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Does Your Congregation Have A Black Lives Matter Banner?

By Hope Johnson

Black Lives Matter Banner at Allen Avenue UU Church

The UUA has created a webpage with a google map that shows which congregations have a Black Lives Matter banner hanging at their building. Please check the map if your congregation displays one and see if you are on it. If not, let us know.

(see more congregational sign photos, many from CER congregations at the Standing on the Side of Love website)

We've written about the challenge many congregations face when putting up a Black Lives Matter banner before. Rev. David Pyle wrote a blog post last fall titled Taking Action in Black Lives Matter that received a number of comments. If your congregation is weighting the issues around displaying a banner, please read that post.

This week we bring you a newsletter column written by Rev. Hope Johnson, CER Congregational Life Consultant and part-time minister of the UU Congregation of Central Nassau in Garden City, NY. This is her story of the struggle she personally and her congregation experienced with this decision.


Over the past few years, I’ve been ambivalent about “lifting up” Black History Month at UUCCN. On the one hand, I honor, celebrate, and live Black History every single moment of my life. On the other hand, most of you have no need or reason to do so and would not relate to this in an everyday way. So, I have allowed Spirit to be my guide on this one….

I have been actively seeking to dismantle racism on the larger platform, through my service to the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations and the UU Ministers Association, through my ministry in the Living Legacy Project, where I lead Pilgrimages following the route of the Civil Rights Movement, and through my ministry wherever I find myself.

I’m a generalist like the old-time family doctor. There’s never been a need to center the work here at UUCCN when there are so many other pressing needs to be addressed. And so I pulled back, held back, and only sprinkled this passion of mine “every little once in a while,” as Lead Belly (and Sweet Honey in the Rock and UU Pete Seeger…) used to say.

Then, something happened: Black Lives Matter gained momentum as a movement. The UUA affirmed it at our last General Assembly. Here was Dave Coddington, UUCCN president, voicing the urgency of the movement during a conversation we shared while talking about the wayside pulpit. He was almost matter-of-fact as he suggested putting up a BLACK LIVES MATTER sign for the month of February—Black History Month. My heart stopped. Then it skipped a beat. I looked at him and wondered if I’d heard right…. “What did you say, Dave?”

“Hope, we need to put up a BLACK LIVES MATTER sign for Black History Month.”

My mouth went dry. I thought I was going to faint. This caused me to reflect deeply. And then—I can’t believe I did this—I spilled out every reason why we couldn’t do that.

“Dave, I don’t believe UUCCN is ready for this.”
“Dave, we got the OK for our congregational sign on our building after three years of waiting. Let’s not push our luck.”
“Dave, are you serious???”

I finally slowed down. I stopped babbling…and my eyes filled with tears. I told Dave that this was one of moments I would remember as long as I am able to think clearly. I was bursting with pride! I explained that in many ways, just hearing what he had to say meant that we as a congregation were at a place where we were living into the legacy that Rev. Amy Beltaine, our former Intern Minister, and John Hanc, UUCCN member and Newsday columnist, had reminded us about. I knew at that moment that a chunk of my work had been fulfilled.

And, as I thought about it further, I had to acknowledge that I was uncomfortable. I sought counsel from colleagues, family, and friends. I knew that I had to confess that I had been prematurely excited. “Dave,” I wrote by email, “It has to be BLACK LIVES MATTER.” Period. We can’t dilute the message. And we exchanged emails. And we decided to include the word because…. BLACK LIVES MATTER BECAUSE ALL LIVES MATTER.

“All right, Dave. Let’s do it!” We brought it to the Board of Trustees at our last meeting and the Trustees and other leaders were with us. We’ll see what happens when the sign goes up. But we are united in the certain knowledge that this is the right thing to do. It’s the “UU Way”!

It is with deep appreciation that I continue to journey with you as we honor Black History Month. Thank you.

Yours, Hope

About the Author

Hope Johnson

Hope Johnson will serve as Congregational Life Consultant for the UUA's Central East Region and the Southern Region. She brings specialties in conflict resolution and multicultural congregational development....

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