With Ren Pasco
“Justice, UU, and UUFF.” Led by Adele Coleman and Brooke Eldredge.
The theme of our 2019 Arkansas Unitarian Universalist Cluster Meeting is Listening, Learning, and Leading. Part of our agenda includes learning and utilizing the fishbowl exercise as a method to allow everyone in a large group to participate in the discussion.
The Fishbowl Exercise
provided by Connie Goodbread, UUA Southern Region Co-Lead
- Place ten chairs in a circle.
- Facilitator and Partner sit across from one another at opposite poles of the circle.
- Eight people join them in the circle.
- The Rules:
- Name the topic and set the allotted time frame
- Those inside the circle agree to …
— stay in the circle until the talking in over
— only speak for one’s self
— refrain from name calling, blaming and interrupting
— listen deeply
— speak one at a time
— speak into the circle only ( that is, wait until after the whole exercise to address those not in the circle)
— allow each person in the circle the opportunity to speak
— allow each person the choice to pass and/or speak later
- Those outside the circle agree to listen and refrain from speaking
- Facilitator and Partner agree to …
— make sure everyone is given a chance to speak (Note: There is no need to “go around the circle” … Each one speaks at will.
— keep track of time so that everyone has a chance to be heard
— go back to a person who passes and ask them if they wish to speak
— take a full minute of silence if the rules are broken
— lead the debrief conversation after the fishbowl(s), if that is desired and agreed upon by the group
Visit Facing History for additional guidance on fishbowl exercises.
We are delighted that our communal Sharing of Thanks on Thursday, November 22nd was covered by local news station KNWA! The potluck was a wonderful way to support and get to know local residents and anyone who needed food or a place to go on Thanksgiving.
By Rebecca Bryant
The Arkansas Citizen’s First Congress (ACFC) is a coalition of organizations working for progressive change –- primarily by lobbying the Arkansas legislature. Assisting ACFC in this effort is their tandem organization, the Arkansas Public Policy Panel, which monitors all bills in the Arkansas legislature and retains full-time lobbyists on staff.
In 2017, UUFF began supporting the Arkansas Citizen’s First Congress as one of the Justice Team’s picks for ‘Share the Plate’. In 2018, we persuaded the board to let us use that money to purchase a membership with ACFC, rather than simply making a donation. That membership gave us the privilege of sending delegates to the organization’s Congress of members that takes place every two years.
Four delegates (Shermon Brown, Maren Chism, Karl Brown, Rebecca Bryant) attended the 2018 Congress which took place from June 8-10 in Little Rock. On Friday evening, following dinner at the Sheraton Midtown, we heard presentations from member groups, describing why they do their work. Speakers included Alyce Love from the Desha County Social Justice Alliance, Ginny Massullo from the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance, and Furonda Brasfield with Decarcerate.
For the rest of the weekend, our mission was to identify five short term goals that would become the focus of lobbying through the next legislative session. Justice Team members spread out through the four caucuses; Civil Rights, Economic Justice, Environment, and Education, taking part in their deliberations.
By the end of the weekend, the Congress had passed five resolutions: 1. Support fair residential landlord-tenant laws (tenants have little protection at present); 2. Support a juvenile diversion program (i.e. try to keep minors out of the prison pipeline); 3. Upgrade Arkansas’s voter registration system (championed by the League of Women Voters); 4. Deter wage theft; and, 5. Support equity in professional licensure (In Arkansas, for a variety of professions, licenses cannot be issued to noncitizens).
I’ve known about the Citizen’s First Congress and Arkansas Public Policy Panel for decades. But, this was my first immersion in their process. Meeting others that are also engaged in the fight for justice and hearing their stories and ambitions was inspiring. Adding the small voice of UUFF to that of nearly 60 other organizations makes us a chorus with a chance of being heard.
By Theresa Parrish, appeared in Sept/Oct 2017 issue of The Beacon
Unitarian Universalists take pride in our open minds and open hearts. We welcome difference and diversity. We lean into controversy and educate ourselves on issues. Recent events in Charlottesville, repeated attacks on Planned Parenthood and abortion access, and threatened cuts to healthcare and social programs have caused many of us to feel anxious about the future of our country and about the immediate health and safety of our loved ones.
What does all this have to do with Our Whole Lives – the evidence-informed, lifespan sexuality education curriculum co-authored by the Unitarian Universalist Association and the United Church of Christ? Everything!
Imagine Madison, who is much taller and heavier than their peers. After years of teasing and bullying, Madison believes there is something deeply wrong with them. They become depressed and suicidal.
And there is Adrian, whose friend pressures them to engage in sexual activity until they reluctantly give in. Adrian learns to associate sexuality with shame.
Or Jaden, who feels attracted to a friend of the same sex and who was told by their conservative religious grandparent that homosexuality is sinful and disgusting.
And Angela, who wanted to talk to her boyfriend about birth control, but didn’t know where to start. Now she finds herself pregnant, worries that her parents will be enraged, and wonders if she will be able to finish school.
It’s not hard to imagine a bully who relentlessly calls a classmate “faggot,” “fairy,” and other derogatory names. The bully tries to persuade others to join in tormenting the victim. How many of us are prepared to respond in a way that honors our Unitarian Universalist values?
[Use of pronouns “they,” “their,” and “them” is intentional. Even the most enlightened people make assumptions and value judgments based on gender. What assumptions might you have made about the gender of the individuals in the scenarios above? ]
All of these narratives occur regularly here in Northwest Arkansas. They are due, at least in part, to our reliance on sexuality education provided by public schools or by well-meaning but ill-informed parents (who are often dreadfully uncomfortable discussing anything sexual), or by no one at all. Much of the sexuality education provided in Arkansas (including here in Fayetteville) is based on the “abstinence only” model that charges youth to abstain from “sex” until marriage. Youth are often pressured into signing vows of chastity and are shown repulsive videos of sexually transmitted infections meant to scare them into “abstinence.” This propaganda leads young people to believe that any sexual contact will result in pregnancy, infection, or both. The material presented is flawed enough, but even more egregious is what is lacking — topics of relationships, of difference, of consent, and information on birth control that is comprehensive and medically accurate.
The theoretical basis of Our Whole Lives (OWL) runs contrary to all of this. OWL affirms that we are sexual beings from the moment we are born until the moment we die. We know that sexuality is a broad concept, involving not just genitalia and reproduction, but gender and orientation, relationships, consent, body image, families, justice, inclusivity, friendships, values, sexual health, contraception, and much more. This is all delivered by trained OWL facilitators in a safe setting and in an age-appropriate manner. What’s more, OWL acknowledges parents/caregivers as the primary source of sexuality education and involves them in their children’s classes.
OWL opens up the discussion on sexuality, empowering students of all ages with vocabulary and information that can help them navigate relationships with confidence. They come to understand their inherent rights as human beings and are equipped with vocabulary to express themselves. They are challenged to think deeply about various scenarios that might occur in their lives and to prepare to make informed, deliberate choices.
So, with experience of Our Whole Lives:
Madison might love their body just as it is, significantly decreasing the negative effects of bullying.
Adrian would have denied consent with confidence and might still see sexuality as positive.
Jaden would have an opportunity to accept t heir same-sex attraction as “normal” without fear of punishment or ostracism by family and church.
Angela would likely have discussed birth control and their relationship with her boyfriend, and her pregnancy might have been averted.
Fewer bystanders would have joined with the bully, and more would have protected the victim and spoken out.
In your mind’s eye, are you imagining a school-aged child – or perhaps a teenager – in all of these scenarios? While traditionally, sex-ed has been served up almost exclusively to pubescent youth and teens, OWL is for EVERYONE. Appropriate OWL classes are offered at all age levels, beginning with kindergarten and continuing through old age. And, if you are wondering what an older person might learn from sexuality education, consider that the incidence of sexually transmitted infections is rising significantly in adults aged 55 and up. Information about sexuality (and sexual health) constantly evolves. Social values are regularly re-examined. It is impossible to outgrow Our Whole Lives.
Children, youth, and adults who participate in OWL classes and/or who become educated in sexuality and relationships are people who are armed to resist misogyny, racism, homophobia, and transphobia. They are likely to be accepting of others. They tend to make healthier choices. They are not as easily manipulated. They are less likely to passively accept violations to their bodies and to their rights as human beings. They resist. Congress might move to de-fund Planned Parenthood and other public clinics. But if we are empowered with information and grounded in our values, we will find ways to practice safe sex, to prevent unplanned pregnancy, and to maintain our sexual health. We will continue to be actively inclusive and will protect the vulnerable in our midst. We will continue to take responsibility for our choices. We will not give in to bullies or terrorists.
We will be respectful, valued members of our families, our schools, our workplaces, and our communities. Confidence, knowledge, and values cannot be legislated.
Visit the OWL page on our website for more information on the program and upcoming classes.
with Rev. Jim Parrish
To Be Determined:
Rev. Jim Parrish
April 12, 2017, UU Fayetteville, AR
Arkansans and the Death Penalty
Our state has put an exclamation point on the death penalty by scheduling 8 men to be executed by the end of April 2017, all so as to “beat the expiration date” of its killing drug cocktail’s shelf life. The story is outlined well in this NPR segment:
Arkansas Readies for 8 Executions… “Faced with an expiring supply of a controversial sedative, the state of Arkansas plans to execute eight men over 11 days — a pace that is unprecedented in recent U.S. history and that has been criticized by lawyers and former corrections officials.”
The rush to kill eight men after Easter is unprecedented, and can only pile onto Arkansas’ reputation as a state that is “open for violence” in the wake of pushing guns onto our college and university campuses. When our international businesses recruit people to come work in Arkansas there is already a steep climb to convince them that they and their families will be welcome no matter their ethnicity, religion, political views, or sexuality/gender. Add to this a reputation for multiple executions rushed into because the state wants to kill people before they are prevented to do so, mostly by the rest of the civilized world’s attitude that it is a brutal, dehumanizing act, well, that is a great advertising piece… “Arkansas, the Execution State.” Really?
As Unitarian Universalists we may have differing degrees of view on the death penalty, but because of our Principles we agree on the inherent “worth and dignity” of every human being, no matter how hard they’ve pushed against humanity themselves. We advocate for the abolishment of the death penalty for many reasons, but two to ponder are: there are too many innocents killed by an inherently complex and flawed judicial process, and society has found no reasonable way to kill someone against their will that doesn’t perpetuate the violence the alleged perpetrator has begun.
Instead of continuing the violence, we advocate for the state to invest in the care and support of the victim’s family, friends, and others affected by the crime, to allow them to rebuild their lives and begin anew. And we advocate for humane life imprisonment without parole for the perpetrator, because there is always a chance for reformation, repentance, and recognition of their own worth and dignity, even as they have given up their freedom because they did not recognize it in another. There is even a chance for exoneration, a chance that is erased upon death.
In our 1974 UU General Assembly we passed a General Resolution renouncing the Death Penalty. With a resurgence of the practice, a panel offered this reflection at the 2000 General Assembly, stating what someone must accept if a supporter of the act (Yr2000 language).:
If You Support Capital Punishment
By Julie Zimmerman
“In a system run by humans and therefore prone to human error, if you support capital punishment, you accept the fact that some of the people executed will be innocent. (add prone to “human greed and glory” jnp)
As more and more teenagers are being tried as adults, if you support capital punishment, you accept the fact that some of the people executed will be children.
Because “knowing right from wrong” disqualifies an offender from using an insanity defense, if you support capital punishment, you accept the fact that some of the people executed will be mentally ill or mentally retarded.
In a society that clamors for victims’ rights and compassion for the innocent, if you support capital punishment, you accept the fact that pain and suffering will be inflicted on those who have committed no crime, the family and friends of the offender.
In an age when more and more Americans distrust “the system,” if you support capital punishment, you accept the fact that you have granted that system the right to decide which of its citizens deserve to die.
In a nation that prides itself on its criminal justice system, if you support capital punishment, you accept the fact that it is the poor who are executed and that the race of the victim does more to determine who gets a death sentence than the crime itself.
In a country that seeks to decrease violence on television, on the streets and in the family, if you support capital punishment, you accept the fact that our children will learn that killing is the solution to society’s problems.
In a world that cries out for peace and understanding, if you support capital punishment, you have made a judgement that thousands of incarcerated Americans, (about whom you know only what the media has told you), are no longer human, are no longer children of God, and are incapable of change, reconciliation or redemption, and that the family of the murder victim are incapable of forgiveness.”
Seven years ago, my uncle was murdered. My uncle’s killer is still alive, serving a life sentence. I thank God that the brutal, irrational crime that ended my uncle’s life did not result in another senseless killing.”
(Julie Zimmerman is the editor of Biddle Press, and wrote this as a foreword for Frontiers of Justice, Volume 1, The Death Penalty)
On Wednesday April 12, 2017, a letter from over 200 clergy and people of faith in Arkansas was presented to the Governor and Attorney General of Arkansas asking the state to commute the sentences of the eight men to Life In Prison Without Parole. I participated in this action, and believe it to be upholding our deep UU Principles of recognizing our Inherent Worth and Dignity and serving Justice, as well as my own sense of morality and ethics. I urge UUs and people of good-will to let your voices be known to the Governor and Attorney General asking for the move to commutation and an end to the Death Penalty. The ACLU and other civic and religious organizations will be holding rallies at the capitol and asking for phone-calls, emails, and texts to be sent to our state officials to stop this violence. Join with their voices and let Arkansas know we are a state of humane, rational, and non-violent people who want our state to act that way as well. I believe we should continue this work until the death penalty is abolished from Arkansas, and the U.S..
Rev. Jim Parrish
FAITH LEADERS LETTER TO GOVERNOR ASA HUTCHINSON
We, the following faith leaders, call on Governor Asa Hutchinson to stop the eight upcoming scheduled executions of Don Davis, Bruce Earl Ward, Ledelle Lee, Stacey Johnson, Marcel Williams, Jack Jones, and Kenneth Williams and commute their sentences to life without parole.
As faith leaders, we are opposed to the death penalty because we believe that in spite of their actions, they retain the God-given dignity of any human life which must be respected. Aside from this God-given dignity, there are other reasons for not applying the death penalty.
*It is not effective as a deterrent to crime.
*It is applied inconsistently.
*It has a negative impact even on the family of the victim.
*Mistakes are made-since 1973, 139 inmates on death row from 26 states have
*Studies in other states have shown that the death penalty is more costly than
(abbreviated list of signatures)
Rev. Maxine Allen
Rev. Kate Alexander
Rev. Paul Atkins
Rev. C. B. Baker
Rev. Jan K. Nielson
Rev. Jim Parrish
I was so honored to be able to attend the call for clergy at the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota in their quest for witness in opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). The pipeline has been routed through treaty lands that have sacred meaning and remains from burials and battles, and would be buried under the Missouri River just above the the reservation, putting the Dakota Sioux living there in peril.
This map shows the issues clearly, the pipeline was rerouted from a northern route above Bismarck, ND, because imperiled the water supply of that city. So, as our nation has done for centuries, we allowed people who have little voice or perceived worth, to bear the danger. Look at the neighborhoods where coal power plants, pipelines, railroads and waste is dumped, and you will see neighborhoods and land of discrimination.
When DAPL began bulldozing sacred sites within the treaty boundaries, and the intent to put a crude oil pipeline under the water source for an already impoverished people realized, the Standing Rock Sioux and other tribes, activists and environmentalists swung into action. Their unarmed, non-violent, but admittedly active protests and encampments along the pipeline route were met with violence, vicious dogs, rubber bullets, pepper spray and a sonic cannon. Their pleas for the pipeline to stop were not heard, and they were removed from its path. Amid growing despair, the Elders and religious leaders of the reservation wondered what to do next. It was a moment that had similarities to another call, a bridge in Selma, and now the Backwater bridge in Cannonball, ND.
The call went out on social media in late October for clergy from all denominations to come to Standing Rock as witness to a civil rights and justice action, to acknowledge the right of a people to not have their lives threatened for corporate profit. The tribe Elders and organizer Father John Floberg were expecting around 100 clergy, over 550 answered and came. Over 50 Unitarian Universalists attended, including our President, Peter Morales. Episcopalian Priest Father John Floberg of the reservation’s Diocese, organized and led us in the action of witness. We met at the Water Protectors main camp of around 2000 folks, Oceti Sakowin, circled around their Sacred Fire, and heard a reading of repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery, which is a central tenet to the oppression of native peoples around the world, and tacitly gave permission for a pipeline to endanger indigenous people in place of anyone in power.
Led by representatives of the tribes, the organizing Episcopalian Church, and leaders of the gathered denominations, we then walked to the bridge on the Cannonball river that marks the demilitarized zone between the Water Protectors and the militarized police that removed protestors and camps from the path of the pipeline.
The gathered clergy, Native Americans, and lay people prayed, sang and spoke of solidarity for over 4 hours, ending the action in a Niobrara Circle of Life, a circle of blessing each other, each and every one. We then took time to meet our hosts, help in the camp, and hear stories. I was thanked a number of times, sometimes with tears, for our witness, for giving the camp peace. I thanked them as well, for their sacrifice deeply touched me, they were on the edge of change, and I know I gained much from this encounter. There is a lot of what the protectors of Standing Rock are doing that needs to be done in my corner of Arkansas, and across this nation. I wonder what a true repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery, and our own nation’s Manifest Destiny, might mean to our religion of Unitarian Universalism. I wonder how much of our struggle to be a truly diverse religion is because of the DNA of these doctrines of colonialism in our “soul.” I intend to find out… and I hope you help me by thinking about what you insist is UU, that doesn’t really have to be, and could be a barrier to our diversity.
I shared this greeting with Father John Floberg, to be given to the Elders of camp Oceti Sakowin:
Greetings from Northwest Arkansas, part of the Southern Region of the Unitarian Universalist Association. I bring well wishes and support from my ministerial colleagues in Oklahoma and Arkansas, and from the people in my ministry at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Fayetteville, Arkansas. I am here representing these voices, these hands and hearts, who stand in solidarity with the Water Protectors of Standing Rock as we all ask for their sacred lands to be honored and remain unsullied, we ask that the bodies of Native Americans be counted as sacred, full of worth and dignity to be lifted up in equality with all in this Nation, and as a united people who deeply understand that water is life… that we must do everything we can to protect the waters of this land from further harm. We stand with you in this cause, and hope to prevail for the sake of all of our peoples, our children, and our grandchildren. We are one.
So may it be.