TopOccupy Tent Clara Barton &
Massachusetts Bay Districts
of Unitarian Universalist Congregations

NEWSLETTER: November 2011

In This Issue
"Occupy Your Faith" by Meck Groot
"Occupy = To Live Into" by Hilary Allen
District Responses to Occupy Boston
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to inspire, support and equip congregations for congregationally-based justice ministries

1) Convening within and beyond the district and within and beyond Unitarian Universalism
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Upcoming Programs for Congregational Leaders
December, 2011 January, 2012
  •  21st: TBD  
March, 2011 April, 2012
  • 28th: Districts Assembly  - Revs. Tom Schade and Parisa Parsa preaching 

May, 2012



a song for the Occupy Movement written by
Jackie Austin, DRE at Chalice UU Congregation in Escondido, CA.Click here to listen.

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Upcoming Programs in Religious Education 

December, 2011 January, 2012 February, 2012 March, 2011 April, 2012
Dec2011Looking for what's happening at other congregations in the district? Check out the Congregational Calendar on the district website.
Occupy Your Faith

MeckGrootby Meck Groot 

Justice Ministries Coordinator


Whether handsomely printed or hand-written in haste, "Occupy" posters and placards bear witness to the purpose, ideals, feelings and creativity of the movement sparked by Occupy Wall Street:

  • Compassion is revolutionary
  • 1% fat / 99% milked.
  • Regulate Wall St. NOW!
  • Democracy. Not Corporatocracy.
  • Hey Wall St.! Didn't your mom teach you to share?
  • I'll believe corporations are people when Texas executes one!
  • I want an economy based on the principle of sustainability, not growth. 

The signs also speak to the values of the movement, values that align deeply with Unitarian Universalist principles. It is not a surprise, therefore, that Unitarian Universalists have been part of the movement  [MORE


Occupy = To Live Into 

Hilary Allenby Hilary Allen
Justice Ministries Intern

No matter where I am these days, it seems there is always a possibility to begin a conversation about Occupy Boston. A few weeks ago it was at church, during coffee hour, hearing how a fellow congregant was intrigued with the encampment and the values of the movement. She said, "I love them. I support them. And I'm just gonna wait and see what happens."

I know the "wait and see" approach. I've been using it my whole life. Through the years I have asked, "Can I really trust this? Is it worth getting my hopes up knowing they might be dashed to pieces again and I'll be disappointed by another failed attempt at realizing the promise of our society?" Of course I've asked those questions lately as well. Except this time, I'm ready to step faithfully into the unknown, facing my fears of our collective failure, yet knowing this might be one of the best chances I may see in my lifetime.
Occupy UUIn college I helped co-lead community building groups who learned group process by doing. Within every group, there would always be individuals who would withdraw during the time consuming "get to know each other" stages of the group in its early formation.  These bystanding individuals expected that eventually the group would get serious and they could then rejoin the group process. In time, these "wait and seers" realized that all experiences the group had together were formative to the creation of the community and they abandoned their abstinence in order to be a part of the process.
Part of the Occupy movement's power is its radically open invitation to re-become an active citizenry engaged in the creation of a new, direct democracy. How can it become that if you and I don't participate? If this is the time when we reshape our society, don't we have a part to play? How long have we been waiting for transformation?
Poet Wendell Berry has remarked that part of why the powers that be "find it so easy to tear this country up is because we're not living in it anymore."  He calls our current state an "absentee economy" wherein the public is absent from civic life. His words challenge me to consider how I might be relying on my wait and see history rather than daring to live into my values, with countless others. To consider: how could I have more Occupy in me? How could we have more Occupy in us?



District Responses to Occupy Boston
Responses to the Occupy Movement from UUs in our districts have been varied. Here are some we know about:
  • Click here to read Rev. Parisa Parsa's reflection from the Standing on the Side of Love blog.
  • Weekly UU vespers services are being held at Occupy Boston. Check the district's Facebook page for details. 
  • At the 11/6 UU vespers service, worship leader Andrew Coate compiled a litany of reflections from the journals in the Faith & Spirituality tent at Occupy Boston. Click here to read the litany and visit the Faith & Spirituality tent to read from the journals and share your own reflections.
  • In late October, the UUA Board visited Occupy Boston. Click here to read the report of their visit as featured in UUWorld.
  • Clergy and other people of faith in the Mass Bay and Clara Barton Districts have signed on to a  letter supporting the Occupy movement. The letter, penned by Revs. Gary Kowalski, Elaine Peresluha, and Dorothy Emerson, is also being used as a worship reading in congregations throughout our Districts. Click here to read the statement and add your name.   
  • The Unitarian Society of Northampton has negotiated with Occupy Northampton to allow campers use of their church lawn. Click here for the story. 

For updates on activities in the district related to the Occupy Movement, become a Fan of the District on Facebook. Click here to "like" if you haven't already. 


Feature "Occupy Your Faith" - continued
since it began and that many UUs have been looking for ways to participate. Within a week of a camp being set up at Occupy Boston, clergy and lay leaders in Clara Barton and Mass Bay organized a  UU vespers service on site. The next week, a second Vespers service was bracketed by an onsite meeting for UU clergy and a mini assembly for UUs  looking for ways to connect with the movement.

"Occupying" is not just about camping out in town squares and is not just for those in tents.
As the movement grows, so too do the opportunities for engaging in it. There are many ways to "occupy." We can support campers with  hot meals, clothes, camping gear and money. We can teach a class at the free university, put on a concert, participate in marches and discussions. We can join working groups focused on food, outreach, anti-oppression, direct action, media, volunteer coordination and much more. We can write letters to members of the 1%. We can move our savings or endowments from big banks to community banks and credit unions. We can be cheerleaders by sharing stories, images and events via social media. People of all faiths can join the Protest Chaplains. Our congregations can pitch solidarity tents on church property. The list goes on.


At the same time, this movement is an invitation to do internal work. As Grace Lee Boggs, long time activist from Detroit, suggests "...look at how you have become part of this you would be happy if you could become part of Wall Street...become part of the corporations....if they would give you jobs."


This map reveals that the 99% are not a homogenous mass. Some of us may have more in common with the 1% than we dare or care to admit - if not practically then at least aspirationally. I would rather NOT be one of the 40% sharing the red dot at the bottom of the map, but I do know that I am in favor of redistribution of resources. My participation in this movement, forces me to ask, "How radical a redistribution am I willing to support? What real change am I willing to live into?"


Our participation and perspective on what "demands" might be made either by the movement or of ourselves and our congregations depends not so much on whether we agree with UU principles  - I assume we do - but whether we dare to live them out. James Luther Adams reminds us that  


"[i]t is a liberal attitude to say that we keep ourselves informed and read the best papers on these matters, and perhaps join a voluntary association now and then. But to be involved with other people so that it costs and so that one exposes the evils of society...requires something like conversion, something more than an attitude. It requires a sense that there's something wrong and I must be different from the way I have been."


In a way, the greatest test faced by our congregations is the same as that faced by occupying groups: the challenge of remaining faithful to our deepest values even when doing so becomes bitterly difficult. What makes this movement so compelling is that it gives us an opportunity to occupy our faith in the company of millions!