Pastoral Message, December 2011

Hello Family,

I am sitting in my home office watching squirrels run across cable lines while reflecting on 2011.  Wow, it has been quite a year.  Most notable this past year is the publicity related to teen suicide because of bullying, and the Occupy Movement.

At first glance these topics seem to be unrelated.  However, after digging just a little below the surface, the connection becomes clear.  The common thread that connects the two is abuse of power.  For example, heterosexual youth who use their dominant cultural power to bully LGBTQ youth and CEO’s of banks and corporations who use their financial power to bully the unemployed, under-employed, poor and working class. Indeed, 2011 will be remembered as the year the 99% broke their silence to let the 1% know that bullying (physical, verbal, financial) destroys lives.

Finally, I invite you to reach out to family and friends who may be struggling with unemployment, depression or illness during this holiday season and let them know that they are not alone.  Conversely, if you are suffering with depression, please reach out for support.  Youth and Young Adults of Color who are interested, I have a list of UU ministers and religious professionals of color who are willing to provide chaplain support during the holidays.  Please contact me for a list of their names.

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://livingmosaic.blogs.uua.org/

Living My Faith,

Rev. Monica

 

Pastoral Message, October 2011

pic of me with love signHi Family,

I hope this message finds you and your family well.  I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the Central Midwest District Chapter of the Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association’s fall retreat last week.  The topic for the retreat was “Whose Are We.”  For two days, we reflected on relationships with colleagues, our personal ministries, a Higher Power, etc…  In addition to pondering the above questions, I also participated in a morning worship service titled, “Whose Are We”, by providing the following closing words,

Whose Are We?

our parents and partners

our siblings

our children

our pets

Whose Are We?

our neighbors

our friends

our co-workers

our congregations

Whose Are We?

the powerful and the powerless

those who suffer and

those who cause the suffering

Whose Are We?

the 6 generations that have passed

the 6 generations yet to come

the great cloud of witness

Whose Are We?

Whose Are We?

Whose Are We Not?

I invite you to respond to the questions, “Whose are we and Whose am I” with your family, friends, youth group, or co-workers.  After you do so, I would love to hear about your experience.

You can message me on Facebook at Monica Cummings, email me or leave a comment for me on the YaYA of Color blog, UU Living Mosaic.

I Love You,

Rev. Monica

Featured UU, September 2011

Jarrett A. Bell is a dynamic, outgoing, 24 year old, originally from New York City, but currently residing in Atlanta.. His frequent challenges to the status quo and thinking out of the box left him feeling confined in the traditional Baptist Church in which he was raised and he has recently converted to Unitarian Universalism.

Jarrett has very diverse interests, including but not limited to computers, law and politics, bowling, and highways. He currently spends most of his time on the road traveling for work as a technical security consultant. However, when he is home, he loves to spend time with family and friends.

EXCERPT FROM ‘THE TENSTONE PAPERS – NORMAL SERIES’

The people that are calling the shots in our modern day society, whether that be Hollywood, politicians, the popular students in the high school class, one’s parents, etc- they hold an idealistic vision of how everyone should look, act, be, become, do, what have you. Their opinions about another individual must never be used as a standard to judge one’s self worth, esteem, or potential. No person should make an attempt to be someone that they are not just so they can be considered ‘normal’ by society’s standards. They do themselves an injustice, as they are unable to live their lives to the fullest. Society is also at the receiving end of this injustice as they cannot reap the benefits of what the particular person has to offer.

It is very important to note in this discussion that all humans have basic needs in order to survive. We have basic physical, mental and social needs. One of those basic social needs is acceptance. When a person feels accepted by others, this need is fulfilled and the person feels comfortable with themselves. The feeling of acceptance that a human has results in that particular person realizing they have a meaningful existence; that their life has a purpose; that they are worthy and capable of positively contributing to society. For the need of acceptance to not be fulfilled results in engaging in the negative behaviors that were previously stated. To prevent this from happening, people need not be labeled; people need not be stereotyped; people need not be peer pressured into being something they are not or doing something they do not want to do. That means for those who have influence on others, these people need to be positive role models and be inclusive. Influential people also need to understand how they carry themselves and treat people will resonate with those who look up to them. Those who have the power to inspire need to be capable of satisfying the basic human need of acceptance by not establishing a normal that is exclusionary and prejudiced.

Poetry – Can’t Tell, by Nellie Wong

Can’t Tell

When World War II was declared

on the morning radio,

we glued our ears, widened our eys,

Our bodies shivered.

A voice said

Japan was the enemy,

Pearl Harbor a shambles

and in our grocery store

in Berkeley, we were suspended

next to the meat market

where voices hummed,

valises, pots and pans packed,

no more hot dogs, baloney,

pork kidneys.

We children huddled on wooden planks

and my parents whispered:

We are Chinese, we are Chinese.

Safety pins anchored,

our loins ached.

Shortly our Japanese neighbors vanished

and my parents continued to whisper:

We are Chinese, we are Chinese.

We wore black arm bands,

put up a sign

in bold letter.

By Nellie Wong,

from Encounters: poems about race, ethnicity and identity

  • If you like this poem or want to submit a poem for this section, please leave a comment.


Pastoral Message, June 2011

pic of me with love signHello Family,
In the month of June we will celebrate Fathers Day and the beginning of Summer.  June is also a month in which cities across the world will host Gay Pride events.  After many years of not attending Pride events, I decided to show my Pride and celebrate with Milwaukee’s LGBT community last weekend.  After walking around the grounds and visiting most of the booths and food venders, I settled in at the LGBT Center of Southeast WI booth, where I socialized and talked about present and future programming at the Center.  As darkness fell, people begin to gather in the main stage area for the final concert and headline performer LeAnn Rimes.
Okay, I will admit to having a love/unlike relationship with Country Music which stems in part from the less than accepting history of the genre toward the LGBT community and people of color.  So, I was undecided as to whether or not I would attend the concert.  Just as I decided to head home, the music started and I found myself swaying to the beat, singing along and moving closer to the stage.  LeAnn was phenomenal in her performance, sharing about how her life influences her music and the lessons she has learned the past year.
One lesson she learned is the power of forgiving and asking for forgiveness.  From personal experience, I know it is harder to ask for forgiveness than it is to forgive.  What I have learned from my years in recovery is that it is even harder for me to forgive myself which is where I need to begin if I want to change how I treat myself and others.
Over the next month, I want you to ponder the following questions.  When was the last time you forgave yourself?  Is there someone who you need to ask for forgiveness?  Is there someone who you need to forgive?
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/.
Living My Faith,
Rev. Monica

Pastoral Message, May 2011

pic of me with love signHi Family,
I go through periods of time when I stop watching or reading the news to protect my mental health.  Part of last week was one of those times.  It felt like my head was going to spin off with the constant coverage of the Royal Wedding, people questioning President Obama’s place of birth and the upcoming trial of Casey Anthony.  Just when I though it was safe to watch the news again, Osama bin Laden was killed.  At first, I was amazed at the spontaneous celebrations and puzzled at the number of people who wanted OBL’s death photos released.  I dismissed the celebrations as people exhaling after almost 10 years of waiting for the next attack by OBL and his followers on U.S. soil.  I equated people’s curiosity to see the photos with our inability to look away at a car accident as we drive past.  Then, as the days passed, I began to wonder if we as a nation were not becoming what we despise in others.  For example, I recalled the name calling and demonization of those in other lands who cheered after 9/11 and other events when U.S. citizens or soldiers were killed.
Holding all the above in my heart and mind, I started thinking about our first UU Principle which calls us to “Affirm and Promote the Inherent Worth and Dignity of every person” and I will add dead or alive.  So I ask you, what does the first UU Principle mean to you?  How do you apply it to your life?  Do you have conditions as to who qualifies?  Does the first principle apply to a person who is considered evil?
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/.
Living My Faith,
Rev. Monica

Pastoral Message, April 2011

pic of me with love signHi Family,
Last August the Youth and Young Adult Ministries Office sponsored the first annual Multicultural Leadership School (MLS) for Youth and Young Adults of Color.  The second annual MLS will be held in Boston, August 5-9, 2011.  The MLS is open to all UUs who identify as a person of color ((Native American, Asian, Arab, Latino/a, African descent, trans-racially adopted, bi-racial and multiracial) and are 15-30 years old.  Please share the following information about the MLS with your congregation, youth group, RE class, minister, DRE, district Youth Steering Committee, friends and family.
The Unitarian Universalist Association like the United States has a growing number of people of color.  As this trend continues, UU congregations, districts and continental committees will need youth and young adults of color to take on leadership.  However, there are challenges when a member of a minority group who is often marginalized takes on leadership responsibilities.  Examples of challenges are tokenism, racism, and a high rate of burn-out due to over-commitment and a lack of preparation for leadership.   Therefore, the Multicultural Leadership School will focus on leadership development for youth and young adults of color that will prepare them to lead the way in supporting a multicultural, anti-racist, anti-oppressive Unitarian Universalist faith community.
The (MLS) is a training designed specifically for UU Youth and Young Adults (age 15-30) of Color.  The goal of the training is to equip participants to be leaders in their UU congregation, district or continental committee. The three and a half day school will feature experienced facilitators who will be intentional in 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.
Applications are due May 15, 2011.  Please apply at
http://www.uua.org/religiouseducation/youth/identity-based/color/158494.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 YaYA of Color blog, UU Living Mosaic at http://uuyayaoc.blogs.uua.org/.
Living My Faith,
Rev. Monica

Pastoral Message, March 2011

pic of me with love signDear Family,
It seems a lifetime ago since I wrote my February newsletter column.  In the past 30 days people in North Africa wanting freedom, political choice and economic opportunities have peacefully revolted and forced oppressive political leaders out of power.  As I write this column, I am watching Al Jazeera English and the unfolding rebellion in Libya.  And in my home state of Wisconsin, public employees and their allies have been protesting against legislation that would weaken union membership and their power.
The change that is happening in this country and other parts of the world is scary and can tap into the deepest part of our fears.  I was once told that the only thing in life I can count on is change.  I find that on some days I embrace change with open hands and heart.  While on other days, I fear change and resist it with the all the energy I have.  How do you deal with change?  What goes through your mind when you realize change is in your life?  How much do you fear change?
I think the following poem by Sara Moores Campbell will be helpful during the changing and fearful times we live in.
Love Casts Out Fear
In fear we isolate ourselves.
In love, we connect with others.
In fear, we become immobilized.
In love, we are empowered to act.
In fear, we judge others.
In love, we seek justice.
In fear, we distrust.
In love, we trust.
In fear, we seek punishment.
In love, we seek mercy and forgiveness.
In fear, we see death.
In love, we see life.
In fear, we retreat.
In love, we reach out.
Let us reach out in love and support one another through change and fear.
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/.
Living My Faith,
Rev. Monica

Poetry, April 2011, This I Mourn: A Lamentation for Osama bin Laden, by Gregory Boyd

Poetry, April 2011
“This I Mourn: A Lamentation for Osama bin Laden” by Gregory Boyd.
One fewer soul on Spaceship Earth,
Our Father’s Mother feels the dearth.
We are wholly imperfect:
perfectly incomplete.
This, I mourn with each passing hour,
A violent end to brutal power.
Yet, I know what I believe—
We are wholly imperfect:
perfectly incomplete.
Who is my neighbor?
Did he ask?
Love your neighbor.
Not my task
Smote my neighbor.
Who now basks?
This, I mourn with each passing hour,
A violent end to brutal power.
Yet, I know what I believe—
We are wholly imperfect:
perfectly incomplete.
Did he hunger?
Does he feast?
Sought he victory?
Through defeat?
This, I mourn with each passing hour,
A violent end to brutal power.
Yet, I know what I believe—
We are wholly imperfect:
perfectly incomplete.
Buddha says, “Forsake desire.”
Would that I were as a spire,
Thrusting up toward Heaven above
Penetrating the God of love,
Sharp to pierce Holy Empire.
Where is my neighbor?
Who is your God?
Who is my neighbor?
Where is your God?
Bountiful blessings:
The prayers we sow.
Militant aggressing:
Onward we go.
This, I mourn with each passing hour,
A violent end to brutal power.
Yet, I know what I believe—
We are wholly imperfect:
perfectly incomplete.
To know peace,
To know relief,
To rest in peace,
Without grief;
Thus, to decease.
To know no more,
What you abhor;
Eternal sleep,
Sojourn complete:
Life is defeat.
This, I mourn with each passing hour,
A violent end to brutal power.
Yet, I know what I believe—
We are wholly imperfect:
perfectly incomplete;
Wantonly unpredictable,
We lamenting beasts.
By Gregory Boyd

Poetry, March 2011, Bi-lingual, Bi-cultural, by Pat Mora

Bi-lingual, Bi-cultural,
able to slip from “How’s life?”
to “Me’stan volviendo loca,”
able to sit in a paneled office
drafting memos in smooth English,
able to order in fluent Spanish
at a Mexican restaurant,
American but hyphenated,
viewed by Anglos as perhaps exotic,
perhaps inferior, definitely different,
viewed by Mexicans as alien,
(their eyes say, “You may speak
Spanish but you’re not like me”)
an American to Mexicans
a Mexican to Americans
a handy token
sliding back and forth
between the fringes of both worlds
by smiling
by masking the discomfort
of being pre-judged
Bi-laterally.
by Pat Mora
from the book, encounters: poems about race, ethnicity and identity
•    If you like this poem or want to submit a poem for this section, please leave a comment.