September 26, 2018
Hundreds of thousands of people in eastern North Carolina were impacted by the winds and storm surge of Hurricane Florence all along the coast from Ocracoke to Sunset Beach and then by flooding along North Carolina’s rivers in Greenville, New Bern, Fayetteville, and Wilmington. Tens of thousands were forced to flee their homes. Hundreds of thousands lost power. Thousands lost their homes, their cars, and their possessions. More than thirty people lost their lives. Coal ash and hog waste were swept across the land and into streams, lakes, and rivers.
Unitarian Universalists in eastern North Carolina, of course, were among those affected by Hurricane Florence and are now dealing with damage to their homes and the storm’s impact on their lives. One piece of bad news in the midst of so much bad news after the storm is that the UU conference center at Shelter Rock suffered significant flooding. But there’s good news as well because UU churches in Morehead City, New Bern, Outlaws Bridge, Red Hill, and Wilmington appear to have escaped with no, or only minor, damage.
My thoughts and prayers are not only with all of our UU sisters and brothers in eastern North Carolina but also with the poor, disadvantaged, and vulnerable individuals and families who always bear the brunt of natural disasters and with the people of Puerto Rico who are still suffering from the devastation of Hurricane Maria more than a year later.
But thoughts and prayers aren’t enough.
In the words of songwriter Carolyn Gillette: “If we just talk of thoughts and prayers/ and don’t live out a faith that dares/ and don’t take on the ways of death/ our thoughts and prayers are fleeting breath.”
Unitarian Universalism calls us to live out our faith not merely in words and creeds but in our actions and deeds—in acts of kindness and compassion, acts of love, acts of justice and peace.
And so, I invite you to join me in living out our faith by helping–with your time, labor, or skills and with gifts of food, supplies, and money–our sisters and brothers in eastern North Carolina recover and reclaim their lives in the wake of Hurricane Florence.
One way you can do that is to go to our UUJMNC Forward Together website where we’ve created a space that people in eastern North Carolina can use to let everyone know what they, their congregations, and their communities need and how we can help and you can respond to those needs and offer your assistance.
And if you or your congregation want to make a financial contribution to support hurricane recovery in eastern North Carolina, here are a few suggestions you might consider: the North Carolina Disaster Relief Fund; the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina; the UUA Disaster Relief Fund; or one of the organizations listed on the website for A Just Florence Recovery.
Thoughts and prayers aren’t enough in the face of the devastation following Hurricane Florence. So please join me in opening your hearts, your hands, your wallets, and your purses to live out a faith that calls us to respond to the suffering of others through acts of compassion, community, justice, and love.
Rev. John L. Saxon
First Annual Forward Together Gathering
New UU Justice Ministry of NC T-Shirts
UUs Mobilizing for the 2018 Election
Protect Our NC Constitution: Just Vote “No”
Support Florida Ballot Initiative to Restore Voting Rights
Calling All NC UU Social Justice Leaders and Activists
Forward Together Congregational Justice Partners
UUA Actions of Immediate Witness
UUA “Corruption of Democracy” Study Guide
Toolkit for Letter Writing Campaigns Lobbying Members of Congress
Climate Justice Resource for UU Environmental Activists
What Do You Need? How Can UUJMNC Help?
Get Involved with UUJMNC
It’s not too late to register for the UU Justice Ministry of North Carolina’s first annual Forward Together state-wide gathering on Saturday, October 13, 9:30 am – 3:45 pmat the Eno River UU Fellowship, 4907 Garret Rd., Durham, NC.
- Inspirational worship and singing led by Rev. Jacqueline Brett and the Beloved Community Chorus.
- Learn what the UU Justice Ministry of NC has been doing, what we plan to do, and how you and your congregation can help “give life the shape of justice” in North Carolina.
- Increase your social justice skills by attending two of our four concurrent workshops on “Going Public with Your Justice Values,” “What Partnerships Mean (Issues, Benefits, Risks); “How Small Congregations Can Do Justice in a Big Way,” and “Putting Our Faith into Action.”
- Enjoy a delicious (and free) catered lunch.
- Hear what our keynote speaker, Gene Nichol (a professor of law at UNC and an outspoken advocate for justice in North Carolina), has to say about justice, voting rights, and the challenge of poverty in North Carolina.
- No fee for the gathering, workshops, or lunch (but donations are welcome).
- Stay a little bit longer (if you don’t have to drive back right away) for ERUUF’s Jazz Vespers at 4:00 pm or a benefit concert by Emma’s Revolution at the Community Church of Chapel Hill UU at 7:30 pm (tickets $20 in advance or $25 at the door).
The registration deadline is noon on Wednesday, October 10. Hope to see you there!!!
Lots and lots of Unitarian Universalists wear the UUA’s yellow “Side with Love” T-shirts when we march, protest, and witness for social justice. And that’s GREAT!!!
But now you can expand your social justice wardrobe and support the UU Justice Ministry of NC by buying UUJMNC’s new, blue “Forward Together” T-shirt (which, by the way, will look GREAT on YOU!!!) for just $20 plus shipping and handling.
Don’t wait! In order to get the shirts printed and mailed, we need at least 20 orders by October 13 (if fewer than 20 people order shirts before October 13, the orders will be cancelled and your payment will be refunded).
Click here to place your order.
The 2018 election is, perhaps, even more important than the 2016 election. There appears to be a real possibility that those who have held political power in Washington, DC and Raleigh and have used their power to give tax breaks to the wealthy, limit voting rights, deny health care to poor, disabled and working-class families, gerrymander election districts, detain and separate families who cross the border seeking asylum, undermine democratic institutions, refuse to enact common sense gun laws, treat LGBTQ people as second-class citizens, and ignore climate change–a real possibility that they might, through our voices, our effort, and our votes, be replaced by elected officials who will enact policies that are more in line with our American (and UU) values of inclusivity, community, compassion, respect, environmental protection, racial justice, economic justice, and peace.
As Unitarian Universalists, we covenant to affirm and promote the use of the democratic process in society at large. And that means getting involved in the electoral process and working to protect our democracy and “give life the shape of justice” through the democratic process.
Here are some things that you can do:
- Register to vote (or update your voter registration) at your local Board of Elections by October 12 or during “one stop” early voting.
- Organize a voter registration campaign through your congregation and apply by November 1 for UUA funding up to $500 to support your congregation’s campaign.
- Volunteer to work with and provide financial support for You Can Vote or other organizations that are working to register voters.
- Campaign for, donate to, and vote for political candidates whose platforms promote UU values of inclusivity, respect, environmental protection, equality, compassion, justice, and peace.
- Campaign and vote against all six proposed amendments to North Carolina’s constitution (see below).
- Work with the NAACP or other organizations in your community to “get out the vote” by calling potential voters and providing transportation to polling sites.
- Vote on November 6 or during early voting.
Earlier this year, North Carolina’s General Assembly approved, largely along party line votes, six proposed amendments to the North Carolina Constitution that voters will be asked to approve or disapprove during this fall’s election.
Recent polls indicate that most potential voters don’t know very much about what these amendments are all about and while the amendments might sound good at first it’s important to learn what they’d really do if they’re approved by voters.
The truth is that these six proposed constitutional amendments range from unnecessary to clearly dangerous with respect to democracy and civil rights of North Carolinians and were proposed as a cynical partisan political ploy to maintain the political power of Republican legislators.
It’s not surprising, therefore, that all five living North Carolina Governors (Republicans as well as Democrats) and all six living NC Supreme Court Chief Justices (Republicans as well as Democrats) have expressed concerns about the proposals that would give the state legislature more power over the executive and judicial branches of government, dozens of constitutional experts and media outlets have editorialized against them, and a grassroots movement is building statewide to defeat all of them.
Protect Our North Carolina Constitution: Just Vote “No” on All Six Amendments!
- Learn more about the proposed constitutional amendments and then share this information with your neighbors, friends, and congregation .
- Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper urging voters to vote against all six amendments.
- Put up a “Just Vote No” campaign sign in your yard (UUJMNC will distribute at least 150 campaign signs to congregations in the Triangle and Triad and at the Forward Together annual gathering on October 13).
- Volunteer to work with Democracy NC or other organizations that are campaigning against the six amendments.
- Attend one of Democracy NC’s Protect Our Constitution rallies in Winston-Salem (October 1); Boone (October 2); Clayton (October 4); Rocky Mount (October 9); Weldon (October 11); Brevard (October 16); Fayetteville (October 18); Hillsborough (October 21).
- Distribute information to voters at early voting sites and polling stations on election day.
- Vote against all six amendments.
Nearly 1.4 million Floridians are subject to what is essentially a lifetime loss of voting rights because they have been previously convicted of a felony.
This fall, Florida voters will have the chance to give almost all of these citizens a “second chance” by restoring their right to vote following their release from prison and completion of probation or parole.
UUs who live in North Carolina can’t vote for the Florida ballot initiative but we can help UU Justice Florida get it approved by making phone calls (from your home or congregation) to Florida voters on October 9 between 5:30 and 8:30 pm.
Are you a UU social justice leader or activist? Do you wish you could talk with social justice leaders and activists in other UU congregations about how social justice in your congregation is working or not working and find out how other congregations are doing their social justice work? Do you want to learn more about how UUJMNC can support your social justice work?
Then you need to sign up for UUJMNC’s monthly conference call for North Carolina UU social justice leaders and activists (open to UU ministers, congregational social justice chairs, members of congregational social justice committees, and others involved in social justice work in their congregations or communities). We’re planning to schedule calls on the third Monday of most months from 7:30 to 8:30 pmbeginning October 15, 2018. Information about how to join the monthly calls will be sent to everyone who signs up and posted on UUJMNC’s Forward Together website.
Remember: We’re in the work for justice together and we’re stronger and smarter together than we are alone!
Grounded in our shared UU values, the mission of the UU Justice Ministry of North Carolina is to “give life the shape of justice” through education, organizing, witness, advocacy, and action related to environmental justice, immigrant justice, voting rights, economic justice, racial justice, and other social justice issues affecting our state and nation.
To do that, though, UUJMNC needs the involvement and support of North Carolina’s UU congregations, ministers, social justice committees, and congregational members. That’s why we’re hoping that your congregation will consider becoming a Forward Together Congregational Justice Partner.
The UU Justice Ministry of NC is proud to recognize the UU Congregation of Wilmington and the Unitarian Coastal Fellowship in Morehead City as our first two official Congregational Justice Partners. And we look forward to recognizing your congregation as a Forward Together Justice Partner in the future.
The 2018 General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association adopted three actions of immediate witness:
- End Family Separation and Detention of Asylum Seekers
- End Prisons for Profit
- Solidarity with Indigenous Water Protections
Click here to learn more about these issues and how you and your congregation can take action.
Delegates at the 2016 UUA General Assembly in Columbus, OH, selected “the corruption of our democracy” as the UUA’s 2016-2020 Congregational Study/Action Issue (CSAI). The Congregational Study/Action Issue is an invitation for individual UUs and UU congregations to focus on a particular issue, question, or concern and engage it, reflect on it, learn about it, respond to it, comment on it, and take action—each in their own way.
North Carolina UUs are encouraged to download the Corruption of Our Democracy CSAI Study Guide and use it in their congregations and communities and to contact UUJMNC if you might be interested in organizing, leading, or participating in a monthly on-line Forward Together group that might study and address this issue over the coming months.
Writing letters to US Senators and members of Congress about federal policies and legislation is one of the ways that Unitarian Universalists work to “give life the shape of justice” and give voice to our UU values and these letters can sometimes make a difference, especially when they lift up real, personal stories about how people are affected by federal policies and actions and when the writer’s words are written authentically and persuasively.
Unitarian Universalists for Social Justice (UUSJ) has developed a “Write Here! Write Now” toolkit that UU congregations can use to plan and conduct a letter writing campaign to North Carolina’s US Senators and members of Congress. And UUSJ’s volunteer advocacy corps in Washington, DC will personally deliver your congregation’s letters to Congress and add their voice to yours about environmental justice, voting rights, immigrant justice, gun violence, or other justice issues!
Create Climate Justice, a joint initiative of the Unitarian Universalist Ministry for Earth, Unitarian Universalist Association Green Sanctuary Program, and UU-United Nations Office, provides a number of valuable tools for education, collaboration, and organizing related to climate and environmental justice.
What do you and your congregation need to “give life the shape of justice?” And how can UUJMNC help you do that?
Contact UUJMNC to let us know and we’ll do whatever we can (advice, resources, networking, resources, etc.) to support your work for social justice.
What’s going on in your congregation and community with respect to social justice?
Please email us so we can share your social justice news and events with other UUs in North Carolina via the Forward Together website and social media.