What We Accomplished in 2018

My colleague Angela Kelly at the Unitarian Universalist College of Social Justice picks an element for each year. I love this! It feels concrete and ready for so many possibilities of reflection, ritual and focus. Yesterday was Epiphany or Three Kings Sunday, the day in the Christian tradition when folks celebrate the wise ones arriving with their gifts to greet the baby Jesus. The story goes that they followed a star. Followed it, for many days and nights. Stars, which I know are not technically an element, are the vision, the guide, the ground for me this year.

We navigate by the stars. They teach us that we can steer by a light that changes, transforms, comes and goes. A glow that we all live under and that looks different depending on our part of sky, our piece of the globe. The North Star that guides toward freedom. Constellations are hard to see. The patterns in the sparks are invisible to some of us. Others of us can glimpse what is still being revealed and can with faith and wisdom, draw the connections and let emerge the vision. 

Deepa Iyer in her invitation to find our place in the ecosystem of liberation for 2019 writes, “And some of us are visionaries, with the ability to find, articulate, and reconnect us to our north star, even when we cannot clearly see the sky.” She asks us:

  • What role(s) do I feel comfortable playing? What role(s) did I try out in 2018 and what lessons did I learn?

  • How can I stretch myself in 2019, and why? What are the injustices that keep me up at night, outrage me, and push me to act?

  • Where can I take bolder risks, especially if I hold different forms of privilege? What support systems do I need to be able to take those risks?

adrienne maree brown wrote these words I keep coming back to:

“Harriet guide me today

teach me generosity

adaptation and bravery

teach me the beauty of each small cluster

moving north, moving together,

moving towards liberation”

Molly Costello in her art made of stars says “We’re designed to connect; we long for each other.”

People of faith witness to abolish money bail.                                                                                                  Source

People of faith witness to abolish money bail.  Source

The poet Bao Phi: “Vietnamese people joke that they don’t need a four-star hotel - even the homeless, sleeping in the wide open, are treated to a thousand star hotel every night….Because stars don’t care about inconvenience; their gorgeousness took an eternity to reach us and they have done the work and are worth it….A thousand lines between a thousand points of light until our ancestors stopped counting and named it all sky.” 

Whatever is in your heart and on your brain, whether you whipped up a glitter-tastic, 3 dimensional vision board as part of a five year plan or threw one or two loose hopes for 2019 into the universe, may you find a way to focus, ground, and imagine. 

In order to look forward, we want to do a little looking back! Side with Love focuses on:

  • Providing culturally relevant and spiritually nourishing resources

  • Responding in high violence and high resistance moments

  • Facilitating relationships between Unitarian Universalist and faith networks and grassroots and social movement organizing

  • Affirming and resourcing on bright spots within and beyond Unitarian Universalism

  • Embodying our own values

Here are some of our highlights from 2018: 

Providing culturally relevant and spiritually nourishing resources

The Fortification Podcast is back! Season 3 is launching soon. Check out some favs from Season 1 and 2. If we’re gonna send emails, we want them to be spiritually nourishing! We especially loved this one lifting up community and a local Chicago organizer by our Megan Selby who did some consulting with us last summer and this reflection from 30 Days of Love last year is getting our hearts ready for 2019. We heard you loved our series that honored a resistance ancestor and offered a prayer and a song like this one. We loved partnering with Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism to share art, poetry and narrative on faith, justice and transformation.

From Reflections on Faith, Justice and Transformation in collaboration with Black Lives of UU.

From Reflections on Faith, Justice and Transformation in collaboration with Black Lives of UU.

Responding in high violence and high resistance moments
Action requires our willingness to discern. To say yes and no and to mean it and to sometimes be wrong. Side with Love considers whether:
We are asked to go / called for publicly
Resistance is led by people impacted by the violence
Possibility for longer term support
Visible faith presence is strategic
Possibility to build relationships and networks
Not already robusting flanked by faith communities
Visionary and deeply embodies our values

We were honored to join Mijente and many other folks organizing for liberation at #FreeOurFuture in San Diego in July to take to streets with art and music and dance embodying all that we love and to confront the violence of ICE and policing.

In August we headed to Tucson for Faith Floods the Desert to support the humanitarian aid work of No More Deaths and fight the criminalization of migration and aid.

July, 2018: UUs join Mijente in San Diego to #AbolishICE                                                                                Source

July, 2018: UUs join Mijente in San Diego to #AbolishICE   Source

Facilitating relationships between Unitarian Universalist and faith networks and grassroots and social movement organizing
We’re grateful for the ongoing work of organizing alongside Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism to support people of faith to come more deeply into the work of ending money bail, supporting faith leaders to clear and needed risks in direct action, providing coaching and connection to congregations and individuals offering accompaniment to folks being targeted by the immigration system, and supporting people of faith to support Water Protectors now serving sentences as political prisoners. 

Affirm and resource on bright spots within and beyond Unitarian Universalism
Through our Thrive/Grow/Shift collaboration with the UU College of Social Justice and the UUA Youth and Young Adult Office over the past 4 years we continue to train, nurture and heal a powerful, multiracial community and radical justice makers. Through the Organizing on the Side of Love gifts, we offered $2,000 awards of no strings attached money to Unitarian Universalist and adjacent young adults organizing around the systems of oppression that impact their own lives - as Black folks, indigenous folks, queer folks, undocumented and criminalized folks - and as leaders harnessing culture, organizing and community to resist. Through collaborations with the Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association at the 2018 Center Institute, the Beyond the Call Grounding and Growing Our Prophetic Ministries professional development program, the Professional Development office of the UUA and at General Assembly we’re providing spiritual nourishment, invitation to healing justice and organizing spaces (with funding!), and pushing the edge on direct action, abolition and no more faith communities as usual. 

Embody our own values

From theological and practical resources on policing and abolition, to the name change process that went live a year ago to supporting the seeds of restorative justice with our UUA colleagues who were harmed in New Orleans and those who harmed them, to striving to show up to zoom meetings and informal conversations and movement convenings for real, with open hearts and wise strategy and deep humility, we know that every day is an opportunity to live our values and strengthen our muscles for more liberation.

As we head into 2019, our team is pausing and assessing and visioning and listening to see what new things need to grow and what old things need to be let go. Rev. Elizabeth Nguyen is leading the Organizing Strategy Team at the UUA meaning that the work of Side with Love will continue to serve those on the already in motion in justice work, while all of our justice ministry moves toward greater alignment and strategy. Let’s enter into this new year with a call to Side with Love with Campaign Manager Everette Thompson.



Rev. Elizabeth Nguyen and Everette Thompson