UUA President Issues Statement on Proposed Military Strikes in Syria

PeterThe Rev. Peter Morales, president of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), issued the following statement regarding proposed military strikes in Syria:

In response to the use of chemical weapons by the government of Syria, President Obama is asking for Congressional approval for U.S. military intervention against the Assad regime. I join all people of conscience in condemning the use of these weapons and grieve for the appalling loss of life. I urge the Obama administration to explore and then exhaust all peaceful diplomatic efforts to bring an end to the ongoing violence in Syria. Not enough has yet been done to rally international support for non-violent response to the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian conflict. The Unitarian Universalist Association joins with many other faith groups in urging our government to refrain from the use of military force at this time.

I also realize that there are times when limited military intervention is appropriate to prevent a greater tragedy. Inaction in the face of slaughter is not a moral option. The situation in Syria might at some point require some form of U.S. military intervention. I pray that this will not be necessary, that peaceful methods can be found to safeguard the lives of the innocent people of Syria.

Our General Assembly resolutions over the years all call for nonviolent methods to be the initial response to conflict around the world, but they also recognize that military force is sometimes required to counter aggression. I urge our elected leaders to use diplomacy to deescalate the violence in Syria, and to one day create peace in our world where political conflict is solved with negotiations not bombs, there are no more senseless deaths, civilians will not live in fear, and refugees find their way to a safe home.

I call upon our UU community to work and pray for peace. As we give thanks for the peace and security we enjoy in our lives, we remember the millions of Syrians who have fled from the fighting and are now refugees in other countries. We mourn the loss of life by all kinds of weapons. And we assert that the U.S. government needs to exhaust all non-violent methods to bring about an end to this conflict before resorting to military intervention.

Pastoral Message, July 2013

pic of me with love signHi Family

It has been two days since George Zimmerman was found not guilty in the murder of Trayvon Martin.  As I read social media and listen to commentators on TV give their opinions, I knew that I would have to write a pastoral message in response to the Zimmerman verdict.  However, I did not know what to write.  There are endless essays and facebook posts about the role of white supremacy, our unfair justice system and how black and brown males are profiled and assumed guilty because of the color of their skin.  Do you know the saying, “same stuff different day?”  Well that’s how I feel.

I grew up in public housing in Philadelphia during the 1970’s and it was common for my brothers and other black males in my community to be profiled, stopped, questioned (sometimes pushed around), and frisked by Philadelphia police officers. I grew up thinking police brutality was normal and people got the best justice they could afford to buy.

My thinking has not changed over the years in regard to justice favoring those who have the access to pay for it.  What has changed for me is the belief that I am not powerless to work for change.  As a Unitarian Universalist, our First Principle calls us (that means you and me) to “Affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person.”  In other words, our first principle calls us to demand change and justice to insure that black and brown males are not profiled and assumed to be a threat by police and armed citizens.

So you may be asking yourself what can I do?  Answer, plenty.  You can begin by working on your ethnic/racial identity (white youth, youth of color and young adults) and the stereotypes about other ethnic/racial groups you carry.  If you live in Florida or another state that has a Stand Your Ground law, suggest to your youth group that you work to abolish or amend it so it does not protect someone who profiles, then stalks and kills an unarmed person.  Or your youth group can work on the Action of Immediate Witness (AIW) condemning racist mistreatment of young people of color by police that was approved at this year’s General Assembly.

 If you are person of color and you find yourself being stalked by a stranger, call 911, give them your name, age, location and a description of what you are wearing, what your stalker is wearing, and tell them that you fear for your life.  Also request that the 911 operator stay on the line with you until police arrive.  And while you are on the line with 911, keep talking, just in case…

 As always I would love to hear from you.  You can message me on Facebook at Monica Cummings, email me at mcummings@uua.org or leave a comment for me on the YaYA of Color blog, UU Living Mosaic at http://uuyayaoc.blogs.uua.org/.


 Rev. Monica,


An Open Letter to White People About Trayvon Martin

An Open Letter to White People About Trayvon Martin


Kyle “Guante” Tran Myhre

In the next few days, there are going to be a lot of essays and op-eds attempting to make sense of, or grapple with, or process the Zimmerman verdict, from writers who are better than me. So I want to talk about this from a very specific angle.

This is an open letter to white people, especially to those white people who understand that something terrible has happened, and has been happening, and will continue to happen, but don’t know what to do.

Clearly, something needs to change. But not every problem has a clear-cut, run-out-the-door-and-do-something solution. If you’re angry, or sad, take a second to process. Think about where you fit into this injustice, how you benefit from it, how you’re hurt by it. If that involves prayers, or posting links on Twitter, or having hard conversations, or writing poems, do that. Process.

But it can’t end with “processing.”

If you’re someone who has avoided thinking about white privilege—the unearned advantages that white people benefit from because of how institutions are set up and how history has unfolded—now is a great time to unstick your head from the sand. If Trayvon Martin had been white, he’d still be alive. What better real-world example of white privilege is there? Grappling with how privilege plays out in our own lives is a vital first step to being able to understand what racism is.

But it can’t end with “thinking about our privilege.”

We also need to act on those thoughts, to cultivate an awareness that can permeate our lives and relationships. When people of color share personal stories about racism, our immediate response has to stop being “but I’m not like that.” Just listen. Don’t make someone else’s oppression about you and your feelings. When people of color are angry, we need to stop worrying about the “tone” of their arguments, or trying to derail the conversation with phrases like “it’s not just about race,” or contribute meaningless abstractions like “let’s start a revolution.” When we see unjust or discriminatory practices or attitudes in our workplaces, schools, families or neighborhoods, we need to step up and challenge them. We need to take risks. We need to do better.

But it can’t end with “striving to be a better individual.”

Times like this can feel so hopeless, but it’s important to remember that people are fighting back, and have been fighting back. Racism doesn’t end when you decide to not be racist. It ends when people come together to organize, to work to reshape how our society is put together.

Check out organizations who are doing racial justice work, community organizing trainings, work with youth, and more: the Organizing Apprenticeship Project, MN Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, the Hope Community Center, TruArtSpeaks, Juxtaposition Arts, Justice for Terrance Franklin, Justice for Fong Lee, Communities United Against Police Brutality. There are certainly others (feel free to add more in the comments). Google stuff. Talk to people. Figure out where and how you can plug in.

As a white person, that can be hard. The leaders of any racial justice movement will be, and should be, the people who are most affected by the problem. But that doesn’t mean that white folks should just sit by and watch. Some of the organizations listed above may have ways for you to get involved; some might not. But there’s always something you can do. Organize a discussion group. Learn about good ally behavior. Challenge your Facebook friends. Challenge yourself. Join an organization. Infuse social justice principles into your workplace, or place of worship, or school, or neighborhood. Listen. Understand that Trayvon Martin’s murder was not an isolated incident; start seeing the racism all around you, and start doing something about it.

Above all, stay engaged. As white people, we have the option of not caring. Many don’t.

Pastoral Message

Hello Family,photo of me at P&E 4

I’m sending all of you a big, virtual hug because it seems like the new normal is on any given day for there to be in this country or somewhere in the world some type of traumatic event.  With the internet and the 24 hours news cycle, blissful ignorance is becoming more and more difficult to experience.

My prayer for each of you as you process the latest tragedies is that you have a loving supportive community that offers you a sense of safety, comfort and unconditional love.  All of which I am grateful to have in my life and I have dedicated my ministry to helping provide for others.

One example of my efforts to create supportive community is the annual FREE Food and Fellowship luncheon that I host each year at General Assembly for Youth and Young Adults of Color.  So, if you identify as Native American, Asian, Arab, Latino/a, African descent, trans-racially adopted, multiracial and are between 15-30 you are invited to the annual luncheon that will be held on Thursday, June 20, 2013 at the Louisville Marriott Downtown, in the Rose Room (DRUUMM suite) 12:00-2:00.  Please RSVP as soon as possible to mcummings@uua.org.

Another example of my ministry to support community is the annual Multicultural Leadership School, for Youth and Young Adults of Color(age 15-30) that will be held Friday, August 2, 2013 – Tuesday, August 6, 2013.

The Multicultural Leadership School (MLS) is a training designed specifically for Unitarian Universalist (UU) Youth and Young Adults of Color.  The goal of the training is to equip participants to be leaders in their UU congregation, district or continental committee.  The 3 day school will feature experienced facilitators who will be intentional on providing participants with experiences that will foster relationship building, leadership skills, racial/ethnic identity development, inter-cultural collaboration and deepening of  faith identity.  At the conclusion of the training, participants will have a new community of peers, stronger and more confident leadership abilities and a stable foundation for sustainable leadership in Unitarian Universalist congregations and other Unitarian Universalist communities and organizations.

For more information go to http://www.uua.org/re/youth/identity-based/color/158493.shtml .

As always, I would love to hear from you.  You can message me on Facebook at Monica Cummings, email me at mcummings@uua.org or leave a comment for me on the Living Mosaic blog at http://uuyayaoc.blogs.uua.org/.

I Love You,

Rev. Monica

Boston Marathon 2013 – What Story to Tell Children… and Ourselves

[The day before our blog was set to launch, explosions at the 2013 Boston Marathon finish line killed two people and injured at least 100. Our scheduled first post, on awakening our environmental stewardship on Earth Day, will appear later this week. — Editors]

My son Owen, who lives in Atlanta and was following Internet news and commentary, noted something important yesterday. “It’s different this time,” he said, “Different from 9/11. It seems to be more about those hurt than who’s responsible.”

Owen was in seventh grade on September 11, 2001. His teachers struggled mightily with how to talk about what had happened. I was a religious educator serving a congregation north of Boston. I struggled mightily, as well: What was the right message and response for the children and youth who came to church looking for help?

Flower growing out from crack in sidewalk

The language of war and violence was everywhere about us. Some children of our parish, invited to make cards of sympathy and friendship for the children of those who had died, drew pictures of bombs and burning buildings, and wrote messages like, “Don’t worry. Our president will protect us.”

In times of great trauma and grief, both individual and collective, we need a story to hold the fragments of images and feelings together. Our human-ness requires a story. Our brains can only hold that which we can fit into the narrative. It is up to us–as parents, educators, religious professionals, and caring adults–to offer our kids a story that provides a frame to hold what they are hearing and seeing.

Owen had put his finger on something essential. The frame being offered in our public discourse is different this time than it was twelve years ago. Then, there were stories of heroism and compassion and prayers and love, but they were the sidebars to the main story line: “This horrible thing happened to us and we are going to get the bad guys and all will be well again.” This time, the main story is of people helping one another in every possible way, forming community together. This time, it seems we are collectively deciding to breathe deeply and wait before rushing to create a narrative about who has perpetrated this terrible act of violence. Together, we have offered to one another an invitation to, in Adrienne Rich’s words, “…cast [our] lot with those who, age after age, perversely, with no extraordinary power, reconstitute the world.”

While now is the time to offer to children a narrative to hold, we cannot always do it directly. Many children will have been shielded from the horrible details. They may only know that all is not well. Yet they, too, are desperately seeking a way to make sense of what is happening. Share music and a story that give children a little distance from the horror, and at the same time offer them a way to feel their feelings, respond, and move forward.

One such story is Tolstoy’s “The Three Questions,” in which a king learns that the most important thing to do is what is good, the most important people are those nearby, and the most important time is now. With children, use the lovely picture book adaptation by Jon Muth.

Do what is good: Care for those children and youth who are with you and around you, help them process what has happened, if an opportunity to do this work presents itself. Be sure to tell them the story you want them to hold deeply. And do not forget to send them forth to act with love and compassion. There is little more empowering or comforting–for a child, a youth, or an adult–than to believe one is called to be the hands, feet, and voices of God and of Love in this world of ours.

Pastoral Message

 News Alert

Sadly, we are once again witnesses to senseless violence. New images of suffering, panic, and heroism burn themselves into our memory. Shock mixes with grief, disbelief, compassion and anger. 


Monday’s bombing at the finish line of the Boston Marathon occurred just blocks from the Unitarian Universalist Association headquarters. As far as we know, all our staff are safe. Our prayers go out to the families of those who were killed and to all who have been injured. Beyond the physical injuries, many have been traumatized here and across the country. 


At times like this our spiritual communities are more important than ever. This is a time for being together, for giving and taking comfort from one another. This is a time for reaching out-both to be comforted and to offer kindness. 


At this time we do not know who did this or what twisted thinking produced this horrific act. We do know this: everything we do to spread compassion, understanding, acceptance, and peace matters. It is literally a matter of life and death. 


May each of us find comfort and healing. May each of us find ways of letting our pain be transformed into acts of love and healing. 


  In Faith,


Rev. Peter Morales

President, Unitarian Universalist Association


P.S. Resources are available to help you process these disquieting events emotionally and spiritually for yourself, in your family, and with others in your faith community.  

Pastoral Message

Hello Family,

I have not written a Pastoral Message in a few months for a number of reasons, primarily because I have not had a burning desire to write.  However, something happened recently that has compelled me to communicate with you this mopic of me with love signnth.

On Sunday, March 17, two high school football players were convicted of raping a 16 year-old girl after attending a party where alcohol was being used/abused following a football practice game.  The crime came to the attention of the world after photos and video footage was posted online.  As I have read blog posts and watched pundits on TV talk about the case, I have been thinking about how this tragic event will impact the lives of all the young people who were present during the criminal act of rape; the perpetrators/predators, those who participated by watching, and the girl who was the victim.  Sadly, this painful story is just the latest one in the news involving the gang rape of a female while others watched.

I have written in the past about bullying, an epidemic problem in our country that all of you are aware of: either as victims, perpetrators or bystanders.  It appears that the tear in the cultural fabric that has always been present is now being exposed by technology that makes it easy to record and post online man’s inhumanity against those who are weaker.

The strong preying on the weak (survival of the fittest) is nothing new.  Whether it is getting worse or not is a matter of opinion.  With this sad reality in mind, I want you to process the questions below in your faith community and role play different scenarios so you will be empowered to live our first and second Unitarian Universalists principles (to affirm and promote “the inherent worth and dignity of every person and justice, equity and compassion in human relations”) in every aspect of your life.

  • How do you prevent yourself, family members and friends from becoming a perpetrator, victim or bystander when someone is being abused?
  • What are some actions you can take?

As always, I would love to hear from you.  You can message me on Facebook at Monica Cummings, email me at mcummings@uua.org or leave a comment for me on the Living Mosaic blog at http://uuyayaoc.blogs.uua.org/.

I Love You,

Rev. Monica