Taking Justice General Assembly Home

On Sunday afternoon at Justice General Assembly, UUA vice-presidents Kay Montgomery and Rev. Harlan Limpert reported on resources you might use to help you bring your experiences and learnings from Justice GA back to your congregations. Included was information about witness and action initiatives, curricula for all ages, Beacon press books, discussion guides, and other resources to support your congregation or group as you faithfully consider your response to the related calls for immigration justice, racial justice, justice for indigenous people, and economic justice.

Watch video of the report, view the slide presentation, and read the transcript. Let us know about the conversations you are having in your congregation or group, actions you are taking, and resources that have been helpful. We are looking forward to sharing wisdom and experiences one with another as we move forward from Justice GA as Unitarian Universalist people of faith. -Ed.

Call to Arms

Our experiences at Justice General Assembly and in our own communities have taught us that the work of justice making is long haul work, work for our arms, our feet, our voices, and our hearts.  Rev. Marta I. Valentín offered us this prayer as we awaited the Supreme Court decision, and it is just as pertinent now as it was before General Assembly -Ed.


Spirit of Truth and Justice

Hear us as we ask that you

hold the collective anxiety

that permeates this fear-filled situation.


This is a call to arms.


Arms that will hold broken hearts,

and elated hearts

arms that wrap themselves around

a body, beaten and disfigured

in truth and metaphorically…


Arms that provide a strength

neither giver nor receiver

knew they possessed…


Arms that hold up

the sky of misplaced authority

and righteousness

from crashing down upon heads

struggling to be held high

as each shred of dignity is yanked

from their tired, over-used,

under-appreciated bodies.


This is a call for committed arms

to continue leading heads

and hearts

to know the facts

but feel the truth,

a call to remember

that the freedom we’ve been given

to swing our arms as wide and open

to the sun as we like

has come on the backs of humans

others wish were invisible.


This is a call to arm

ourselves with the facts

but feel the truth

borne out of the power of our

Unitarian Universalist love

and the balance of justice.


Marta I. Valentín

March 29, 2012


Rev. Marta I. Valentín is the minister at First Church Unitarian in Littleton, Massachusetts

Music to Inspire Immigration Justice Work

Over the summer, Cooking Together will provide a space for UU congregations and groups to share their recipes for bringing the Justice General Assembly home. This week’s post shares a recipe from First Unitarian Church of Providence, Rhode Island, written by Cathy Seggel, Director of Religious Education. She shares reflections from a worship service with Emma’s Revolution that invited congregants to engage in immigration justice work- Ed.

In the fall of 2011, I received a grant from the UUA Young Adult & Campus Ministry office to bring the musicians of Emma’s Revolution, to Providence to engage and inspire college-aged young adults. The grant helped pay for a workshop at Brown University, a concert and a worship service at First Unitarian Church of Providence, RI. Students from all RI and nearby colleges were invited to the concert at no cost, and many did. The proceeds from the concert weekend benefited the congregation’s Standing On The Side of Love group, who co-sponsored and helped with ticket sales to the broader community.

The Sunday worship service reflections in music and word that Rev. James Ford and I created with Pat Humphries and Sandy O., the Emma’s Revolution musicians, was an emotionally moving invitation to engage in immigration justice work. That weekend was a highlight of my career. As our recipe on the immigration justice menu, I share excerpts from the reflections that were interspersed with the music that morning.


Hear my voice! Isn’t that what we all yearn for? To be understood. To belong. To be welcomed. I wonder if any of you has ever moved? To a new town, a different home, a new school or job? When that happened, how did you feel? … I remember moving to RI, many years ago. Everyone seemed to know each other, but me. I didn’t know the culture, you know what I mean. I used different words for things, like milk shakes not cabinets, submarine sandwiches, not grinders. It wasn’t all about food, though. I was lonely and confused. I was lost. My family was far away.

There were a few people who helped, who listened, who shared the new secrets of the area. I will always remember their kindness. But, my move was easy, only from Washington, DC. I spoke the same language as Rhode Islanders, almost. I came to an apartment with enough money for food and found a job, as a nurse, easily.

What if my move was from a distant land, on a quest for safety, for food, for freedom? Who would have listened? Helped me provide opportunities for my children? Been a friend and ally? And, more importantly, who am I listening to now? Am I aware of the women and men and children who have come to Providence and other places who need me to partner with them to gain access to the American dream? This is not a new idea. However, it is happening, right now, right here. Will I hear and answer the call?


When I think of the immigrant experience, I admire how immigrants, with or without documents, share a certain courage, sometimes born of desperation, perhaps with chaos at the edges, but driven mainly by a genuine willingness to step out into the unknown, to walk away from the status quo, and to try for something better.

At its best, this creative urge lies at the heart of our country. From our nation’s inception we have been populated by people willing to take a chance for a hope, for a dream. And taken together, woven together, something pretty amazing has birthed. No doubt.

These days it’s all in danger. These are harsh times. We’ve been misdirected from examining the causes of that which which has poisoned us, and poisoned our children’s futures. We have not attended to the heart of the matter- naked greed, the co-option of our republic by those whose interests are simply the accumulation of personal wealth no matter the cost to others. Instead, we have been subjected to a relentless stirring up of fear and hatred for the poor and for the immigrant.

Whatever may come of our national conversation around immigration, I hope we, here, as people woven out of that particular subset of human beings, those who stepped away from what was to what might be, will recall how closely we are all connected.

Let us not be misdirected. Let us recall who we really are.

Of the people killed in the attack on 9/11 there were, of course, undocumented people. For many reasons, the people who employed them are not willing, even at this distance, to step forward and acknowledge them. A handful of those at the World Trade center towers without documents have been identified. But, people who have tried to delve deeply into the matter estimate there were more than a hundred, all names not listed, not counted.

There is something wrong here. Deeply wrong.

Our call ultimately in all that is going on is to remember, that is re-member, to bring all the disparate parts back to a whole.

Let us recall who we really are, a people woven out of courage, creating a nation of possibility. Let us remember.

And remembering, let us act.


We are linked to one another; sisters and brothers, mothers and fathers and friends. Each one counts, is important and should be treasured. Isn’t that what the Unitarian Universalist’s first principle states? We teach about the inherent worth and dignity of all. I believe that there is enough hope and courage possible in the world to move closer to realizing that value. That the dream of justice might grow and thrive, on the ground. I don’t know about you, but I become overwhelmed by the connected oppressions and injustices on our planet. I certainly feel the need to refill my well of hope, to dance and to sing and feel connected to more than my own worry and fear.

The music that we have been experiencing today helps heal my worried heart and anchors my resolve, to believe, to connect with others and take part in rebuilding the dream. Our next lyrics say it best:

“Let us sing for today, Let us learn better ways. Showing love, giving hope. We begin…”


Share your recipes and stories with other Unitarian Universalists. Tell us how you are inspiring and supporting one another in immigration justice work. –Ed.

Cathy Seggel is Director of Religious Education at First Unitarian Church of Providence, Rhode Island.

Prayer for Travelers/ Oración Para Los Viajeros

This beautiful prayer by Rev. Angela Herrera, the assistant minister at First Unitarian in Albuquerque, NM, was first published in her new Skinner House meditation manual Reaching for the Sun: Meditations. – Ed.

This is a prayer for all the travelers.

For the ones who start out in beauty,

who fall from grace,

who step gingerly,

looking for the way back.

And for those who are born into the margins,

who travel from one liminal space to another,

crossing boundaries in search of center. (more…)

Standing with Families on the Side of Love

This week’s post, written by Susan Lawrence of the UUA Resource Development Office, lifts up the four-page immigration justice resource for families found in the summer issue of UU World.­-Ed.

“What’s an appropriate, effective way to engage children in immigration justice?”

For a religious professional, an RE volunteer, or any adult involved with raising a child, that question comes up right alongside our own call to immigration justice—because any call to justice we hear is a call we want our children to hear, too, as they grow in faith. We want to spark a child’s empathy. We want to create a sense of urgency, but without creating a heightened sense of fear. Most important, we want to invite children to see themselves as agents of change—people who can help.

The Family pages insert in the new UU World magazine (Summer 2012) offers a carefully crafted approach, with a set of real-life stories, exploration activities, and justice actions for all ages you can use to lift up immigration issues with children and multi-age groups. Because this pull-out section comes with UU World magazine directly to your home—the true cradle of faith development!—parents, caregivers, and religious educators are probably accustomed to using it to create family conversations, games, and reflection. But you can also share components of the Family pages in other contexts, and this issue’s insert, titled “Standing with Families on the Side of Love,”  makes an especially timely pairing with Justice GA. (more…)

How Shall We Approach Justice General Assembly?

A the request of a number of my colleagues, this week’s blog post is adapted from reflections I offered at the UUA staff chapel several weeks ago. -Ed.

Two summers ago, on July 29 2010, I was restless, pacing, watching Facebook for word from Phoenix as one by one Unitarian Universalist leaders were arrested in an act of civil disobedience. The discussion prior to this had been riveting; some people were saying that the call that had come from our partners to protest SB 1070 was another call to Selma. At the recent General Assembly the vote was to go to Phoenix in 2012 at the request of our partners and hold a justice GA. Immigration justice had jumped from something I was generally aware of to something on the front burner of my professional life. I was paying attention. (more…)

Yearning to Breathe Free

When Rev. Virginia Jarocha-Ernst went to the Dominican Republic as part of a Social Justice tour led by Kevin Lamastra of Friends Beyond Borders, she was looking for a deeper understanding of the immigration issues here in the United States following joining in the protest of SB1070 in Arizona on July 29, 2010. In this post, she shares some of her experiences- Ed.

The first city we visited in the Dominican Republic was Sosua, a place of beautiful Caribbean beaches and coral reefs. The coastline is a string of gorgeous resorts and upscale condominiums looking out on that ocean view.  But behind those towers of luxury, the city shows a very different face.  Sosua was introduced as the epicenter of the international sex trade.  Prostitution is legal and one of the few sources of income. Young women and girls, dressed to seduce, roam the streets and bars looking for foreign men.  Male prostitutes look for women and hope to create relationships that might bring money later from long distance relationships begun on vacation.  Although a legal way to earn a living, prostitution results in sexually transmitted diseases, unintended pregnancies, and the risk of abuse and loss of dignity that comes when our bodies are objectified and used.


United States Immigration: Theological Reflection and Discussion

Download United States Immigration: Theological Reflection and Discussion

We are pleased to announce the publication of  a collection of 22 brief excerpts from sermons and writings about the topic of immigration offered for Unitarian Universalist congregations. Each excerpt is followed by questions for discussion. The excerpts and discussion questions are suitable for in-person discussion groups and theological reflection groups, as well as for on-line discussion and individual reflection and journaling to help Unitarian Universalists prepare to engage in immigration justice work as an expression of their faith. Topics include Spiritual and Theological Grounding for Immigration Justice Work, Perspectives on Arrest for Acts of Civil Disobedience, Moral Perspectives on Economic and Legal Realities, and Visions. We’d love to know how you, your congregation, or your group make use of this material.- Ed

Crossing Borders…

Rev. Ann Willever traveled with Borderlinks to the Arizona-Mexico border last month, part of a 23-person delegation that included nine youth and young adults, five ministers, and four seminarians. In this post, she shares some of her many stories from that trip. –Ed.

The Desert

After spending the night in the Borderlinks dorm in Tucson, we set out the next morning in two vans with our first stop Green Valley, just south of Tucson.  There we met Shura, a woman who volunteers with the Samaritans, whose mission is to prevent deaths in the southern AZ desert by providing water and first aid to migrants.  Shura welcomed us into her home where she had arranged an array of items collected from the nearby desert on her dining room table – things that had been carried or worn by migrants…things left behind when they were either apprehended by border patrol or overcome by dehydration or sun stroke:  clothing (including a small child’s Mickey Mouse sweater), shoes, children’s books, baby bottles, beautifully embroidered tortilla warmers.  A pair of high heeled shoes – perhaps for the job interview a migrant might anticipate when reaching the US.  She had many stories of encounters with migrants wandering in the desert over the years – one of the saddest had to be that of the 42 year old man suffering extreme edema who was searching for his son, who he hadn’t seen for two and half years. (more…)

A Prayer as the Supreme Court Considers SB 1070

On April 25, the Supreme Court of the United States will begin hearing oral arguments about the constitutionality of Arizona’s S.B. 1070 law, a law that broadly targets undocumented immigrants. Many across the country, including Unitarian Universalists and other people of faith, anxiously await the outcome of this case, which will likely be announced around the time when we convene in Phoenix for justice GA. This post offers a prayer for Unitarian Universalist individuals and congregations  that calls us to pay attention to events at the Supreme Court, in Arizona, and elsewhere where such legislation has been enacted or is being contemplated. Written by Rev. Marta I. Valentin, this prayer speaks to our hearts and seeks to shore up our resolve to stand on the side of love with those whose lives are most at stake. Read more about the case before the court and follow the arguments online. – Ed.

Justices of the United States Supreme Court


Spirit of Compassion

Isn’t it amazing

how we crave to know an outcome

before its time

even as we accept

that we cannot know

how anything will go?


We do not know if the mounds of obstacles

will become dirt cleared away

or earth made into mountain…


We do not know if fresh air will degenerate

into a stagnant suffocation

or be sucked out of lives

longing to breath freely and easily…


if the deserts will spring a true oasis

or continue to offer a false vision of survival…


if the shores will be flowing invitations

into unfathomable freedoms

or a fearfully ebbed withdrawal

of even the tiniest hospitality…


We who walk on ground taken for granted

we who speak of an Earth that has no borders

ask for guidance as we aid those in need

as well as those who would obstruct our care.


Spirit of Compassion

strengthen our resolve to carry forth

this ministry

regardless of the reality of the decisions

made to seemingly thwart our efforts.


Let us, in one grounded body

strong in our Unitarian Universalist faith

in solidarity with those whose lives

are most at stake

resolve never to give up this fight for them

nor for our country.


Let ours be the voices that demand

a true accounting of these legal human beings.


Let ours be the hearts that resolve

whether through light or dark times

to stay the course

no matter what

no matter how long.


Let our love be the kind they have been waiting for.


Marta I. Valentin

April 6, 2012


Rev. Marta I. Valentín is the minister at First Church Unitarian in Littleton, Massachusetts