Monday, January 23, 2012

30 Days of Love, Day 8

This week the 30 Days of Love moves from focusing on individual self-reflection into community reflection. Here is the focus for the week:

Jan 23 – 28, 2012
DescriptionBy telling a “story of us” you can communicate values that can inspire others to act together by identifying with each other, not only with you. Just as with a story of self, the key choice points in the life of a community – its founding, crises it has faced, or other events that everyone remembers - are moments that express the values shared. Consider stories that members of your congregation or group have shared, especially those that held similar meaning for all of you. The key is to focus on telling a specific story about specific people at a specific time that can remind everyone – or call to everyone’s attention – values that you share. Telling a good story of us requires the courage of empathy – to consider the experience of others deeply enough to take a chance on articulating that experience.

Today’s community questions:

  • What are your unique identities? Do you fall outside your perceptions of who the Standing on the Side of Love community is?
  • What inspires you about our community? Why are you involved with Standing on the Side of Love and/or UUism? What does the Standing on the Side of Love campaign mean to you?

Speaking about the UU congregation that I serve, and only have as a comparison other Puget Sound area congregations I've attended and my experience of the national UU movement at trainings and conventions, I would say that my congregation is a pretty "normal" UU congregation. There is a high number of hybrid cars in our parking lot, and those who have actually gone to all electric are lauded and envied. We are mostly of European decent, seem to mostly work in government (but that is our town in general), and I don't know the exact median age but I would estimate it's in the 50's-60's.

We are also military families, prior-service military, and veterans, in much higher numbers than one might expect. This fact was highlighted for me because our last ministerial intern was working toward becoming a Navy Chaplain, so naturally much of her work with us was around how to care for military personnel and re-integrate veterans into our society, community, congregations, and families. Of the five person staff, three of us have military experience. That may be surprising and different for a UU congregation, and part of the Standing on the Side of Love community. However, the work that we have done with supporting area Coffee Houses for military personnel, by working with a chaplain candidate (and how much I think we need UU, agnostic, atheist, and humanist chaplains!), and by seeking to welcome home and re-embrace veterans, is work that I perceive as still being Standing on the Side of Love.

I first encountered the Standing on the Side of Love campaign at the General Assembly in Salt Lake City, and I was immediately inspired by the positive stance of the campaign and by how I perceive that it can tie together many separate political and social issues into one essentially theological stance. We value and respect the inherent worth and dignity of all, and seek to offer fair, kind, and compassionate treatment to all. We choose Love, in the broadest and most all-embracing sense. That is inspiring to me, and much more moving than signing on for marriage equality, immigration justice, or civil liberties work. Not that I don't think all of those are incredibly important - because they are! - but because for me, none of those is a life-orientation that can guide every action I take, every day of my life. Standing on the Side of Love is a life-orientation, however. For every moment, for every decision, I can choose Love.

And in the years since I first saw the campaign, I feel like it is still living up to that promise. My congregation has held multiple Standing on the Side of Love services and events, mostly in support of the ongoing struggle for marriage-equality in Washington State (which is exciting and hopeful right now!), and the message has resonated for me at all of these events. The current focus on immigration justice didn't feel as natural to me at first, but as my congregation has studied the issue and really educated ourselves about it, it too has become very resonant for me.

And this activity, the 30 Days of Love, has been a wonderful idea as well!

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