Activity time: 15 minutes
Preparation for Activity
- Speak with your minister or a long-time lay leader about your congregation's involvement in the struggle for LGBT inclusion and equality. Find out if the congregation or any of its members have ever suffered discrimination, harassment, or violence because of a stand they took on LGBT rights.
Description of Activity
Read aloud this November 24, 2006, article from UU World, written by Don Skinner:
Cedarhurst Unitarian Universalists, a congregation of 100 members in Finksburg, Md., has experienced at least three attacks of vandalism since late summer. In late August or early September, BB pellets damaged several plain-glass windows. In the weeks that followed, several hateful messages, including a swastika and two messages attacking the church's theological beliefs, were drawn upon an outside table. In the most recent incident a peace pole in the congregation's meditation garden was damaged when it was dismantled and defecated on. The youth of the church had just created the meditation garden during the spring and summer.
"In my mind, it's clear that these events were hate crimes," said the Rev. Henry Simoni-Wastila. "They were intended to send a theological message of hate about our beliefs, or better, a misunderstanding of our beliefs." Scrawled on the table was the message, "You don't believe in God. You (expletive)." There was also a message that the congregation should "want to be more Christian."
Simoni-Wastila said the congregation has spent a lot of time dealing with the incidents. "It's made people afraid and anxious," he said and some events have been cancelled.
Tell the group the experiences of the Cedarhurst congregation are more common than we would hope. Several other Unitarian Universalist communities have experienced similar vandalism. The First Unitarian Church of Rochester, New York, for example, had their gay pride banner ripped in half. The United First Parish Church (Unitarian) in Quincy, Massachusetts, had their gay pride flag stolen four times. The Unitarian Universalist Church of Delaware County in Media, Pennsylvania had their flag stolen and then returned burned and partially shredded. If you know of other examples, add them to these.
Lead a discussion using these questions:
- How do such incidents make you feel?
- Have any of you experienced similar incidents? If so, how did you handle them?
- What gives you (or your congregation) the courage to speak and act for justice and inclusion, even when it is risky to do so?