a man kneels praying at a street shrine saying Rest in Power atop the names of people killed by police, painted on the street

Honoring sacred lives: A letter from Minneapolis

On Thursday, April 15, 2021, the MUUSJA Board of Directors affirmed and adopted the 8th Principle as a statement which captures the core purpose of our networked tri-state ministries. You’re discussing and considering this statement in congregations across the world. There has never been a better time than now.
“We, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association, covenant to affirm and promote: journeying toward spiritual wholeness by working to build a diverse multicultural Beloved Community by our actions that accountably dismantle racism and other oppressions in ourselves and our institutions.”

On Tuesday, April 20, beginning at 5:45pm, MUUSJA and metro-area UU and interfaith clergy from 20+ congregations are joining the Day of Verdict vigil after closing arguments Monday in the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Last week, we were in Brooklyn Center, just north of Minneapolis, to stand witness with the vigil on Monday, April 12, 2021, with clergy and family of Daunte Wright. Thank you to those UU’s able to be there in person or tune in with your spirits, then and at subsequent vigils and rallies every day this past week, with interfaith movement chaplains, centering voices of Black clergy. Speaking of the profound wrongness of a society that permits armed authorities, sworn to “protect” the public, instead to crush out a person’s life, so quickly, so carelessly.

As if the life of a person of color did not matter. As if the life of a Black person did not matter.

We anticipate closing arguments on Monday April 19th in the trial of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd. Whatever happens, will happen within an acrid cloud of pain, frustration, rage, sorrow, pain, mourning, exhaustion, loss, betrayal, pain, suspicion, resentment, cynicism, and doubt. Fueled by a massive presence of tanks, chemical and projectile weapons, aggressive arrests and 36-hour holds of peaceful demonstrators including journalists. For many of us, and from what I see especially for many Black, Brown, and Indigenous friends and those who love them, it is very hard to hold onto Love right now, or persistence, commitment, courage, determination.

What brings me to tears, may be very different from what brings you to tears. I don’t know your context, so cannot say what’s right for you. But for me, it is important, necessary, and sometimes heartbreaking, to see the children, and to see the hurt and hopeful children hiding inside most adults, and refuse to look away.

What filled my heart with tears was standing in a circle of faith leaders, encircling Daunte Wright’s family and friends, watching a tiny boy enjoy an LED votive candle held by a family member who switched off and re-lit that candle, again and again, for the smiling toddler to “blow out,” oblivious to tears, prayers, and a few well-warranted swears from beloved movement clergy who speak so well.

What seared my heart was a beautiful child, practicing a ritual of birthdays. May he grow old and gray.

It is for children, for their glad grace and all their birthdays, we return. It is to honor their sacred lives and resist what threatens them. We return again and again to the streets, the barricades, the council chambers, court houses, state houses, Zoom forums. To camps by the river on treeless swaths of clawed ground stacked with giant greasy pipe. To the thresholds of hielieras stacked with children in bunkbeds. To the soul-sucking Facebook threads and Op-Ed pages that mock compassion. We return, we show up, we side with Love.

Belief, whether or not we believe, doesn’t actually matter.
Thoughts and prayers, and even hope, do not actually matter.
It isn’t our faith that matters, it is our faithfulness.
Because each life matters. Because Black lives matter.
Beyond belief, beyond prayers, beyond hope:
we rest, rise up, return.

“Mourn the dead… and fight like hell for the living”
– Mother Jones 

How can I help right now? Look for the healers. If you can, be one. “Choose to bless the world.”
Contacting officials and representatives to demand Justice for Daunte
Donating to Daunte Wright’s son & widow for care
Donating to Daunte Wright’s family for funeral expenses
Donating goods or money for mutual aid in Brooklyn Center
Changing the policies & culture of policing (across Minnesota)
Changing the policies & culture of policing (specific to Minneapolis)

For Minneapolis residents, learn more about how to change the Charter Amendment which impacts policing rules for your city:  Join Elliott Altbaum (who grew up in Minneapolis’ First Universalist congregation, by the way!),  ISAIAH’s Young Adult Coalition leader, for one of the following Public Safety Charter Amendment and Caucus Trainings “to find an answer to our despair and create a future for Minneapolis. Join us for a conversation about what is possible and to build the power we need to win”:
Tuesday April 20th from 6:30-8:30pm
Thursday April 22nd from 6:30-8:30pm 

May we all grow old and gray, and find solace in the growing. 

Karen Wills, Executive Director
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