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…)

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…)

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

Bread and Roses Sunday

This post, written by Rev. Robert Francis Murphy of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Falmouth, Massachusetts, describes how one congregation looks to history to spotlight longstanding Unitarian Universalist advocacy for justice for immigrants. – Ed.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of two famous events in the story of immigrants in North America.

At the beginning of 1912, immigrant workers in Lawrence, Massachusetts, joined together for a successful strike at the city’s textile mills. In labor legends, this action is remembered as  “the bread and roses strike.”  Twenty-five different languages were spoken among the workers. Many of the leaders were immigrant women. Religious groups were divided in their responses to the Lawrence strike, but the Unitarian church in Lawrence joined with other religious organizations in providing early support. President William Taft, who was a Unitarian, expressed sympathy for the strikers and Mrs. Taft was involved in social services that assisted the workers’ families. (more…)

When God Tried to Cross the Border

In this post, intern minister Marcus Liefert shares the Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley‘s “recipe” for including children in the congregation’s focus on immigration justice. Which stories, music, games, and activities have helped your congregation include people of all ages in immigration justice work and preparation for General Assembly? Send us your recipes! – Ed.

Immigration has been a major topic at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley this year.

Along the way, we’ve made up stories to explore immigration through the lens of our monthly worship themes. Near the beginning of our church year, Family Minister Laura Bogle and I told a story about Hospitality.  As the story ended, our Youth and Children’s Choir sang The Welcome Table. As they rehearsed it, they had learned about the history of the song and the history of some of the struggles for justice in our country. We are pleased to share the video recording.


Taking Jesus Seriously

This is another in a series of posts exploring the wisdom Jewish and Christian scripture and tradition offer as we strive to faithfully respond to immigration issues.  This is an excerpt from Rev. Lucinda Duncan’s  sermon, “Taking Jesus Seriously,” preached  at Follen Church Society in Lexington, MA on December 19, 2010- Ed.

In the Gospels, Jesus says:

Blessed are the poor, for yours is the kingdom of heaven.

A more accurate translation would have said, Blessed are the destitute…

What is this all about?  Was as Jesus saying that God actually blessed the destitute, the beggars? Was Jesus simply a romantic charismatic liberalwho thought everyone could be taken in and fed?

"Mary and Joseph Welcome" at Occupy Unitarian Universalist Church of Medford, MA

The reality is that Jesus was saying that God blessed the destitute, the beggars, because they were the poor who had then hit hard times.  After struggling to eke out a basic minimum living, they were crushed by debt, disease, or drought and could no longer make a living.  They needed to beg on the streets to gather enough coins to put some food into the mouths of their children.  Now let me just say: We know these people. In modern times these are the people who, in desperation, pay a year’s wage to a mafia coyote for the opportunity to risk life and limb to be transported illegally into the United States.  Once here these are the people who are hired by major corporations to pick crops for substandard wages, to pluck chickens for fast food chains, or to wait around in groups on empty city corners to see if someone might drive by to offer them a single day’s wage.

Do you get what I’m talking about here?  Yes, it’s our immigration issue, and it’s not going away.  Yes, I’m saying that the people Jesus would call blessed by God are these very people, the undocumented immigrants carted into the United States by crime rings who care not a whit for the life or safety of any of their recruits and who are now the cause for such a ruckus in states like Arizona who believes every undocumented immigrant is a criminal trespasser.

If we are to take the words and the actions of Jesus seriously, we need to look at and listen to the needs of the poor, the undocumented, and the impoverished in this nation.  We have the resources to do this.  We used to have the heart. Could listening to what Jesus had to say, and how he lived his life, help us to realize hope and dignity must be supported somewhere, by someone or some people?  Does listening to the words and looking at the life of Jesus change any of your minds about our immigration issues, about the minor actions — like the DREAM Act – that could possibly affect some of those in the right age group to win legal approval from the land in which they were raised?  Can we bring ourselves to see what is morally relevant about Jesus’ philosophy and work together to provide hope and dignity to those who are settling this land?  How seriously do we want to take Jesus?

Rev. Lucinda Duncan is Minister Emerita of the Follen Church Society, Lexington, Massachusetts.

All-Church Christmas Pageant: Las Posadas

This begins a series of posts exploring the wisdom Christian and Jewish scripture and tradition offer as we strive to respond faithfully to immigration justice issues. The Unitarian Universalist Church of Birmingham, AL, presented a Christmas pageant using elements from the Spanish celebration of Las Posadas to highlight the experience of seekers of refuge and a new start throughout the ages and in our own time.- Ed.

The pageant begins:

READER #1 (SHEPHERD): There are many ways to commemorate Christmas. One of them, common in the Spanish traditions in the Southwest, is Las Posadas. The Inns. In some places this is done for nine nights preceding Christmas, in others nine houses are visited in a single night, or nine rooms in a building.  A procession led by figures of Mary and Joseph, the parents-to-be of the infant Jesus, goes from place to place, searching for an inn in which to stay.

READER #2 (WISE PERSON): At the time of Caesar Augustus, a census was ordered. Everyone was required to travel to their own home town to be registered. So Joseph traveled from where he lived in Nazareth to his ancestral home in Bethlehem. His betrothed, Mary, accompanied him on the journey despite the fact that she was pregnant.

READER #3 (SHEPHERD): Scripture tells us that when they arrived in Bethlehem, they had difficulty finding lodging in the crowded town and finally had to settle for an animals’ stable. It was there that the road-weary parents gave birth to their first-born child, and made a bed for him in the hay of the animals’ feeding trough because there were no better accommodations. (more…)

Connecting the Dreamers with Dr. King

In this post, Rev. Carlton Elliott Smith writes about how he put together a service for Martin Luther King Sunday that explored the dreams of undocumented immigrant youth and connected them with the dream of Dr. King. Perhaps you might consider doing something similar in your own community.– ed.

This time last year, I wondered what to do about the Martin Luther King, Jr. Sunday worship service. Naturally, I was thinking about his 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech. At the same time, I was among the many immigrant advocates hoping for the passage of the  Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, which would have provided a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrant youth and young adults brought to the United States by their parents as minors. Then it came to me: What about doing a service that would bring together Dr. King’s Dream and the dreams of the Dreamers? The idea for the service, “Dreamers and the Dream” was born. The title comes from the song “Here’s to Life”. The version of it I know and love best is sung by the late Shirley Horn:

Here’s to life / and the joy it brings

Here’s to life / to dreamers and their dreams (more…)