Monday, November 28, 2022

Exploring Article 2 and UU Values -- Love is the Center

Article 2 – Plus – Love is the Center

This fall I have been exploring the UU Values that have been included in the Draft shared by UUA’s Article 2 Study Commission and that will be presented to the UUA board in January.  Before I share more about the final and central value of LOVE, I’d like to summarize and share a little about the commission and the work that they have done – and read through with you the entire Article 2 draft.  I think it’s important that our congregations be informed of all the work going on and not be “surprised” to see these changes without a deeper understanding.  Actually, I was surprised at our gathering at the Mountain – as we talked about this together – that most of the ministers there were delaying any conversation or presentation about these.  So, I hope this little review isn’t too boring for you.  But it’s information that you need to know as part of the larger Unitarian Universalist community.  I know I’m presenting this on a “low attendance Sunday” – the Sunday after Thanksgiving always is – but it’s being recorded, and I’ll have the text as well to share with others who are out of town. 

According to our bylaws, Article 2 should be re-examined and updated or replaced every 15 years – knowing that we are Unitarian Universalists – and we evolve.  But this last revisions of our Purposes, Principles, and Sources were in 1987.  We are way overdue.  Since that time, various groups have suggested lots of revisions – many that were controversial.  One example is changing the first principle to include all living beings.  Another is adding an 8th Principle.  Also, revisions for some others that seemed to divide us more than unify us. 

So, the board realized that we needed to do this in a more deliberate manner – and appointed a Study Commission with the charge that they examine the entire Article 2, get input from many groups, and prepare a draft that could be presented to the board at their January 2023 meeting.  This is the group that has been meeting.  These 5 folks – all very active in UUA and representing various groups and ages met with three liaisons from UUA and worked for two years on this.  They had been encouraged to be creative in their efforts and decided to focus on primary values that we held.  After receiving lots of input and doing their analysis – with the help of word clouds and other programs, they proposed seven values with LOVE as the central value.  And they also revised other aspects of article 2 to represent our evolving community. 

SLIDE - I’ve included the entire draft on my PowerPoint for us to read through together.  We will begin with the Purposes of the Association.

The Unitarian Universalist Association shall devote its resources to and exercise its organizational powers for religious, educational, and humanitarian purposes. Its primary purposes are to equip congregations for vital ministry, to support and train leaders both lay and professional, to heal historic inequities, and to advance our Unitarian Universalist values in the world. We will transform the world by our liberating love.

(Note how often love is included in this document)

SLIDE - The next section looks at our values and how we covenant together to take actions related to these values.  Please join me.

Love is the enduring force that holds us together.

As Unitarian Universalists in religious community, we covenant,

congregation-to-congregation and through our association, to support and assist each other in engaging our ministries. We draw from our heritages of freedom and reason, hope and courage, building on the foundation of love.

Love inspires and powers the passion with which we embody our

values. Inseparable from one another, these shared values are:


Then the image that’s become familiar to those coming to our services this fall – with Love as the Center.



SLIDE = Next each of the six remaining values are described along with the related covenanting statement. I invite you to read with me.


Justice. We work to be diverse multicultural Beloved Communities

where all people thrive.

We covenant to dismantle racism and all forms of oppression

within individuals and our institutions. We are accountable to each other for this work.

Generosity. We cultivate a spirit of gratitude and hope.

We covenant to freely share our faith, presence, and resources.

Compassionate generosity connects us one to another in relationships of mutuality.

Evolution. We adapt to the changing world.

We covenant to collectively transform and grow spiritually and

ethically. Evolution is fundamental to life and to our Unitarian

Universalist heritages, never complete and never perfect.

SLIDE - Pluralism. We celebrate that we are all sacred beings diverse in

culture, theology, and experience.

We covenant to learn from one another and openly explore the

depth and breadth of our many wisdoms. We embrace our differences and commonalities with love, curiosity, and respect.

Equity. We declare that every person has the right to flourish with

dignity and worthiness.

We covenant to use our time, wisdom, attention, and money to

build and sustain a fully inclusive and accessible community of


Interdependence. We honor the sacred interdependent web of all

existence. With humility we understand our place in the web.

We covenant to care for and respect the earth and all beings by

fostering relationships of mutuality. We work to repair the bonds we

have broken.


SLIDE -- Then a section regarding our Inspirations!  Since many of us are inspired by so many different possibilities, they have left this section much more general than the Sources we currently have in our bylaws.  Let’s read this together.


As Unitarian Universalists, we draw upon, and are inspired by, the full depth and breadth of sacred understandings, as experienced by humanity. Grateful for the religious lineages we inherit and the pluralism which enriches our faith, we are called to ever deepen and expand our wisdom.


The next section shares who will welcome – who is included.  Let’s read that.


Systems of power, privilege, and oppression have traditionally created barriers for persons and groups with particular identities, ages, abilities, and histories. We pledge to replace such barriers with ever-widening circles of solidarity and mutual respect. We strive to be an association of congregations that truly welcome all persons who share our values. We commit to structuring congregational and associational life in ways that empower and enhance everyone’s participation.


SLIDE -- Then finally a statement confirming the non-creedal nature of our faith.  What holds us together is not a creed or belief system – but our values and covenants.  We are not a creedal faith – but a covenantal faith.  Let’s read this statement together.


Section C-2.5. Freedom of belief.


Nothing herein shall be deemed to infringe upon the individual freedom of belief which is inherent in the Unitarian Universalist heritages or to conflict with any statement of purpose, covenant, or bond of union used by any congregation unless such is used as a creedal test. In expressing our beliefs, we do so in the spirit of love, in ways that further Beloved Community


SLIDE -- Now we can talk about other parts of this Draft later – but in my remaining time – I do want to focus on the Center of our Faith – and that is LOVE. 


Some folks don’t like that term – but to them I say – translate.  This is not romantic love – this is love in action – taking care of ourselves, our communities, and the world with compassion, caring, understanding, and more.


If you’ve been with us a while – you may know that UU’s adopted the theme of “Standing on the Side of Love” – led initially by those working for marriage equality.  Then we expanded the idea and adopted those bold yellow shirts to wear to various demonstrations – standing on the side of love for all kinds of needs in this world.  Later – wanting to widen the circle more – we changed to Side with Love (and there is a story that goes with that).  So, when I last went to General Assembly in June, I purchased a Side with Love t-shirt that I could wear, not just to demonstrations or protests – but everywhere.  I choose to try to Side with Love.  A couple of weeks ago, I was sitting outside at a restaurant at St. Simons that I like.  Greg had already come back to Statesboro – but I had meetings and more to keep me in Glynn County.  When the server came up when I had completed my meal – I had my credit card out to pay for my large spinach salad and water and she said, “You can put that back.  Someone has already paid for your dinner.  And I thought – why would someone anonymously pay for my dinner.  (I’m ashamed to admit I also thought that I should have ordered more).  Then I realized I had that Side with Love shirt on.  And someone appreciated that – or recognized the movement that it stood for.  People want us to Side with Love; actually, need desperately for us to Side with Love.  And we need it as well.  Many years ago, some Christians wore bracelets with WWJD on them – to remind them – “What would Jesus do?”  I wish they would begin wearing those and thinking about that again.  Because – in general – Jesus sided with love.  He was there for the oppressed, the sick, the hungry and more.  Now I do not identify as a Christian – though I’m inspired by many – not all – of their scriptures.  So, I probably wouldn’t ask that question.  But I certainly want to ask myself OFTEN – what is the LOVING thing to do.  Now that doesn’t always mean saying YES to various requests.  Sometimes LOVE means saying NO – and all of us could give examples.  I do like the song in our hymnal that ya’ll are going to sing at my memorial service though – that ends with the line “If they ask what I did best, tell the I said “YES” to love!”


Rev. Thom Belote asks: 

If you’ve ever sided with love, what motivated you? What inspired you? What swelled up within you and gave you the moral clarity and discernment to side with love?

Can we side with love rather than being a detached observer of love? Can side with love rather than having a discussion group about love?

That’s what the Article 2 Study Commission is trying to sway us to think about – not just what our values are – but what are we committing ourselves to DO.  And that’s why each those – including the Central Value of LOVE – has a Covenant statement that accompanies it.

SLIDE There is another song in our hymnal about Love that inspires me.

"Love will guide us, peace has tried us, hope inside us will lead the way – on the road from greed to giving – love will guide us through the dark night."

May it be so!!


Sunday, November 13, 2022

Exploring UU Values: Justice




“Making a Fist,” by Naomi Shihab Nye

For the first time, on the road north of Tampico,

I felt the life sliding out of me,

A drum in the desert, harder and harder to hear.

I was seven, I lay in the car

Watching palm trees swirl a sickening pattern past

the glass.

My stomach was a melon split wide inside my skin.

“How do you know if you are going to die?”

I begged my mother.

We had been traveling for days.

With strange confidence she answered,

“When you can no longer make a fist.”

Years later I smile to think of that journey,

the borders we must cross separately,

stamped with our unanswerable woes.

I who did not die, who am still living,

still lying in the back seat behind all my questions,

clenching and opening one small hand.

From “The American Dream,” by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

 “There is a word today that is the ringing cry of modern psychology: it is maladjusted. Certainly all of us want to live a well-adjusted life in order to avoid the neurotic personality. But I say to you, there are certain things without our social order to which I am proud to be maladjusted and to which I call upon anyone of good will to be maladjusted.

“I never did intend to adjust to the evils of segregation and discrimination. I never did intend to adjust myself to religious bigotry. I never did intend to adjust myself to economic conditions that will take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few. I never did intend to adjust myself to the madness of militarism, and the self-defeating effects of physical violence. And I call on every person of good will to be maladjusted because it may well be that the salvation of our world lies in the hands of the maladjusted.”

A minute of silence

(Bell) – and that concludes -One full minute of silence!

That’s what the judge asked for in that courtroom before he sentenced the men who murdered Ahmaud Arbery.  He did this to have them understand how long a minute was – then reminded them that was just 1/5 of the time that Ahmaud Arbery ran in terror as he was chased and hunted down by these men in pick up trucks with guns.  What was that like for him? Then he pronounced the sentences – and I had the same feeling that I had when I heard the verdicts.  I was sitting outside with some of the family members began to hear from folks who were watching on their phones.  It wasn’t really a joyful feeling – for one young man was dead and three other men would likely spend all or most of their lives in prison.  It wasn’t joyful – but it was justful.  Yes, we felt that a little bit of justice came to Brunswick that day. 

Later, our Glynn Clergy Equity Group again accompanied and prayed with family members during the Federal Hate Crimes trial.  And again, there was justice.  In a press release from the Justice Department on August 8, 2022 – not that long ago – Assistant Attorney General Kristan Clark of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said,  “It was important that this murder was prosecuted for what it was—a brutal and abhorrent racially-motivated hate crime. Ahmaud Arbery should be alive today. The tragic murder of Mr. Arbery reminds us that hate-fueled violence targeting Black people remains a modern-day threat in our country, and we must use every tool available to hold perpetrators accountable. We hope that this sentencing ends one painful chapter for the family of Ahmaud Arbery, the Brunswick community and the nation as a whole.”

Justice – one of the values that our UU 2nd Article Study commission is lifting up as a shared value of Unitarian Universalists.  I know if you were here last Sunday – you already heard an excellent sermon about Justice by Clint Tawes.  I think it’s a little bit of serendipity that we both chose this theme so close together – because it’s probably good to get a double dose of Justice. 

Facebook has a place on your profile where folks are asked to write a few words describing who they are.  I used the same words that I have at the top of my blog – where I post my sermons and other pieces.  Those two words are - “Just Jane”

And yes, it does have a double meaning. 

Although I’ve earned some degrees and jumped some hoops that have titles that go with them – when folks ask me what they should call me – I usually answer – “Just Jane.”  Now there are a few who are uncomfortable with that – and I happily answer to other monikers.  But most of you call me Jane, unless you are formally introducing me at some function or something.  The “just” in “Just Jane” – is a synonym for “Simply.” 

But I like the fact that using that description – encourages me also – to a higher calling.  To be Just – to be FAIR – to do what is right and to work for Justice every day.

One of my heroes is Jane Addams – a truly Just Jane!!  We claim her as a Unitarian because she was attended the Unitarian Church in Chicago – and regularly spoke there about her settlement house – known as Hull House.  But, she never signed the book.  Here’s what she had to say about Justice.

Those who believe that Justice is but a poetical longing within us, the enthusiast who thinks it will come in the form of a millennium, those who see it established by the strong arm of a hero, are not those who have comprehended the vast truths of life. The actual Justice must come by trained intelligence, by broadened sympathies toward the individual man or woman who crosses our path; one item added to another is the only method by which to build up a conception lofty enough to be of use in the world.

She also reminded us that –

The good we secure for ourselves is precarious and uncertain until it is secured for all of us and incorporated into our common life.--

What is Justice? has eleven definitions.  I’ll share just four.

1.     the quality of being just; righteousness, equitableness, or moral rightness: 

2.     the moral principle determining just conduct.

3.     conformity to this principle, as manifested in conduct; just conduct, dealing, or treatment:

4.     just treatment of all members of society with regard to a specified public issue, including equitable distribution of resources and participation in decision-making (usually used in combination):

One of these public issues that you may have heard a lot about this week is environmental justice.  The United Nations is having their climate change conference in Egypt from November 6-18.  And already, one of the messages that is ringing out from speakers is the fact that the Global North caused this crisis – but the Global South has had to endure more of the hardships.  What is justice for the countries who have had to already endure more flooding, drought, unsustainable temperatures and more.  And shouldn’t that help come from those who caused the problem.  Wouldn’t that be justice?  And what if these individuals in these places are not able to adapt fast enough to the changes?  Will industrialized nations be willing to increase the numbers they will allow to immigrate?  Of course, environmental justice isn’t just a global concern.  In our region, the rich can live in places that are not polluted, flooded, and more.  Not so for the poor.  Then we see more sickness in these neighborhoods.  Where is the justice? Where is the justice?

A lot of the issues related to justice have been highlighted in this very difficult election season.  It seems we’ve become so polarized that we can’t accomplish what we need to for a fair and just world.  America is broken.  But we all voted, and we will continue to do so and continue to speak out. 

Sometimes when I share with you about issues of justice, you may feel that I look a little angry --- and you may say, “calm down, Jane.”  And I share with you – that I love peace – but I do agree with those who proclaim, “No Justice. No Peace!”  That doesn’t mean that I endorse any violence.  I do not.  But I do honor the truth that it’s hard to have the peace you need in your hearts with so much injustice around you.  And anger – can be a good thing, if it’s But I do honor that anger can be a good thing if it’s channeled in the right way.

Marshall Rosenberg offers this metaphor: “Anger can be valuable,” he says, “if we use it as an alarm clock to wake us up – to realize we have a need that isn’t being met and that we are thinking in a way that makes it unlikely to be met.”

This is the kind of prophetic anger that stirs us to action. In our earlier reading, Martin Luther King was talking about that kind of anger – or maladjustment.  There are certain practices or conditions, he said, to which we ought to be “maladjusted,” that rightfully stir us to anger. He names racial segregation, religious bigotry, economic conditions that take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few, the madness of militarism, the self-defeating effects of violence.  Today, we might add many others.

In a sermon he shared as he ended his ministry, the late Rev. Mark Ward asked:  “How shall we frame that anger in a way that doesn’t do damage or distract us from our larger goals and deeper needs? How might anger be a blessing to the world?”

Cathleen Kaveny of Harvard says in her book Prophecy Without Contempt that prophetic language can be a powerful tool “to combat entrenched social evil, to shake persons out of indifference,” but that if aspiring prophets “cannot connect their calls for reform to deep veins in the community’s own values, they’ll be perceived as cranks.”

So, there is a balancing act in working for justice. 

Holy Near wrote the song we sang earlier – “We are a Gentle Angry People” after the assassination of Harvey Milk.  “This song is a call to action. It demands that we make sure everyone knows who we are and how many we are, we who will not be moved, we who are scared, and angry, and loving, and resisting.” (Notes from the Far Fringe).

It begins with the verse: “We are a gentle, angry people!” And Ends with “We are a gentle, loving people.”

We can lift our prophetic voices together. 
The prophetic voices in this community need not come from just ministers, of course.  My colleague, the Rev. Meg Riley argues that we Unitarian Universalists should explore the notion of what it might mean to create prophetic communities in our congregations, communities that see their work as the Unitarian theologian James Luther Adams described it as a matter “of making history, rather than being pushed around by it.”

Meg argues that there are three main qualities to such congregations: they are clear about the values they stand for; they embrace an ethic of radical caring; and they focus on hope.

One goal of our Article 2 Study Commission is that we be clear about the values we share.  And that we follow that up by doing something.  So, for each of these values – they have a covenant statement.  Now this is all still a draft – and they are presenting it to the UUA board in January.  But I want to share with you the Covenant Statement that goes with the value of Justice.  You’ll see some familiar language in this.


We value justice.  We covenant to create environments where people thrive.  We will work to dismantle systems of racism, oppression, and white supremacy culture in our congregations and in ourselves.  In working to bring justice, we work to bring peace to ourselves, our community, and our world.

(This is where they are including that 8th principle language.)

Read it with me.

We value justice.  We covenant to create environments where people thrive.  We will work to dismantle systems of racism, oppression, and white supremacy culture in our congregations and in ourselves.  In working to bring justice, we work to bring peace to ourselves, our community, and our world.

A mighty high calling.  Clint Tawes told me that after his sermon Sunday, folks wondered – what can we do – and he wished he had ended his sermon with some possibilities.  I told him that I was glad he left something for me.

Here are a few of the ways that the folks I’ve been reading suggest.

We can examine our own beliefs, biases, and habits. 

We can educate ourselves and not depend on those who suffer from various oppressions to do the work for us. 

In addition to our congregational efforts, we can volunteer with organizations that work for justice. 

We can find ways to speak out through social media, letters to the editor, at protests, or just with our friends and neighbors. 

We can donate money to organizations working for justice and if we invest money – do it with sustainability and justice in mind. 

We can also choose where we spend our money and support artists, writers, and activists who speak out against injustices. 

We can get involved with politics and support those who share our values.  (Note – we still have a run-off coming up in Georgia.) 

And of course, we need to be kind and compassionate.  These are very difficult times for many of us.  In dealing with our own issues, we may forget that we’re all in this together. And as long as we can do like that little girl in the reading by Naomi Shihab Nye I shared – make and open our fists (and yes, that has a metaphorical meaning as well) – we will get there. 

Then – perhaps we can sing that last verse of Holly Near’s song and believe it.

Slide – Sing it with me.

We are a gentle loving people.  And we are singing, singing for our lives. 

We are a gentle loving people.  And we are singing, singing for our lives.

May it be so!