WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT FERGUSON
People around the country are preparing for the prosecuting attorney to announce the grand jury's decision whether to indict Officer Darren Wilson for the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson. Indications point to a grand jury announcement soon, possibly between Election Day and Thanksgiving. An indictment is extremely unlikely, but whatever it is, whenever it is, there will be much pain and anger that will be expressed in a variety of ways, some constructive and some not.
Our deep theology as a justice-seeking people calls upon us to show up for this. Many of you have asked what you can do. We urge you to help us to SHOW UP in any of the following ways: (And remember: the most current information will be found on the Standing on the Side of Love Ferguson page.)
BEFORE THE GRAND JURY REPORT
- Seek in-depth information and perspective on the protests in St. Louis. Mainstream media has gotten a lot of things wrong, or simply paints an unfair portrait of people who are resisting racial profiling. Read and share these stories to counter others that people are hearing.
- Check out The St. Louis American http://www.stlamerican.com
- This is the Movement newsletter: http://bit.ly/thisisthemovement
- On Twitter follow @deray, @brownblaze, @TefPoe, @HandsUpUnited, @stackizshort, @bdoulaoblongata, @MillennialAU, @LostVoices14, @OBS_StL, @akacharleswade, @shaunking.
- Watch National Day Against Police Brutality with Kenny Wiley ad Barbara Hoag Gadon on the VUU.
- If you serve a congregation, consider a different worship service and RE focus for the Sunday immediately following the announcement or as soon as possible thereafter. Look for materials on the Standing on the Side of Love web page, www.standingonthesideoflove.org/blog/withferguson, as well as the St. Louis Standing on the Side of Love Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/stlstandingonthesideoflove. If you have materials you think would be helpful, please submit them to firstname.lastname@example.org, and they will be posted.
- Encourage UUs in your community to participate in the Church of the Larger Fellowship's online vigil, which is planned to be broadcast the day of the announcement. (http://www.clfuu.org)
- Write a blog or prominent message on your congregation or personal website and social media outlets, urging people to pay attention.
- If you use Twitter, consider following the hashtag #UUwithFerguson and add that hashtag if you tweet about your support. Follow some of the young movement leaders on twitter, @TefPoe, @HandsUpUnited, @stackizshort, @bdoulaoblongata, @MillennialAU, @LostVoices14. Send messages of support to them. They need us!
- Write public statements and op-ed pieces. Check the website and St. Louis SSL Facebook page for Rev. Rosemary Bray McNatt's tip sheet and talking points for ideas.
- Tie your work to the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Selma. We can't congratulate ourselves for our work 50 years ago and not address the major civil rights revolution of our time.
AFTER THE GRAND JURY REPORT
- Hold a vigil in your own community. Use this opportunity to shine a spotlight on racial profiling where you are. Personally reach out to others in your area to encourage their participation. This does not have to be limited to UU colleagues. This is an excellent time to bring congregations together.
- Getting to and around in St. Louis may be difficult in the time immediately following the announcement. It will also take organizations awhile to prepare actions for a national call. Please watch for information about a call to come to St. Louis.
- Stay updated on the St. Louis Standing on the Side of Love page on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/stlstandingonthesideoflove. We will be keeping an eye out for the next "Ferguson October" event, which was beautifully organized by multiple organizations and facilitated safe, positive participation.
- Should protests arise in your area, show up in support. Follow the lead of the African American community, and check in with interfaith groups.
- Seek de-escalation training and serve as de-escalators. Join organizations that are monitoring police. It may require soul-searching about what you can and cannot support, but that too is important work. "We need not think alike to love alike."
- And finally: photograph and document everything you do. Our people need to see a giant splash of yellow Standing on the Side of Love shirts in both the physical and virtual worlds at this time. Post them on your website, Facebook pages, and to St. Louis SSL. If you use Twitter, use #UUwithFerguson. For UUA distribution, send photos and stories to email@example.com.
Thank you for your service. We stand with you.
The Ferguson Response Team
Rosemary Bray McNatt
INTERCONNECTIONS WITH DISTRICTS
Throughout all the discussions regarding regionalization has been a thread of how to keep congregations and their leaders connected. There is concern that some will feel that moving to a larger region will be more challenging to connect with other Unitarian Universalists. So there are many plans, still being developed, on how to stay connected and expand whom you connect with.
A similar connection I have grown to thoroughly enjoy is the District Presidents Association (DPA). Each district president (and in the case of MidAmerica, their regional president) is automatically a member of this group. The DPA “exists to be the voice and the ears for Unitarian Universalist district boards with the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) staff, as well as for education and support of district leadership.”
We meet in person twice each year: once immediately before General Assembly and again in the Fall at the UUA headquarters in Boston.
The reason I enjoy this group so much is because I get to chat with people from across the nation with shared interests. I get wonderful ideas about how to approach an issue or start an entirely new initiative. These conversations also include several UUA staff, so I get to hear first hand what our Association is doing. I love making these connections.
Have you attended a General Assembly? Everyone I talk with a GA expresses their joy of feeling connected to so many other UUs. It’s energizing. It’s a very loving environment.
These feelings are what we are striving to recreate within our region: To establish the infrastructure allowing you to interconnect with other UUs and their congregations. To experience the satisfaction and growth that comes from learning how a sister congregation excels in social justice, spiritual development or religious education.
There are so many opportunities for interconnecting with other UUs. For example, there are many UU Facebook pages on special interests. The New York State Convention of Universalists has annual meetings and awards grants and loans to UU congregations. Our region has several staff who offer workshops online, in person, and on-demand. And our UUA has an abundance of resources to help congregations in all aspects of congregational life. Take advantage of all these people and resources – the interconnections we make are not only good for you, as an individual, but for you as part of Unitarian Universalism.
DISTRICT ASSEMBLY WORKSHOP PROPOSALS NOW BEING ACCEPTED
Does your committee or congregation have a great program you'd like to share with others in the OMD and St Lawerence districts? This year we have several workshop slots available at the Ohio-Meadville & St. Lawrence Joint District Assembly on March 27-28, 2015. Congregations, committees, organizations, and individuals wishing to present a 1 hour, 15 minute workshop at one of these events are welcome to do so by completing this application and submitting it to the OMD office.
Thie 2015 theme is Strong Roots, Broad Wings. Workshops that highlight or focus on ways that congregations can or have successfully worked together on projects are highly encouraged. Cluster work is another area we are interested in highlighting. Congregations with innovative programs who would like to share those programs and their success with others are also welcomed.
The deadline to apply a workshop slot is November 10. District Assembly workshops will be selected by December 15th. Fill out the online form to apply.
DISTRICT TEAMWORK SERVES CONGREGATIONS
Sometimes a challenge can offer an opportunity to try something new.
In the Ohio Meadville and St. Lawrence Districts of the Unitarian Universalist Association, the sudden illness and extended medical leave of St. Lawrence Congregational Life Consultant, the Rev. Chris Neilson, resulted in an all-hands-on-deck response from the district boards and from district, regional and national UUA staff.
The governing boards of the four districts that make up the Central East Regional Group have been in discussion about moving to a "Primary Contact" model where each congregation has a "go-to" person who partners with the congregation's leaders to find the right resources and specialists from the UUA and region and to strengthen relationships within clusters. The model provides an improved Primary Contact staff-to-congregation ration in OMD and SLD (1 to 25-30 congregations). Staff will also continue to offer depth with their own portfolio "specialties" for the four districts in the region.
The Rev. Joan VanBecelaere (lead of the Central East Regional Group) and the Rev. Scott Tayler (director of Congregational Life for the UUA) saw the challenge of the medical leave as an opportunity to pilot this primary contact program. They devised a plan to redeploy existing staff from the districts and region for the duration of the medical leave.
Beginning July 1, there will be three staff persons in OMD and SLD taking on the role of Primary Contact for different clusters of congregations:
||Rev. Joan Van Becelaere firstname.lastname@example.org, 303-641-5896 (OMD Congregational Life Consultant and CERG regional lead)
||Evin Carvill-Ziemer email@example.com, 330-281-3306 (Program Coordinator for OMD and SLD and Acting Congregational Life Consultant)
||Rev. Renee Ruchotzke firstname.lastname@example.org, 330-554-0828 (Regional Congregational Life Consultant in Leadership Development)
For a quick reference on who will be serving your congregation, please check this map (above) or visit this easy to use form.
Of course, the entire CERG staff is ready to respond when needed and to support our congregations as we strengthen our Unitarian Universalist faith within and beyond our walls.
The staff and district boards will be assessing this program and its effectiveness on an on-going basis. Please share your observations and questions with our regional lead, the Rev. Joan VanBecelaere. Joan can be reached at email@example.com.
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