UUA President to UU Ministers: We must prepare to provide sanctuary and resist
Rev. Peter Morales, president of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), has written a letter to Unitarian Universalist ministers to offer words of counsel and support as our nation, our communities, and the most vulnerable among us face an uncertain future. He shares this letter publicly in the spirit of providing guidance for all in the work ahead.
These are tough times. We are living in the midst of historic cultural turmoil. Long festering resentments are being unleashed, posing immediate threats to the most marginalized in our society and presenting long term danger to our natural environment.
People are understandably anxious. I hear reports of a spike in attendance at worship services across the country. I can only imagine the pastoral demands you are facing—at a time when we ministers are in as much need of support as our congregants.
Thank you. Thank you for your courage, your perseverance, your faithfulness.
I believe we are entering dangerous times. I expect that the new administration will unleash human rights abuses aimed at migrants and Muslims shortly after it takes office. In the longer term, other marginalized groups (women, the poor, people of color, transgender people, etc.) will be in danger. We are already seeing an increase in violent acts by people who see the election as validation of their hate.
Among the dangers we face is the temptation to “normalize” the situation. I pray that the incoming administration will prove to be more humane than its rhetoric and many of its most ardent supporters. I see no evidence that this is the case. None. It is irresponsible folly to act as though we are in a normal transition between administrations.
We must prepare to provide sanctuary and resist.
First, we must provide sanctuary in the broadest and richest sense of the term. We begin with offering safe places for reflection and healing for our congregants and for those coming to seek spiritual community. But these times demand more. We must provide sanctuary to those most vulnerable. In particular, migrants (primarily from Mexico and Central America) may well face mass deportation. In addition, Muslims have been targeted.
Second, we must prepare to resist human rights violations in active ways. We must make it much harder to deport, register, discriminate and despoil.
In the past most of our work for justice and compassion has been positive. We have been advocates for marriage equality, racial justice, civil rights, immigration reform and environmental justice. To use a sports metaphor, we have played offense. We joined with others to advance an agenda. Today we must prepare to “play defense.” We will have to respond quickly to acts of the government. We will have to react rather than act. We will need to be agile and fast.
As always, the key will be to work together. We have shown our ability to do this from resisting the human rights violations of Joe Arpaio in Arizona to joining in the resistance at Standing Rock. We are effective when our congregations and ministers work together at the local level, combined with support from regional and national staff. We make a difference when we form strong partnerships with other faith groups and secular organizations.
At the national level, we are working to form partnerships with other faith groups and other UU organizations. My office is working with Multicultural Growth and Witness staff and with our field staff. The UUA, Unitarian Universalist Service Committee and our shared College of Social Justice are working together closely. I have had a number of meetings with my counterparts in other faiths. Don Southworth, Executive Director for the Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association, and I are holding a series of listening meetings with ministers across the country.
I invite you to visit the “Show the Love” hub on UUA.org for resources. I encourage you to see what colleagues are doing and to share what you are doing.
In the coming weeks you will hear more as we work together to support you. For now, I want each of you to know that you are not alone. Together we are strong. Together we inspire one another. Together we can do this. We need one another.
Thank you again for all you do.
Love will guide us. Hope will sustain us. Ultimately we shall prevail.
President of the Unitarian Universalist Association