programs? Ask about our new congregational starter kits full of information and promotional materials to help you inspire social justice activism in your church.

The ribbons of course!

We have ribbons, yes we do. We have ribbons so can you! Stop by our booth and sign up to receive our monthly newsletter (or let us know you already are signed up) and we’ll give you one of our UU College of Social Justice ribbons to add to your collection.

Lenten Reflection, Honduras

Praying the “stations of the cross” is a longstanding Lenten tradition all over the Christian world, during which believers are reminded of the last moments Jesus lived through as he carried his own cross to the crucifixion. Throughout Latin America, the Way of the Cross, or Via Crucis, is often an elaborate procession, during which a life-sized cross – usually made intentionally heavy – is carried to each inflection point of prayer.

Via Cruces Cross being carried in HondurasThe Via Crucis we followed last month in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, was different. It demonstrated vividly the power and peril faced by those whose deepest faith compels them to stand up against oppression. The cross they carried was covered with words —  poverty, violence, hatred, murders, torture, imprisonment – naming explicitly the weight the people carry, under the repressive presidency of Juan Orlando Hernandez. Those in the procession also carried 34 smaller crosses, each one bearing the name of a person who had been shot and killed by security forces in the past two months, since the fraudulent election that ensures Hernandez will continue in power.

I was in Honduras as one of 50 faith leaders who responded to a call for accompaniment, issued by religious and human rights leaders whose lives are in increased jeopardy as they continue to voice their indignation and opposition.  Our Via Crucis was allowed to proceed without interference. But later that day, and throughout our week in Honduras, we witnessed peaceful protests violently dispersed by members of the police and military.

This violence in all of its forms is the very real and present cross that our Honduran siblings carry every day. It is carried as well by human rights champions in El Salvador and Guatemala, and by the thousands of men, women, and children who are driven from all three countries to the deeply perilous path they follow north. If they make it across the US border, the migrants carry the weight of detention, actual or feared, and the uncertainty that shadows each moment.

In this Lenten season, as I remember the Via Crucis in which I participated in Honduras, I am thinking about what parts of the cross are mine to carry as a citizen of the United States. The teargas, water cannons, and live ammunition I saw used in Honduras are all products of the USA. In a very real sense, the Honduran government itself is a result of the approval and recognition our nation offered in the wake of the 2009 military coup, and offered again this past November in recognizing fraudulent elections. I want to stay awake to these truths. It’s by staying awake that we can find ways to act to shift US policy, and thereby shift the weight of the cross from the shoulders that have carried it for far too long.

Answering the Call for Solidarity and Action in Honduras

Answering the Call for Solidarity and Action in Honduras

In early January I received an email that began with these words:

We are writing you on behalf of Padre Melo, the Jesuit priest who has accompanied the Honduran people for more than 20 years. He is appealing to the international community for an emergency delegation: “We need you to organize people who will accompany us, witness what is happening here, and share it with the world”.

The Honduras presidential election last November has widely been condemned as fraudulent. Since then, people throughout the country have poured into the streets in peaceful protests that have often been met with lethal violence from the state.

The hope in sending an international delegation to Honduras is that our presence will shine a spotlight on the struggle and amplify the voices of those who are being ignored and silenced. UUSC has long been a champion of Honduran human rights groups, supporting our grassroots partners financially and working to lift up the stories and urgency behind their struggles. This brief journey of accompaniment is another way for our organization to show the Honduran people that they are not alone.

I decided almost immediately that I would answer Padre Melo’s call and join the emergency delegation, which departs Wednesday, January 24. While I have never been there before, I have heard of Padre Melo and the courageous work he and many other Hondurans are engaged in to advance fundamental human rights. I also know about the decades of financial and military support our own country has sent to the Honduran government, despite their many human rights violations. And, I believe that under the Trump administration, the thousands of people who try to flee the violence in Honduras are even less likely than before to find asylum here in the United States.

My desire to join the delegation is fueled by multiple interests. I’m driven by my commitment to human rights, as well as my sense of moral compromise as a U.S. citizen—knowing my own country has helped foment the violence from which it refuses to shelter those who flee. But I am also compelled by my faith: by the core values of Unitarian Universalism that remind me we are never really separate from one another. Our interdependent web links us to struggles for human rights and dignity, wherever they occur, and pulls us compellingly, relentlessly, to act as we are able to mitigate harm.

I believe in the power of prayer as a way to ground ourselves and to center our awareness on those who live daily in harm’s way. So, I ask you to pray for the people of Honduras, holding them in mind and heart, and to act on your prayers and concern by speaking out for the rights of those most at risk. I will have more to tell you on my return January 30, but for now I hope you will join me on this journey in spirit, by learning more about what is happening and preparing yourselves to answer future calls to support this critical human rights struggle.

For more information about how you can help, please read the press release from the Emergency Interfaith Delegation to Honduras

Answering the Call for Solidarity and Action in Honduras

Reflections for Martin Luther King Day

Today we remember the leadership of Martin Luther King in his own chapter of the struggle for racial justice. But we’re living through our own chapter of that struggle today, in which the rise of overt white supremacy and the support it receives from the White House shows us just how far we still have to go.

So I want to remember that along with King and so many others, the real hero of that movement is the simple human virtue of perseverance, lodged in the hearts, minds, and souls of thousands of people we’ve never heard of. We think of leaders like Martin Luther King in the context of pivotal moments, like the huge march on Washington in 1963. It’s only much more dimly that we can glimpse the years and years of hard work that lifted them up, the enormous, relentless labor before the little cracks started to show up in the culture and then to widen into clear and powerful lines of change.  Any real change that has ever happened in our world has come because of countless ordinary people who made their choices and took their risks not in a few electric moments but again and again, over the course of years. 

King once said, “I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. You can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.” This is a call to imagine our justice efforts in a different way. Instead of envisioning a linear path — in which a campaign or protest or movement will lead to a specific outcome on a predictable timeframe — we need to see our effort as part of a web of relationship. It goes on as long as we live, punctuated with high and low points but never truly over. It’s made up of a kind of solidarity that stays open and observant to all the large and small ways we make a difference. And what it asks of us, above all, is perseverance.

~ Kathleen McTigue

Answering the Call for Solidarity and Action in Honduras

A New Year’s Message

DawnAs a new year dawns, everything is the same –
The world bound into its history and struggles, as we ourselves are bound.

Yet it’s also true that we stand at a threshold,
the new year not yet shaped,
leaving a great forming power in our hands:
what shall we do with this great gift of Time, this year?

May we remember that whatever justice, whatever peace and wholeness
might bloom in our world in the new year,
they will be brought about by the hands, hearts, and minds
of ordinary people: frail and fallible,
determined and courageous,
who move forward together, shaping the world we dream of.

The new year offers new ground for the seeds of our vision.
May we plant our dreams well, faithfully, and in joy.

~Kathleen McTigue, Director of UUCSJ

Answering the Call for Solidarity and Action in Honduras

The Momentary Awareness Brought By Gratitude

UUCSJ’s Director, Rev. Kathleen McTigue, reflects on gratitude and hardship.

In the midst of the devastating hurricane season this fall, the Boston area (where I live) was warned to brace for a possible hit from Hurricane Nate, before it spun off further east and out into the Atlantic. Folks in our area breathed a sigh of relief, but our UUCSJ relationships in Nicaragua made us acutely aware that not everyone got off unscathed. There were nearly 30 deaths from flooding in Central America, with many hundreds left homeless and thousands left in the dark without power. A few days after Nate blew through, I got an email from one of our partners in Nicaragua, letting me know that they were mostly okay. Gloria wrote, “We still have a lot of water — thank God we didn’t lose any people, but we’ve lost the harvest, all the stored grain and beans and a lot of houses are gone. It’s hard, and it’s sad.”

It’s hard and it’s sad, it’s painful, unfair, and sometimes downright terrifying in so many places in our own nation and around the world that we can feel overwhelmed. We get a huge dose of the world’s brokenness in each day’s news, and we can’t fix it; sometimes it seems that we can’t fix even a tiny little corner of it. But if we stay alert and alive to the world as it is, and to our own capacity for useful action, we’ll find the places where people are hauling on the ropes or rebuilding the bridges and need us to add our small efforts into the big changes we make together.

Staying alert and awake through the barrage of bad news can be a challenge, but for me the key is gratitude for the things that bless each of my days. They are things that are mine only through the pure accidents of birth. I have them because of where I came into the world, and into what skin and circumstances: water that runs from taps on command, hot and cold; lights at the touch of a switch, heat when the nights get cold, food when I’m hungry, access to a doctor when my children are sick. Peaceful nights unbroken by the threat of bombs or the sound of gunfire.  

Though we can quickly go unconscious again, the momentary awareness brought by gratitude is a precious thing. It gives us a taste of what it would be like if we could stay awake more consistently — how it would feel to be so grateful for the little miracles of the day that we tipped always toward contentment, and away from kvetching, from sweating the small stuff. And then too, maybe we could focus more intentionally not only on the blessings we’ve got, but the ways we become blessings for someone else. Our lives are so short, after all, and as far as we know, this dance is the only one we get: the band doesn’t play on forever. So how are we going to dance it? Let’s do it with our eyes wide open and our hands out, as far as we can reach.