UU of Month, March 2010

Jackie Whitworth

I was born and raised a UU in Rockford, IL. My mother is white and my father is black, and I was raised by my mother and my grandparents in the early years of my life. I’m the youngest of four, and my three sisters have also been actively involved in congregational and continental UU work.
In high school I was an active member of my congregation’s youth group, and was president of its Youth Advisory Board for one year, when I also had the opportunity to serve on the Religious Education Committee. For two years I served on the UUA’s Youth Ministry Working Group and participated in the Mosaic Project Summit, experiences which revitalized my desire to be an active UU. I also participated in several DRUUMM conferences, where I found a welcoming community of friends and mentors that challenged me to confront questions about my own identity, and helped form the basis of my commitment to history and anti-racism.
After graduating from high school in 2007, I attended college in Portland, OR for a year, and then moved to Chicago, IL where I currently study history at the University of Chicago. My decision to study history was influenced by my belief in the importance of stories, and in the importance of recognizing the past and its implications for our work in the present.
I recently completed an internship with the Campaign to End the Death Penalty, a Chicago-based group which I’ve been active for the past year. I credit my upbringing as a UU with giving me a belief in restorative rather than retributive justice, and this belief has driven my dedication to challenging injustices within the prison system and the criminal justice system.
I currently attend First Unitarian Congregation in Chicago, and find a spiritual home in the congregation’s Campus Ministry group.
Jackie Whitworth

Pastoral Message, March 2010

Beyond Black and White
By The Rev. Dr. Jonipher Kwong
One of the earliest casualties of 2010 (January 3 to be exact) was a woman by the name of Mary Daly.  Daring to challenge the institution of patriarchy within the Catholic Church, she wrote a book called Beyond God the Father in 1973, which has since revolutionized and scandalized the religious world.  Even though many UUs today will see her work as ‘tame’ or even ‘irrelevant,’ since many of us have moved beyond seeing God as male and even beyond theism, period, Mary Daly was truly ahead of her time by having the audacity to dismantle this deeply-held, dualistic notion of male versus female.
Today, we are far from getting rid of the last vestiges of sexism.  We can’t even remove heterosexism from our vocabulary, as evidenced by Prop. 8 in California and other anti-equality legislation.  And even though we elected the first African American to the presidency, we certainly can’t say, “We’ve arrived” when it comes to addressing the problem of racism.  We are still holding on to the sin or error of dualism, which threatens to keep us apart and blind us to our interrelatedness.
I would like to propose two things to help us move beyond a black and white world.  The first is to recognize the fact that we come in many shades of color.  In fact, I dare say that we are a rainbow-colored group and not just shades of gray.  This was evident for me living in Hawai‘i (appropriately dubbed the ‘Rainbow State’), where race issues clearly are not just black and white.  Currently, various Asian ethnic groups have a slight ‘majority’ in the state, but it’s one of the few states where the white population is actually ‘growing’ because of migration from the mainland.  Indeed, the human race may manifest itself in many different colors, but our skin tones fail to capture our true essence as a species.
The second is to move beyond race distinctions altogether and this is where I have the brightest hope for young people.  I know this is a generic (as well as generational) statement, but when we choose to go on a date, do we date that person because of their skin color or because we like them and feel a certain ‘chemistry?’  In Hawai‘i, over 50% of marriages and family configurations are multi-racial and multi-ethnic.  Our president is a product of that diverse environment.  Those of us who ‘get it’ are perfect ambassadors to those who still come from a black-or-white framework.  We need to move beyond racial differentiations and see the possibilities that are out there.  Perhaps that’s one of the message the movie Avatar teaches us.  The divine is present even in blue creatures from outer space.  We need to get over ourselves if we truly are to survive as a species and see beyond black and white.
The bottom line is exemplified by our seventh principle: Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.  Let us honor Mary Daly’s legacy by moving beyond black and white, and let us break free from the ties of dualism that bind us.
The Rev. Dr. Jonipher Kwong is an Interfaith Organizer for California Faith for Equality.  He also sits on the Board of the California Council of Churches and the Steering Committee of the Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry of California Marriage Equality Leadership Team.  Ordained with the Metropolitan Community Churches, he served as the Founding Minister of ‘Ohana MCC in Honolulu and Resurrection Beach MCC in Costa Mesa, California.  He is currently in the process of seeking plural standing with the Unitarian Universalist Association.
Prior to moving back to the mainland, Jonipher was the Executive Director of the Counseling & Spiritual Care Center of Hawai‘i.  Raised in an ecumenical background, Jonipher values his pluralistic upbringing – from Evangelical to United Methodist, Episcopalian to Calvary Chapel.  He was christened at a Gospel church and baptized as a Chinese Mennonite.  In Hawai‘i, Jonipher was a member of the Honolulu Mindfulness Community, a sangha influenced by Zen Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hahn.
Jonipher obtained his Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry degrees from Claremont School of Theology.  He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Film Studies from the University of California at Santa Barbara.  Prior to getting “the call,” Jonipher worked in the film industry for three years, followed by two years as a Graphics Specialist at McKinsey & Company in Los Angeles.

UU of the Month, February 2010

Alison Aguilar Lopez Gutierrez McLeod Crotty

“I never knew I was called to be a Director of Religious Education (DRE) until it happened.  I fell in love with the members of our fellowship community.  I realized that empowering children and youth is my passion.  Providing them a safe space to explore their religious ideas is my mission.  Encouraging them to think outside social constructs is my responsibility.”
Alison Aguilar Lopez Gutierrez McLeod Crotty was born to a Mexican family, adopted and raised by her Unitarian Universalist parents in San Diego, California and Pullman, Washington where both were University professors.
As a student at Washington State, she was the first Latina to be elected to the City Council of Pullman, Washington.  In addition, while working toward her B.A. in English and Women Studies and her Masters of Education, Alison was a teacher at an Alternative High School, a tennis instructor at a local high school, and served as a Board member for a variety of organizations that dealt with civil rights, social justice, and issues faced by women of color.
Following college, Alison traveled across the country undertaking various academic and political pursuits. She has experienced Unitarianism in many venues, including All Souls in Washington D.C., Unitarian Universalist’s of the Palouse in Moscow, Idaho, and First UU Church in San Diego.
Alison worked for several years at the Washington, D.C.-based National Society of Collegiate Scholars (NSCS), a non-profit college honor society for high-achieving freshmen and sophomores across the country. Back in San Diego, Alison chose to volunteer for the first openly gay woman elected to the City Council who was seeking election to the California State Assembly. While working on that successful campaign, she met her husband, Chris Crotty, a Democratic political consultant.  Alison joined her husband as a strategist with his political consulting company before finding her calling as the DRE at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of San Dieguito (UUFSD) in Solana Beach, California, just north of San Diego, where she has served for almost three years.
“My Unitarian Universalist upbringing gave me the confidence to find my voice to speak out against oppression and injustice.  Beyond that, I know that I have a loving community that encourages my exploration of faith and life and how the two intersect.  I carry within my heart and soul all of the support I am provided and the connections I am afforded.”

Pastoral Message, February 2010

pic of me with love signHello Family,
As you know the country of Haiti was devastated by an earthquake and after shocks in January.  It seems that only a few short months ago the country was slammed by five hurricanes that caused wide spread destruction.  As I listen to news reports and hear comments by people trying to make sense of the natural disasters that continue to plague Haiti, I thought about the book of Job in the First Testament in the Christian Bible and the issues that are raised in the story; such as innocent or undeserved suffering and how people behave when calamity strikes.
It is becoming a familiar refrain from some leaders in the U.S. to blame the victims of calamity for their plight.  As Unitarian Universalist, what is our theology when it comes to calamity?  When is it ok to blame someone or a country when a natural disaster causes wide spread death and destruction?  I think one of our greatest challenges as UUs is our ability to articulate our theology in a way that communicates our beliefs.  Our first Unitarian Universalist principle calls us to promote and affirm the inherent worth and dignity of every person.  Our UU theology challenges us to be inclusive, that is to embrace the people of Haiti along with the people who blame them for their plight in their hour of biblical suffering.
It is not too late to show your support for the people of Haiti.  Please contact your local UU congregation to learn how you can get involved in relief efforts.  You can also donate to the UUSC and UUA joint Haiti earthquake relief fund http://www.uusc.org/.  Let us live our UU faith by not judging or questioning why someone is suffering. Rather, let us be mindful and attentive to the fact they are suffering and do our human best to ease their pain.
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

Community Prayer

A Prayer for ALL People

Let us hold in our prayers,
The women, men and children who have had their lives forever changed by earthquakes and have been injured or killed.
Let us hold in our prayers,
The family members and friends who live far away and who feel hopeless and helpless to support their family and friends.
Let us hold in our prayers,
Relief workers who have been injured.
Let us hold in our prayers,
The non-human beings that have been injured or killed.
Dear Unknown, Unknowable, Yet Known by Many Names,
We call out to you in this time of uncertainty, loss and pain.  May we have courage and compassion to support the people of Haiti and Chile.
May we have courage and compassion to work for economic  justice. May we have peace of mind and the inner wisdom to know that our work for economic justice is not in vain.
In the Spirit of all that came before us. In the Spirit of all that is present this moment. In the Spirit of all that will manifest in the future. We offer this prayer.
Amen and Blessed It Be.
Rev. Dr. Monica L. Cummings
Jan 2010
If you use or find this prayer helpful please leave a comment.

UU of the Month, January 2010

Ronald Charles (Chuck) Hunt, Jr.
Ronald Charles (Chuck) Hunt, Jr. is a graduate of Saint Frederick High School in Monroe, Louisiana and grew up in the Missionary Baptist (African American Baptist of the National Baptist Convention U.S.A.)  In 2007, through the Church of the Larger Fellowship, Chuck gained interest in joining Unitarian Universalism.  Chuck remarks, “I joined the faith because I can raise questions freely. I love the openness of the faith. I never was exposed to this type of faith in Northeast Louisiana.  However, after reading about various U.S. Presidents and their religions, I recognized their mainstream faiths, but Unitarian was one that I was not familiar with.”  Chuck goes on to say, “I went to the encyclopedia and read about UUism, but decided to go online and look up it up on Yahoo and found UUA.org.  I received more information and was amazed about the faith.”
For Chuck, Unitarian Universalist inclusiveness stood out because too many religions want their members to check themselves at the door.  Chuck “called a member of a UU church in Mississippi and learned more about Unitarian Universalist because he wanted to talk to people of the faith.  The guy at the church gave me more details and a smile was on my face while talking to him on the phone.  I was convinced that Unitarian Universalism is my faith of choice. We may have our downfalls, but there is always dialog, unlike other faiths. There is still room for improvement. My first General Assembly truly was an experience. I met people of many races, religious beliefs, and sexual orientations, etc.”
Chuck has attended McNeese State University of Lake Charles, Louisiana and Hinds Community College of Raymond, Mississippi.  Currently Chuck works at a local restaurant, but is in the process of seeking new opportunities.

Pastoral Message, January 2010

The Rev. Peter Morales

A new year always begins with a sense of possibility. That sense of unrealized potential is particularly acute for us Unitarian Universalists now. We are living in the midst of a historic shift in America.
For the first time since colonial days, the majority of people living in America will be people of color. Your generation will live its adult life in a new America.
At the UUA, we are working to bring in a new generation of diverse religious professionals and to strengthen our programming for youth and young adults. As youth and young adults of color, you have a special role in helping us create a new multi-racial, multi-cultural future. Your part is absolutely essential.
I wish you a blessed new year. I look forward to working with you to build a new Unitarian Universalism.
Peter Morales
President, Unitarian Universalist
Association of Congregations

Poetry, December 2009, Yule Poem, From the book, Casting the Circle by Diane Stein

Yule Poem

‘birthwatch night of sun
from darkness light
west becomes the east
freezing becomes fire
Goddess Mother Moon
she births the sun
she births the earth
she labors for
the sea and sky
death is granted life
so mote it be
circle closes
circle opens
and the oak fire strikes
bright the earth and sun
bright the newborn sea
bright the infant stars
her glowing earth
winter set aside
with new year naming
“everything she touches changes”
as above us so below.’
– From the book, Casting the Circle by Diane Stein

UU of the Month, December 2009

Michael Kusz Han
Michael Kusz Han lives in Renton Washington, just south of Seattle, where he is a part of the University Unitarian Church youth group.  Although currently not formally involved in the Unitarian Universalist Association, he recently finished a two year term as FUNTIMES Manager for the General Assembly Youth Caucus where he was able to share with others his passion for the governance of the association.
Michael has been a UU since birth.  His early life was greatly influenced by the kindness and caring he found at church.  Unitarian Universalism continued to be an important factor in Michael’s life through his move to Washington shortly before his 12th birthday.  As a newcomer to the Seattle area, Michael knew nobody, but his church helped him to become settled in a new place.
Eighth grade solidified Michael’s UU faith.  He began the year by participating in the Our Whole Lives sexuality curriculum, followed by Coming of Age.  All of this cumulated in the St. Louis General Assembly, Michael’s first GA.  It was his first glimpse of the UU world beyond his own congregation.  He returned to GA the following year in Portland, where he was elected to the position of FUNTIMES Manager, a position that allowed him to help create the community he loved.  The next year, amid the restructuring of YRUU, he became a member of the Youth Ministry Working Group and helped to re-envision youth programming.
Racial identity has always been a struggle for Michael.   Although he identifies as biracial, he is often asked to “check one box”, a policy he finds outdated and insensitive.  He contemplates what it means to be Asian, but to pass as white, especially since nothing except his eyes seemed to show he was Asian.  Earlier this year, Michael and the rest of his family changed their names from Kusz to Han, as a way of claiming their Corean heritage.
Michael is currently studying to be a Mechanical engineer at Highline College.  He also works as the lead math tutor at Highline.  In his spare time, Michael builds things, like self-defogging laboratory goggles.

Pastoral Message, December 2009

pic of me with love signHello Family,
Happy Holydays!  In the month of December, Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, Christmas and Kwanzaa will be celebrated.  The diversity of traditions celebrated in the month of December is truly amazing.  What is diversity?  Is it as simple as being open to celebrating the holiday tradition of a friend?  Perhaps, educating people of different religious traditions and ethnicities to better understand each other?  Or, does it go deeper into all aspects and areas of our lives?  According to William Chase,
“Diversity, generally understood and embraced, is not casual liberal tolerance of anything and everything not yourself.  It is not polite accommodation.
Instead, diversity is, in action, the sometimes painful awareness that other people, other races, other voices, other habits of mind, have as much integrity of being, as much claim on the world as you do…
And I urge you, amid all the differences present to the eye and mind, to reach out to create the bond that …will protect us all. We are meant to be here together.”
I encourage you to make a special effort to learn and embrace a holiday tradition that is unfamiliar to you.  I also encourage you to reach out to family and friends who may be struggling to be joyful during a time of year when we are expected to be jolly.  For 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.
I wish you all a safe, serene and happy holiday season.
Living My Faith,
Rev. Monica