UUI Helps Bring Improved Transit to Marion County

This past fall, UUI, through our membership in IndyCAN, worked diligently to increase Marion County's investment in public transportation to benefit the neighborhoods that need it the most. Together with the 30+ different religious communities who make up IndyCAN, we met with City Councilors and community leaders, we hosted meetings with the CEO of IndyGO and the Executive Director of the Indy Metropolitan Planning Office (right here in our Cottage!), and we helped lead one of the most ambitious voter outreach programs the state of Indiana has ever seen. Over the course of 12 weeks, IndyCAN made over 160,000 phone calls and held more than 40,000 conversations about the new transit bill. UUI was a part of the work at every step of the way. The result was dramatic. The November transit referendum passed with almost 60% of the vote, and in February the City Council voted to put the final seal of approval on the new transit plan.

Why did we do this? Because access to transportation is one of the most important requirements for escaping poverty; because everyone deserves a safe, reliable way to get to their job, to get to the doctor's, to get their children to childcare, and to get groceries on the table; and because our 2nd principle calls us to work for justice, equity, and compassion in human relations. And that is just what we did!

From the IndyCAN newsletter: "The new transit plan creates thousands of jobs, connects isolated communities of color to good jobs and increases bus service by 70 percent. In low-income communities and communities of color, that means a tripling of bus service."

Much appreciation is due to the Board for their vision to support UUI's membership in IndyCAN. Much appreciation is due to the organizers of IndyCAN and to all of our partner congregations. And much appreciation is due to the people of UUI who dedicated so much time and effort to help us live into our covenant that "love is the spirit of this church, and service is its law."

You can learn more about IndyCAN at IndyCAN.org and about the new transit plan at IndyGO.org. To get involved in UUI's IndyCAN work email jamie@uui.org.

We'll Walk Hand In Hand

 

So, that happened.

Tuesday happened and many of us woke up on Wednesday morning feeling a lot of different emotions, but above all facing a great uncertainty. Donald Trump is president, and no one really knows exactly what that will mean. And with uncertainty comes fear, and not for no reason. In the few days since the election, the reports are already rolling in: a Muslim women assaulted on the streets, her hijab pulled off her head, Hispanic children taunted in school, being told “you’re going to have to leave the country,” drivers of a pickup truck yelling “white power” at a black man walking in the streets, a woman tailgated by drivers screaming anti-GLBT slogans because of an Indiana Youth Group bumper sticker on her car. The last two incidents happened here in our community. Whatever is behind the Trump phenomenon—and make no mistake, fifty-nine million people do not cast a vote for any one reason; there is not one reason Donald Trump was elected—there is no question that it is emboldening the agents of prejudice and hate in our communities. We are watching it happen.

 As the worship leader of this community, as a representative of the values of Unitarian Universalism, I am not writing these words because I like NAFTA or don’t like NAFTA, because I have strong opinions about tax codes or Wall Street regulation, or because of my personal convictions about the Affordable Care Act. Those are all substantive issues and I do care about them. They have a real impact on people’s lives and well-being. But those issues are all within the sphere of ordinary political disagreement. If Mitt Romney had been elected president, I would not be writing. This isn’t a Democrat or Republican thing.

But speak the words of hate, let loose the floodgates of bigotry and intolerance, and my religious tradition commands me, that I not be silent. And for any person who is singled out, who is abused, who is threatened, who is fearful, it asks of me that I reach out my hand and say to them, “Take my hand, and we’ll walk this road together. And you will never be alone.”

Donald Trump now says he wants to be the president of all Americans, and I hope he means it, and I wish him well in that endeavor. President Obama says we have to have an orderly transition. Hillary Clinton says Trump won the election fair and square and we need to give him a chance to govern. And that is fine. It is their job to say those things. The tradition of a peaceful transfer of power after an election is one of the most important traditions in our country. It is a bedrock requirement of a functioning democracy. It is their job to say those things.

But that is not our job. Within that larger context, it is our job to be faithful to our vision of a world of love and justice where all people have a seat at the table. And to the extent that this thing that is the Trump phenomenon continues to stir up the forces of hate and prejudice in our country, in our communities, in our schools, in our neighborhoods, it is our job is to resist those forces of intolerance. And resist, and resist, and resist.

We are going to talk next Sunday, the 20th, about what it looks like to be a community of resistance. But that is not what I want to leave you with now.

What I want to say now, what I want to hold up to you now, is the first principle of our religious tradition, which says that every person has inherent worth and dignity. Every person. We can have whatever political disagreements we want to have—and it is good that we have political disagreements; we should expect to have substantive political disagreements about important issues within our community—but that is the line we cannot cross. We cannot cross over into exclusion and bigotry and hate. And what my religion teaches, and what I want every person reading to know, is that whoever you are, please know that you are beautiful. You are a miracle. You are a singular expression of the slow unfolding of the universe in all its creative power, which means there is mystery and magic in you. There is ancient starlight shining within you and through you. You are a gift to the world. Your children and your loved ones are a gift to the world. And I want to say to you that you are seen, and you are cherished, and you are held in love.  

Whoever you voted for, however we did or did not vote, we are all travelers in an unknown land now. We are all facing an uncertain future. And so, in the words of the poet Angela Herrera, we are all in need of traveling mercies now. We are all in need of surefootedness, clear vision, and bread for the body and spirit. But none of us need walk alone. Let us offer our hands to one another. Let us reach out our hand to someone who needs it. Let us hold fast to one another. Let us be bound together in love and faithfulness, kindness and courage. And in the face of those forces that would seek to divide and exclude, the forces of hate, let us be firm in our resolve to walk hand in hand together, held in a love that will never, never, never let go.

 

30 Days of Love

What are the 30 Days of Love? The Unitarian Universalist Association through its Standing on the Side of Love campaign has declared the 30(ish) days between MLK Day and Valentine's Day each year to be the 30 Days of Love. This idea reimagines Valentine's Day as a day when we bring our love into the world as a demand for justice.

Our understanding of love has deep roots in our Unitarian Universalist history. Our Unitarian ancestors saw Jesus as a model for the highest expression of love possible to the human spirit. This love expressed itself as forgiveness and compassion, but also as an insistent demand that justice be done here on earth. Jesus not only healed people and welcomed the despised to his table, but also overturned the money tables in the temple and challenged the power of the Roman empire. In our tradition, love is a powerful transformative force that works for justice.

Our Universalist ancestors, who believed in universal salvation, saw love as God drawing people irresistibly home to wholeness and reconciliation. Love, in this tradition, is a vision of the world in which no one is left behind, in which all are accepted and valued, in which our relationships to one another bend but do not break. Love is an acknowledgment of our deep interdependence, a statement of solidarity. Love heals wounds, reconciles enemies, and restores communities.

Our 20th century humanist movement challenged us to see ourselves as the vehicle by which love enters the world. We are the hands of love, cradling the defenseless, lifting up the afflicted, tearing down walls and opening the gates of prisons. We are the voice of love speaking up for the oppressed and the despised, calling out the abuses of the powerful or stirring up the spirits of the complacent. If love is to have a real presence in the world, this tradition says, let it be through us.  

Unitarian Universalism is a young religion that is still growing and evolving. It has ever been so with us. We believe there is always new truth and better ways of being to be discovered. Today our covenant as a religious people is grounded in our seven principles and seeks to channel the best energies of our traditions, our centuries-long commitment to love and justice.

This year the 30 Days of Love are focused on racial justice. Check out the 30 Days of Love website and Facebook page for videos and links containing educational materials and ideas about how you can get involved. We'll be updating you on this campaign each Sunday in church between now and Valentine's Day.

See you on Sunday!