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The Unitarian Universalist Pocket Guide
6th Ed.

Edited by Susan Frederick-Gray, 2019
Skinner House Books

Sunday Online Services at 10am

TRUU Members and Friends –

This Sunday will be my last time in the TRUU pulpit. I will write one more newsletter article next week. In the meantime, I want to share the words below, from my colleague, the Rev. Meg Riley. She is the Sr. Minister of the Church of the Larger Fellowship, a congregation without walls that serves UU’s all over the world and those who are incarcerated. She, too, lives in Minneapolis and shares her perspective below on racism in America.

-Rev. Laurie

Hi Friends,

It’s been quite a week in my hometown of Minneapolis, and indeed in every city in the US. Last week, when it was time to write this column, I was too stunned and horrified about George Floyd’s murder on a street corner, I know well, to find words. I shared instead (with permission, always!) the words of Dr. Elias Ortega.

Unity Church in St. Paul sells bumper stickers that say, “It’s complicated.” What I want to say today is complicated, and I hope you will bear with me as I fumble through it.

Many people have said many things much wiser than I will. I hope you are following the posts of Black leaders wherever you are, and nationally. More to the point, if you are white, I hope you believe what Black people say about what is happening and what needs to happen. I understand all too well, because those white supremacy systems are deep within me also, how easy it is to discount Black and brown voices as if they are somehow biased and we, the white people, are objective and can see more clearly. That’s what we’ve been taught. Undoing that lie, which affects everything we think we see and know, is a profoundly liberating experience. Still, it’s one we have to work at every single day. May the truth set us free.

In Minneapolis, it’s complicated. While most of the arrests are of local people, some of the fires that were set were done by people well trained in destruction, not random community activists. Footage shows that the first windows broken were by a white man, rumored to be a police officer, despite being told by Black people not to do it.

The city has been crawling with large black trucks with tinted windows and no license plates, driven by white men, some of whom have shot at Black people. People of color own many of the places that are destroyed, immigrants, queer people. White supremacist influences, both within the police and not, are definitely at play. And yet the rage of the community is also palpable and has been expressed physically. Years and years of abuse, injury, and murder, live within people’s bodies and psyches.

One painful gift of the time we are in now is that, with the Oval Office Occupant declaring war on the media, his footsoldiers have been assaulting every kind of reporter on national TVMuch of it has been photographed live.

This experience of violence, I hope, may lead reporters to conclude that Black people and other protestors have been telling the truth all this time when they said the police assaulted them without provocation. In the past, the white media has been incredibly complicit in white supremacy culture, quoting police as if they always tell the truth and protestors as if they are biased. In Minneapolis, they have repeatedly cited the expertise of the police union leader, Bob Kroll, without naming his very radical white supremacist biases. Perhaps this personal experience of irresponsible violence at the hands of police will lead to a change in the story we are telling as a country about who are the ‘good guys’ and who are the ‘bad guys.’

And of course, it’s never that simple: Good guys and bad guys. Our police chief in Minneapolis, for instance, I would put in the category of ‘good guys.’ It’s the system, not the individuals, that is rotten. It’s not bad apples; it is a rotten orchard. The soil, the seeds that planted the trees, thee trees. The whole damn system is guilty as hell, as the street activists chant.

What I can see that gives me the heart to continue around here is that things are moving. Local activism has been incredible, reminding me why I love this city with all its problems. The Minneapolis School System voted to stop having cops in them, something youth has been advocating for years.

The University of Minnesota has said they won’t use the MPD for sporting events anymore.

The State of Minnesota has filed civil rights charges against the MPD.

And the on-the-ground activism has been incredible, reminding me why I love this city with all its problems. Activists turned an abandoned hotel into housing for homeless people.

People have been feeding those left without access to grocery stores and restaurants.

Street patrols by the American Indian Movement led to the protection of businesses and people.

As you discern steps to take where you are, ways to move forward, may the complexities of the situation not cause you to give up. Believe and support leadership by Black people, Indigenous people, people of color. Do what you can where you are.

Love,

Meg

June 4, 2020

Two Poems by Langston Hughes

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LET AMERICA BE AMERICA AGAIN
Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.
(America never was America to me.)
Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.
(It never was America to me.)
O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.
(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)
Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?
I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.
I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!
I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean—
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.
Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That’s made America the land it has become.
O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home—
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”
The free?
Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
And all the songs we’ve sung
And all the hopes we’ve held
And all the flags we’ve hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay—
Except the dream that’s almost dead today.
O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME—
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.
Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,
America!
O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!
Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again!
–Langston Hughes
FREEDOM
Freedom will not come
Today, this year
            Nor ever
Through compromise and fear.
I have as much right
As the other fellow has
            To stand
On my two feet
And own the land.
I tire so of hearing people say,
Let things take their course.
Tomorrow is another day.
I do not need my freedom when I’m dead.
I cannot live on tomorrow’s bread.
            Freedom
            Is a strong seed
            Planted
            In a great need.
            I live here, too.
            I want my freedom
            Just as you.
–Langston Hughes

May 12, 2020

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Dear TRUU Members and Friends,

One of my favorite hymns is #389:

 

Gathered here in the mystery of the hour,

Gathered here in one strong body,

Gathered here in the struggle and the power,

Spirit draw near.

 

As a minister, I almost always come to tears singing that from the pulpit and looking at the loved faces of the congregation in front of me. And our 7th Principle, which refers to our

“respect for the interdependent web of all existence, of which we are a part” articulates that our beloved Body is the entire Earth and all of its beings. There are so many visible and invisible ways that our bodies, as well as our Body as a Whole, are connected. Coronavirus has brought that sacred truth home to us in  poignant and painful ways. And so I share the open below, written by Alla Renee Bozarth, one of the group of 11 women first ordained as Episcopal priests. Take good care and may each of us be a part of the wellness of that is unfolding in the midst of this strange time.

– Rev. Laurie

 

“There is no difference between

healing your body and healing the Earth

or helping another to heal.

It is all the same Body.

 

There is no difference between

healing Earth’s body and healing your own

or helping another to heal.

We are all the One Body.

 

Begin anywhere.

Begin with one tree, or a bird.

Begin with your own heart or skin, clean out your liver, clear your mind.

Begin with the growth of a child, your family’s food.

Then continue to include one small part of the time.

You will be healing the Whole.”

 

-Alla Renee Bozarth, The Book of Bliss

May 8, 2020

Kindness

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Kindness by Naomi Shihab Nye

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
    purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you every where
like a shadow or a friend.

–Naomi Shihab Nye, from The Words Under the Words

 

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