Closing the Faith Gap – Restoring the Voting Rights Act of 1965

“We all have two religions: the religion we talk about and the religion we live. It is our task to make the difference between the two as small as possible.” ~Elaine Gallagher Gehrmann

Unitarian Universalism is a living faith tradition which does not insist upon exactly what you believe, but which demands that the life you live reflect your faith beliefs. In this way, UUs are not, as it is sometimes casually said, free to believe anything we want. There must be congruence between our beliefs and our actions in order to be living faithfully as Unitarian Universalists.

The gap between what we believe and how we live our lives often serves as the place from which our call to live faithfully emerges. If we believe that all people have inherent worth and dignity, then we are called to act as if all people have inherent worth and dignity – not just the people who agree with us – or look like us – or like us.

Fifty years ago, Unitarians and Universalists answered the call of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to join him in Selma, AL to help close the gap between the constitutional promise of the United States of America that “all men are created equal” and the lived reality of systemic inequality for black people in America.

On Sunday, March 8th, 2015, over 500 Unitarian Universalists joined the over 80,000 people from all over the world to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge to commemorate and consecrate the courage of those who crossed before on Bloody Sunday and then again on March 25th, 1965, successfully, to march to Montgomery.

The right to vote, which so many sacrificed so much for, was granted in the Voting Rights Act of 1965 on the heels of the events in Selma. Last year, the Supreme Court of these United States eviscerated the Voting Rights Act. We who believe in the inherent worth and dignity of all human beings must stand on the side of love and of our ancestors’ sacrifices. We must work to restore the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and to dismantle the systemic racism that warps the moral fabric of this nation.

You can call on your Congressional Representatives to restore the Voting Rights Act here:

You can organize to undo the racism that has been dehumanizing all of us in this country here and here and here and here and here and here and here … so many of us are turning toward each other to co-create the beloved community. You, too, are needed here.

Come, friend, come help us close the gap between our words and our deeds with the gift of your life energy.  Together we can heal this world and reclaim our own humanity.


A Prayer for Wonder Restored


What does is mean to be a people of wonder?
This was the evening’s invitational question for the small group ministry covenant group I have the honor of facilitating in New Orleans.
And it has me thinking…and praying.
Almost every black person who talked with me after the non-indictment of Darren Wilson in the death of Mike Brown and of Daniel Pantaleo in the death of Eric Garner said “I’m not surprised.”
“I’m [angry, grieving, outraged, sad, mad, furious, exhausted…], but not surprised.”
No wonder that the justice system in this country offers no justice for their communities, their families…
On this winter night, I pray for wonder restored:
O god of our hearts,
May the systems of oppression
that steal wonder from people of color
and oh so much more
Be torn asunder
Made unfixable
May the glory of rebalancing
Reparations, yes, reparations -
May this healing abound
And may the grace of wonder be returned
So that every injustice
Brings surprise
To everyone.

“the war against dehumanization is ceaseless”

“They have treated the wound of my people carelessly,
saying, “Peace, peace,”
when there is no peace.
They acted shamefully, they committed abomination;
yet they were not ashamed,
they did not know how to blush.” –Jeremiah 6:14-15

From the prophets to the present, a call for integrity. Literally – to integrate what we do with what we value. If we value humanity, then we must act in ways that support and affirm that value. Shooting children, shooting adults – these are not ways of acting that support and affirm our value of humanity.

“And true, unless one lives and loves in the trenches, it is difficult to remember that the war against dehumanization is ceaseless.” ― Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches

So we must ask – what allows a white man with a gun to shoot an unarmed black youth? What has white people cautioning people of color to be peaceful in the midst of murder without consequence? Who reflexively points to a community saturated in grief and rage and says with impatience “Be still, be quiet, be good.”?

“One wonders what it will take for us to not merely listen but actually to hear the voices of black parents, fearful that the next time their child walks out the door may be the last, and all because someone—an officer or a self-appointed vigilante—sees them as dangerous, as disrespectful, as reaching for their gun? Might we be able to hear that without deftly pivoting to the much more comfortable [for Whites] topic of black crime or single-parent homes? Without deflecting the real and understandable fear of police abuse with lectures about the danger of having a victim mentality—especially ironic given that such lectures come from a people who apparently see ourselves as the always imminent victims of big black men?” -Tim Wise, Repetitive Motion Disorder: Black Reality and White Denial in America

If you can look a family in the eyes and say “your son deserved to die,” my friend, you have lost your own humanity. I invite you to begin a journey towards wholeness, a journey to reclaim what you have lost. Those who cannot value the humanity of others have no hope of integrity. And my prayer for me, for you, for all of us living in a world of a trillion points of view, is integrity in our lived lives.


This week, this year, this lifetime – show up. Show up for each other with integrity. Honor pain you cannot know, value grief for what it points to – love. We do not grieve what we do not love. I love you. And I grieve for every bit of the humanity we have sacrificed to feed the ideology of white supremacy.

May we heed the call for integrity. Show up, beloveds. It matters. Now more than ever

“He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” –Mark 4:9

FOR NEW ORLEANIANS: Today, 11/25, 6 PM in Lafayette Square #BlackLivesMatter #DayAfter #Ferguson #NoIndictment

Remembrance Day


In Flanders Fields
by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae (1915)

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe;
To you, from failing hands, we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

It is Remembrance Day in the United Kingdom and its Commonwealth and Veteran’s Day in the United States of America.

Today, Lesley McSpadden and Michael Brown Sr. are in Geneva, Switzerland, telling the United Nations’ Committee on Torture that police in Ferguson, MO are systematically targeting and harassing black people in a predatory and degrading manner.  They are calling into account a government that treated their son, Mike Brown, and thousands like him, as less than human.

They have taken up their son’s quarrel with the foe of systemic oppression.
Let us join them.

Let us not break faith with those who have died in defense of human rights, human dignity, human life.

May we recognize the grief that flows in and among us today
and may we keep the faith.

PS: In Orleans Parish, mark your calendar to vote on Dec. 6th too, when the state legislature has tried to do an end run around the Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) and give away its money and control to the Recovery School District (RSD) through a millage vote that doesn’t even list the RSD in the summary that will appear on the ballot.  It is slick, my friends, and it is as wrong.  Mark your calendars for Dec. 6th and vote no on the grand theft masquerading as an education millage.

Read more:

Election Day, November 4, 2014


Today is the day, friends. The day to VOTE.

This is the day when we get a chance to be citizens and constituents, rather than just consumers. Today is the day this nation decides party control over the House and Senate, decides who will address the looming issues of raising the minimum wage, immigration reform, equal pay, and – let us not forget – going back to war.

In New Orleans, many judicial races will be decided today – criminal court, domestic court, juvenile court… Today we elect the people who will decide who goes to jail, who gets custody in a domestic violence case, whether or not your child gets a second chance… Beloveds, in a state that incarcerates more people per capita than any other state in the country, this election matters.

Wherever you live, it is the local elections that will most immediately shape your community. What happens in Washington, DC certainly impacts us, but rarely as intimately as local policy and enforcement.

If you are young – please vote! If you are an elder – please vote! If you are in the sandwich generation – please vote!

If you can vote, please vote.
If you voted early, well done!
If you, like me, plan to vote today – don’t forget!
Vote today.

There are 2,867,473 registered voters in the state of Louisiana. Almost 2.9 million possible voters! Let’s see what it looks like when we all show up to choose the people who will make the decisions that shape our schools and our families, our courts and our country.

With gratitude to everyone who can vote today and grief for all of those denied the right to vote through the gutting of the Voters’ Rights Act and other egregious practices, I wish each of you well. May this election day end with leaders elected who care about you, your families, and our planet.

Go forth in peace and vote!

PS: In Orleans Parish, mark your calendar to vote on Dec. 6th, too! The state legislature has tried to do an end run around the Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) and give away its money and control to the Recovery School District (RSD) through a millage vote that doesn’t even list the RSD in the summary that will appear on the ballot. It is slick, my friends, and it is as wrong as having to work on Mardi Gras day. Mark your calendars for Dec. 6th and vote NO on the grand theft masquerading as an education millage.


Tonight we stood together around candles that marked the spot where his body was found this morning. Tonight we poured out our stories and our songs, our prayers and our tears. Tonight we reminded each other that we are loved and loving, that our lives have value and are valued by each other. Tonight we said good-bye to a good friend and a committed organizer.
A bright candle
So tomorrow, when you read in the paper or hear in the news that another black teenage boy was found shot to death in the 9th Ward of New Orleans, stop. Please stop and send love to his family, to his friends, to the community that cared for him, cares for him still.
Please stop and let your heart be broken, broken open at least a little bit, with compassion for a child who was loved, will always be loved, and for those who love him. Mark the passing of a dear soul light who shined brightly in this world and made it a better place.
If you pray, pray for us, pray with us.
Grieve with us. Mourn with us.
And then – organize.
Organize with us to heal this world, to change it into a place where 15 year olds are not killed by guns — are not killed at all. Make George proud.

Moving at the speed of gratitude

This morning
Sitting with the grief of more painful news
I pick up my pen
And begin moving at the speed of gratitude
For a community that holds each other
in sorrow and in rage
For the light that wakes us and nourishes creation
For the dark that heals us and rests the world

Today I commit to moving at the speed of gratitude
And find my heart has grown larger
Love more possible
Grace more abundant
At this speed.

turtle by Marty Wolff

The Courage for Compassion

All this time
The sun never says to the earth,
“You owe
What happens
With a love like that,
It lights the
~Hafiz, 14th century Sufi poet

“It may be that we have lost sight of our mission. Primarily, the church is not for social or political pronouncements, nor for the fashioning and dissemination of erudite philosophical doctrines. It is for the generation of love. The church is the only institution in society so purposed. We strike at the heart of our very purpose for existence when we neglect that major aim.” ~ Albert Ziegler wrote, 20th century Universalist minister

Beloveds, each morning we are asked to take a moral stand on the side of love. May we find the courage and compassion to love like the sun, to generate love in abundance for a world that sorely needs it.

Each time that I facilitate conversations on systemic oppression and solidarity, I am struck anew at how programed we are to defensiveness and denial. Each time, my challenge is to love, simply love. We are not machines, broken and in need of fixing. We are wounded warriors in the struggle of life and we need, each of us, compassionate love to call us to our whole and holy selves.

May we wake each day with the mission to generate love in this world as humbly and faithfully as the sun generates light. May we trust that we can lean on each other for comfort when the struggle is relentless. May we know in the bones of our bones that we are not alone. May this knowledge give us the courage to shine the light of compassion on everyone. No exceptions.

Sun Love

When in doubt, choose the side of Compassion

Rumi--what we speak

The Thursday following the fundamentalist disruption of worship service at First Unitarian Universalist Church of New Orleans, a Pro-Woman, Pro-LBGTQ, Pro-Religious Freedom rally was planned for City Hall. It may not surprise you that the Unitarian Universalists showed up. Dozens of Standing on the Side of Love t-shirts, signs, and stoles were vividly on display. A small but exceedingly vocal counter-rally was staged on the hill above the rally by some who had apparently raced back to New Orleans from Baton Rouge for this very purpose. Even with the bullhorn, it was difficult to hear what was being said at the rally over the yelling of the anti-choice protesters.

And so a group of people, mostly UUs, turned toward the hill, forming a sound barrier between the those speaking their truth in the center of the safe circle and those screaming their truth from the hill, and began to sing (to the tune of Siyahamba, a South African freedom song,) We are standing on the side love, we are standing on the side of love. The singing continued until everyone had had a chance to speak their truth in the Pro-woman, Pro-LBGTQ, Pro-Religious Freedom space.

As the rally drew to a close, everyone not on the hill joined hands, forming a gigantic circle, and sang together: We are standing on the side love, we are standing on the side of love. Rev. Melanie Morel-Ensminger blessed us all, sending us off with the wisdom to “Go Now in Peace.”

The police were on alert and surrounded the park – subtly…We were allowed to protest injustice in peace. Our right to do so was affirmed by the community and by the powers that be.

Friends, that’s a privilege we have not extended to #Ferguson or the many communities of color protesting the extrajudicial killings of children and young adults. Please, before you say “they just need to calm down,” consider the humane and human need to protest injustice. May you tender the communities’ outrage with mercy, with compassion, perhaps even, with love and holy curiosity.

May you withhold your judgment. In times of grief, there is no room for our shoulda, woulda, coulda…. only room for compassion.

If you cannot find your compassion in this time, please still yourself until you can. And if you wonder where it went, spend some time thinking about how systems of oppression steal the humanity of the oppressor as well as the oppressed. If you cannot find compassion for the human grief of others, you may have lost touch with your own humanity. Beloveds, it is worth the work of undoing oppression to reclaim it.