AND REPORTS FOR MAY/JUNE 2023
OPEN LETTER TO
GOVERNOR RON DESANTIS
FROM FLORIDA UNITARIAN UNIVERSALIST MINISTERS ASSOCIATION
May 1, 2023
Dear Governor DeSantis,
Our Unitarian Universalist faith has a long history of justice seeking in this country. Its influence can be found in our nation’s founding documents, in President Lincoln’s speeches, and in every civil rights movement in this nation. We as a people of faith are proud of this country’s aspiration to be that beacon city on a hill. It is what makes this country different from many other countries where freedom to be who we are is criminalized. It is the diversity of its people that
makes the potential of this nation great.
At the same time, our Unitarian Universalist faith calls us to heed “Words and Deeds of
prophetic people which challenges us to confront powers and structure of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love.” Therefore, we teach our members the history of injustice within Western Civilization from the Doctrine of Discovery to the “school-to-prison pipeline”. Our faith calls us to dismantle white supremacy culture in all its forms so we can do better in living this nation’s aspiration of justice for all.
We teach our members that every person has inherent worth and dignity. Rev. Dr. Susan Frederick-Gray, President of our Association recently said, “As Unitarian Universalists, we deeply believe that diversity of sexuality and gender is a gift. We unequivocally uplift and support all the trans and non-binary people in our lives, our congregations, and communities.” This support includes providing the medical care that medical science has deemed necessary for our transgender and non-binary children.
Unitarian Universalism recognizes that every body is sacred, and we have all been endowed with the twin gifts of agency and conscience, which means each of us is blessed with the ability to know what is best for our own bodies. We see humanity in all its expressions and experiences as the divine speaking to us to respond with love, justice, and humility in our journeys.
It is deeply disturbing to us, based on our values, to be experiencing the directions the current laws are taking us. They infringe on the civil rights of LGBTQ+ folks as well as People of Color. The undersigned clergy see the current laws and mandates as a form of persecution of our trans and nonbinary beloveds and a direct infringement on our ability to practice our religion’s core values and principles.
The Undersigned UU Clergy
|Rev. Fred L Hammond||Manatee Unitarian Universalist Fellowship|
|Rev. Tom Capo||Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Miami|
|Rev. Margalie Belizaire||First Unitarian Church of Orlando|
|Rev. Ben Atherton-Zeman||Unitarian Universalist Church of St. Petersburg|
|Rev. Cynthia A. Snavely||Tri-County Unitarian Universalists and Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Lake County|
|Rev. Ed Proulx||First Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Palm Beaches|
|Rev. Dee Graham||Native Floridian & Affiliated Community Minister Unitarian Universalist Church of Sarasota|
|Rev. Dr. Marni Harmony||Minister Emerita, First Unitarian Church of Orlando|
|Rev. Kathy Schmitz||Retired Unitarian Universalist Minister, Orlando|
|Rev. Jay Wolin||Unitarian Universalist Church of Sarasota|
|Rev. Amy Kindred||Unitarian Universalists of Clearwater|
|Samara Powers||Seminarian and Candidate for UU Ministry|
|Mx. Jess Hunt||MLIS, DMin Candidate, Aspirant for UU Ministry, CLF Community Engagement Fellow, UUA Conflict Engagement Coach|
|Rev. Susan M. Smith||Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Fort Lauderdale|
|Rev. Kristina Spaude||Unitarian Universalist Church of Tarpon Springs|
|Rev. Kierstin Homblette Allen||Affiliated Community Minister, First Unitarian Church of Orlando|
|Rev. Amy Carol Webb||River of Grass Unitarian Universalist Congregation, Davie, FL|
|Rev. Suzanne Fast||Affiliated Community Minister, Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Greater Naples|
|Rev. Tracie Barrett||University Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, Orlando|
PLANTING DAY A SUCCESS
A group of fellowship green thumbers (in photo) enjoyed a special planting day May 20 organized by Bill Denison and Elliot Prout. A master gardener and longtime fellowship member and friend, Elliot obtained a $500 grant to purchase native plants for our green areas, and several members and friends responded to our call for volunteers. Thanks to all for helping make our grounds even more beautiful!
SOCIAL EVENTS FIRST TUESDAY, THIRD FRIDAY OF EACH MONTH
Our next Share a Dish potluck is Friday, May 19, at 6 p.m. at our building. Bring a dish to share — like the name says! — and join us for food, fellowship and fun and, often, a special program as well. Share a Dish is held on the third Friday of each month, but once a quarter we share our dishes following a Sunday service. Check back here for the latest update!
And please join us Tuesday, June 6, at 4:30 p.m. at Motorworks Brewing, 1014 9th St. W, Bradenton, for our monthly outdoor gathering beside a beautiful 150+-year old oak tree. Come early for a parking place right next to the building. Plan to join us for a drink, an appetizer or an early dinner. Everyone is welcome! You can check out the venue online: https://motorworksbrewing.com/bradenton
JUNE 4: ANNUAL CONGREGATIONAL MEETING
Join us for our annual Congregational Meeting on Sunday, June 4, following the service. All members who have joined prior to 45 days before the meeting are eligible to vote on: officers and directors for 2023-24; the budget for the coming fiscal year; and by-law updates to codify our new Mission Statement, approved last year, and electronic voting for all meetings (e.g., on Zoom). Mark you calendars!
SPECIAL COLLECTION FOR MAY: PLANNED PARENTHOOD
Our Special Collection for May will benefit Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood delivers vital reproductive health care, sex education, and information to millions of people worldwide. Planned Parenthood Federation of America Inc. is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Donations are fully tax-deductible as allowable under the law. Click here for more information about Planned Parenthood’s work in our area.
This Special Collection runs from May 14 through May 28. To donate, please make your check payable to Planned Parenthood and bring to a Sunday service — or send to: Manatee UU Fellowship, 322 15th St. W, Bradenton, FL 34205.
Thank you for your help in supporting this important organization.
AS MUCH FUN TO CHAT AS IT IS TO KNIT!
Knit ‘n Chat continues to meet the first and third Tuesdays of each month at 10 a.m. at Manatee UU Fellowship. The wonderful spring weather has allowed us to meet on the deck under our new shade-providing umbrellas.
Our dozen or more members come as they are able, sharing new hand crafts and helping each other with more challenging crocheted or knitted projects. And of course, there is always the ‘chatting’!
Our faithful member AJ, who now lives in California, often calls in on FaceTime as we share talking to her. She enjoys watching our activities and interaction. Plus, she continues to send her knitted Peace Pals to our partners, “Knitting for Peace.” We at the fellowship have sent knitted scarves and hats also. These are distributed around the world.
[Contact Carol Alt directly or through her Contact form on this website for more information.]
— Carol Alt
A REPORT FROM THE SOCIAL JUSTICE COMMITTEE AND RACIAL CONCERNS DISCUSSION GROUP
Winston Churchill once said, “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Nowhere does this seem to be more true than in Florida. As Unitarian Universalists, we should be especially aware of these changes because they result in trampling on our principles and purposes by which we espouse to live. We should be sure our governing legislators know how we feel. I’d like to list some of the changes already in effect. Some are the result of legislation and others of executive orders.
Here are a few:
1. A bill making it harder and more expensive to sue insurers.
2. A $711 million bill making housing more affordable for working Floridians.
3. A bill making school vouchers available to all students regardless of economic status.
4. A bill allowing a person to carry a concealed weapon without a license or any training.
5. A bill that bans most abortions after 6 weeks of pregnancy.
6. An executive order changing the Board composition of New College in Sarasota to resemble that of Christian right Hillsdale College in Michigan.
Other subjects we’ll discuss later include rescinding certain governmental rights for Disney World, banning books and the Don’t Say Gay education bill, transgender medical rights, challenges to local rights on ecological issues, establishing a separate Florida Guard military unit under the control of the governor, and others.
Rev. Fred L Hammond has done an excellent job in advising us from the pulpit of these challenges and their effect on our UU beliefs. The Social Justice Committee and the Racial Concerns Discussion Group will try to do likewise. Your job is to be sure your legislators know your feelings and concerns.
— Bill Hayes
LATEST FROM OUR BOOK CLUB
The Manatee UU Fellowship Book Club will read Kindred by Octavia E. Butler for our next meeting on Monday, June 5, at 2 p.m. The book’s heroine is a 26-year-old Black woman living in California who is mysteriously transported to the antebellum South to save a plantation owner’s son from drowning. These mysterious trips through time and space begin to happen more often and last longer. Butler keeps us guessing as to the ending.
As a sidenote, activist Judy Heumann died March 4 at age 75. The Book Club had previously read her autobiography, Being Heumann. Judy contracted polio when she was 2 years old and never walked after that. But with the support of her parents and her own fierce determination, she fought discrimination and became a leading force for passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act. What we consider ordinary things, such as sidewalk cutouts, ramps in place of stairs, handicapped parking and employment requirements, would not have happened without the ADA and Judy Heumann. Our own UU principles fit innately with Judy’s work.
The Book Club meets on the first Monday of each month at 2 p.m. on Zoom. Contact Bill Hayes through his Contact form on this website for more information. All are welcome to participate.
— Bill Hayes
AND SPEAKING OF BOOKS …
Last fall, as we culled our fellowship library shelves, we removed a number of books, which we sold in our book sale or donated to nonprofit groups. This made room for over 180 new books that were added to our collection. You can see a list of them in a printout in the social room near the window where the cards are to check books out. These books include a number on race relations (325’s in our modified Dewey Decimal system and located above our “fireplace”) of which many were donated by Cindy Evans.
Other books listed are books read by our Book Club, with many of these donated by Bill Hayes — these are located in the shelf on the west wall and have an orange dot on the binder to identify them as being read by the Book Club. Drew Hensley has generously donated books to our library as well, in an effort to update our collection in categories such as men’s issues, Bible study, and the environment, and Joyce Simard donated Hope for the Flowers, a poetic book with illustrations by the author, Trina Paulus. We do purchase some books — usually specific UU books — but the majority have been donated by our members.
More recently we have added the following new books to our library—
Aquinas: A Beginner’s Guide by Edward Feser
Color of Compromise (DVD) by Jemar Tisby
Ecosocialism: A Radical Alternative to Capitalist Catastrophe by Michael Lowy
Entering the Stream: An Introduction to the Buddha and His Teachings by Samuel Bercholz
Fear: Essential Wisdom for Getting Through the Storm by Thich Nhat Hanh
For the Love of Men: From Toxic to a More Mindful Masculinity by Liz Plank
Hope for the Flowers by Trina Paulus
Leaving World War II Behind by David Swanson
Lovingkindness by Sharon Salzberg
Man Enough: Undefining My Masculinity by Justin Baldoni
Mistakes and Miracles by Nancy Palmer Jones and Karin Lin
Real Love: The Art of Mindful Connection by Sharon Salzberg
Search by Michelle Huneven
Soul of Jewish Social Justice by Rabbi Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz
Three Pillars of Zen by Phillip Kapleau
Where We Go from Here by Bernie Sanders
Take some time to peruse the shelves and check out a few books! We have a unique selection, many of which are not available at the public library or may not be in the near future. As UU’s we value books, the right to explore a wide range of topics, and freedom of expression.
— Carol Bartz
STEWARDSHIP CAMPAIGN: A FESTIVE CONCLUSION
On March 19, Manatee UU Fellowship completed its 2023 Stewardship Campaign, “Love Beyond Belief.” The post-service celebration featured a special lunchtime edition of our popular Share a Dish potluck. Board member Becky Smith provided a delicious cake to honor the occasion.
ALL HANDS ON OUR DECK!
Many of you remember Ed and Mary Hord, long time active members of Manatee UU Fellowship. To honor Ed’s memory, his daughter Wendy and her partner Deb have donated funds for the purchase of new tables, chairs, and umbrellas for our deck. Bernie Salzinger is making some minor alterations before putting everything in place and when it’s all done, it will look fabulous AND we will be shaded from the afternoon sun by handsome red umbrellas. A plaque is being made to read: The Ed and Mary Hord Memorial Deck. Ed did a lot of work on the deck; he would be proud.
As Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray, president of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), said, “We continue to join in solidarity with so many around the world and pray for the people of Ukraine. Our hearts go out to those who are enduring devastating loss of life, violence, instability, and upheaval due to Russia’s unprovoked invasion. Our UU faith calls us to remain committed to justice and we believe we have a moral responsibility to support the creation of peace and the equal rights of all people.”
Follow this link, then click on “Donate Now”: https://www.uua.org/pressroom/press-releases/supporting-ukraine.
RENEWING OUR LEGACY CIRCLE
Anyone can join our Legacy Circle and make meaningful gifts to Manatee Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in their will. Regardless of the amount, your bequest is a statement of faith that our UU movement and our voices for compassionate justice, democracy, and religious freedom are heard long after we are gone. When you demonstrate that you care enough about this fellowship to support its future, others will follow your generous example.
No matter what your age, you can designate Manatee UU Fellowship as the beneficiary of all or a percentage of your IRA and it will pass to us tax-free after your lifetime. It’s simple, just requiring that you contact your IRA administrator for a change-of-beneficiary form or download a form from your provider’s website.
Join the Legacy Circle at our fellowship by stating your gift plan on your personal intentions form available in our office. Your name(s) will be placed on the Legacy Circle plaque in the sanctuary. Because most popular retirement plan administrators assume no obligation to notify charities of their client’s designations, the intentions form is an important document to us and will be held in a confidential file.
Please contact our treasurer, John Isham, directly or via this website to join or for more information.
— John Isham
A GIFT FOR US ALL
For our 2021 auction, Peg Green offered to create a flaming chalice fabric wall hanging “to hang in your home or give as a gift.” The winner would get to choose the flaming chalice design and color scheme. and then Peg would create the piece.
During the live auction held in February 2021, Bill Hayes kept raising his bid and finally outbid everyone. Over that summer he generously gifted the lovely quilt to our fellowship. It is bold and beautiful, and can be seen in our Sanctuary on Zoom as well as in-person during our Sunday services.
Peg’s artwork can be viewed on her website www.peacepeg.com and one of her works is on the cover of the UUA Pocket Guide for new members.
Thank you, Peg and Bill, for being so generous!
The past few weeks there has been a palpable energetic pulse in the fellowship. Are you feeling it too? There is so much in the news that brings tears to my eyes, to have a place where people enjoy one another’s company, a place where there is joy expressed in the singing. This gathered community is a balm to my spirit and heart.
There are some exciting things coming up for us to participate in.
Sunday, May 7th, is the 100th anniversary of the flower celebration ceremony developed by Rev. Norbert Čapek. This is the ceremony where we celebrate our beautiful diversity through the sharing of flowers. This Sunday is also our fellowship’s anniversary. This will be a wonderful service celebrating these two events in the life of our faith. Bring a flower(s) to share.
May 8th is STREAM’s Nehemiah Assembly at Harvest United Methodist Church, at 6:30 p.m. This is STREAM’s most important meeting of the year. This is where we invite as many people as possible to gather and hear from our public officials on addressing the justice issues we focused on this past year. The issues we are seeking answers to are affordable housing for families earning less than $48,000 a year. And implementation of the Adult Pre-Arrest Diversion program for nonviolent misdemeanors including expired tags and licenses for first time offenders. This year 15 congregations will be urging their members and friends to attend. Manatee UU Fellowship’s goal is to have 45 members and friends to attend this event. If you are interested in attending, we will be arranging carpools to attend. We will meet at our building and leave from here. There is a sign-up sheet in the social hall social justice table. If you are willing to drive let us know, if you want a ride let us know that.
Memorial Garden Plant-In on May 20th. Master Gardener Elliot Prout, Cori Prout’s son, has procured a grant of $500 to restore our Memorial Garden to a Florida Native Garden. We invite those who can come out this day to help plant these plants under Elliot’s guidance. I read that digging in the dirt improves mental health as it is a stress reducer. So join us.
Exciting times for our fellowship. This gathered community is indeed a balm for the weary heart.
I am writing this after hearing the news of yet another school shooting. This time it was in a private Christian elementary school. Fortunately, if there is anything fortunate about this shooting, the police responded quickly and within 15 minutes, the shooting stopped. What could have been a worse tragedy was ended quickly — the trauma of the survivors, however, will last forever. What is happening with ever more frequency is that survivors of mass shootings are now witnessing firsthand second mass shootings.
And still this country does nothing. There is no massive outrage by parents. Congress is already saying that a ban of assault style weapons will not be possible until the next congress is elected in 2024. How many more lives will be lost? How can it be that our right to own guns is more important than our children to have a childhood?
What was unimaginable when I was in high school is now normalized for our children. Our nation is ill.
Meanwhile, parents in Wisconsin have forced an elementary school choir to not sing a popular song by Dolly Parton and Miley Cyrus — “Rainbowland.” Because it is about accepting one another as they are. Dangerous words for children to learn. Banning songs and books but not banning assault style rifles. Words are more dangerous than ending someone’s life, apparently. Think on that. Our rights to own guns are more important than the life of a 9-year-old. If this doesn’t make you want to scream, to write letters, to make phone calls to Gov. DeSantis and Tallahassee legislators and Manatee Commissioners who believe that open carry is somehow more important than the students at Stoneman Douglas High School, or Pulse nightclub, or a Covenant Presbyterian Church school in Nashville. Then who are you? Who are we? What have we become?
I close with the extremely dangerous words by Dolly Parton and Miley Cyrus. May they dangerously transform us to find a better way before another life is lost:
Living in a Rainbowland
Where you and I go hand in hand
Oh, I’d be lying if I said this was fine
All the hurt and the hate going on here
We are rainbows, me and you
Every color, every hue Let’s shine on through
Together, we can start living in a Rainbowland
Living in a Rainbowland
The skies are blue and things are grand
Wouldn’t it be nice to live in paradise
Where we’re free to be exactly who we are
Let’s all dig down deep inside
Brush the judgment and fear aside
Make wrong things right
And end the fight
‘Cause I promise ain’t nobody gonna win (come on)
Living in a Rainbowland
Where you and I go hand in hand together (let’s do it together)
Chase dreams forever
I know there’s gonna be a greener land
We are rainbows, me and you
Every color, every hue
Let’s shine on
Together, we can start living in a Rainbowland
Being Religiously Liberal in an Illiberal Age
Delivered to Manatee Unitarian Universalist Fellowship on February 12, 2023
© Rev Fred L Hammond
In May of 1940, Alfred Van Dien went to his Rabbi — he was quite agitated and expressed his concern to the Rabbi. The Germans had just defeated the Dutch and rolled into the Netherlands. Immediately, Hitler had ordered for Jews to wear yellow stars and fired those who worked for the Netherlands government. Alfred wanted the Rabbi to encourage the synagogue to flee the Netherlands. The Rabbi told Alfred he was over-reacting. Hitler would not cause them harm even as he ordered them out of their homes. The Rabbi told Alfred to go home and pack a few things. The government was simply relocating them for a few weeks, nothing to be worried about.
Alfred and his sister Julia were not able to leave the Netherlands, so they and a few others decided to hide in an underground bunker. His parents were arrested by the Nazis. His mother, Sara, was killed in the concentration camp in Westerbork just outside of Emmen, Netherlands on April 12,1941. His father, Meijer, died in Auschwitz Oct 8, 1942.
When Alfred and Julia came out of hiding from their underground bunker in 1945, their entire family, aunts, uncles, cousins, — dead. The Rabbi was dead. All at the hands of the Third Reich, who believed that they were preserving traditional German Christian Values.
I had the privilege of speaking with Alfred’s son, Han Van Dien, about his father’s harrowing tale of survival. At the time, I thought this could never happen here. But when I talk with Christians who support DeSantis, they too believe Christian Values are being preserved by this vindictive authoritarian state regime.
How did it happen? One event that I hope sounds alarms for us occurred on May 10, 1933, four months after Hitler became Chancellor: Nazi-identified students publicly burned books claimed to be “un-German.” This occurred in 34 universities throughout Germany. Works considered “un-German” were prominent Jewish, Liberal, and Leftist writers. After the book burning, bookstores and libraries were raided to remove these “un-German” books. There is a narrow leap from burning books to throwing people into crematoriums.
In July 2022, the Governor of Florida signed into law House Bill 1467, which mandates books must be approved by a school media specialist otherwise they are banned. The law carries with it a third-degree felony charge — up to five years in prison and $5G fine. Public Libraries are already under scrutiny for the books they have for children. DeSantis has removed school board members that do not agree with his authoritarian agenda.
What are the books that Duval and Manatee counties banned? Books about Muslim, Jewish, Indigenous, Korean and Mexican culture. Books about the Civil Rights Movement, Japanese Internment camps, and LGBTQ families. These books, according to the Governor of Florida, do not represent American values. They are un-American much like the books were un-German in 1933.
One of the actions by DeSantis was the hostile takeover of New College with the firing of their President and removal of the chair of the board. He took aim at New College’s promoting values of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, aka DEI. His newly appointed board and interim president will be removing DEI from this campus.
One student in opposition to the planned removal of DEI values, stated that during President Okker’s brief tenure, Jewish and Muslim students were for the first time able to receive Kosher and Halal foods at the cafeteria in recognition of their religious practice. This is what DEI in practice looks like — people of differing cultures having the ability to practice their religious beliefs publicly instead of hiding them away to assuage the majority faith’s fear of being exposed to alternate cultural and religious views.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion are our religious values. When the governor decries them, he is attacking our religious freedom to practice our faith. When he rails against Black History and Queer History being taught in colleges, he is attacking our faith’s desire to dismantle systemic white supremacy culture. He enforces white supremacy culture by his refusal to acknowledge that Florida is not homogenous in race and ethnicity, class, education, and culture.
DeSantis declared that Florida is where woke comes to die. An attorney for the governor in the Andrew Warren suspension trial was asked what does woke mean? Andrew Warren was an attorney who stated that he did not agree with DeSantis’ Abortion and Transgender health policies. He gave an opinion; he had not broken any law. DeSantis’ attorney defined Woke as “the belief there are systemic injustices in America and the need to address them.” I would agree with this definition of woke. Unitarians and Universalists have a long heritage of seeking to address systemic injustices in America going back hundreds of years. Our fellowship’s mission includes working for social justice — this is foundational of our faith.
The Liberal Religious community of yesteryear’s Germany said and did nothing. They were like Alfred Van Dien’s Rabbi, do not worry, this will pass. This can’t happen here. They were complicit with their silence. We, as part of the liberal religious community must not remain silent. We need to be vocal. We need to let others know that we will not be complicit with this governor’s attack on other’s inherent worth and dignity. Write letters to the editor. Discuss strategies of how we can publicly show support to the groups that DeSantis and company want to silence and erase. Find like minded organizations to join in their activities and actions and do so proudly as Unitarian Universalists. Do not hide your light under a bushel. Let your love for others, your thirst for justice, be visible in your day to day conversations and activities.
Martin Niemöller was one of those Lutheran pastors who remained silent before and during the Third Reich. After the war, he expressed his own guilt and complicity which included this famous quote which I am adapting to reflect today’s Florida:
First, they came for the Blacks and Latins, and I did not speak out — because I was not Black or Latin.
Then they came for the Transgender youth, and I did not speak out — because I was not a transgender youth.
Then they came for the Drag Queens, and I did not speak out — because I was not a Drag Queen.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out — because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.
Let us be among those who speak up for these groups. Let us become knowledgeable on how this American culture has not lived up to its promise and be among those who act in bringing it to fruition of all it promises to be.
Reverend Fred L Hammond
I begin my day very early, with a cup of coffee next to me and my computer in my lap. I read newsletters from three excellent writers: Heather Cox Richardson, Robert Hubble, and Joyce Vance. I’m done with cable news, and the Bradenton Herald is filled with one DeSantis atrocity after another. So I find my truth and scholarship in these online newsletters.
Last week Robert Hubble wrote: “We are in a retrograde moment for the rights and liberties of LGBTQ people and women. A wave of anti-LGBTQ sentiment and anti-trans legislation is sweeping the nation. Women are losing rights state by state, lawsuit by lawsuit, and ruling by ruling. We will make it through this period. The retrenchment is a spasm of the old world resisting as it gives way to the new. In the meantime, we should recognize that it is hard for those who are the subject of assaults on their dignity, humanity, and autonomy.
“As we engage in the long struggle to overcome this retrograde moment, let’s make a special effort to be present in the lives of friends and family who are the targets of the GOP’s culture war on LGBTQ people and women. Especially the children … We need not be intrusive or preachy or rush to “save” people. We just need to be present for them … to stand alongside them in the coming struggle.”
Last night, nine of us from Manatee UU Fellowship joined members of Temple Beth Israel on Longboat Key for a presentation of “Not In Our Town,” a documentary about how a town united against hate threats to its citizens. We wore our nametags and our ‘Love’ pins and were present alongside a group of people who know first hand what hate feels like.
Last Friday Gary Chanco arranged for two representatives from ALSO Youth to speak at our Share a Dish dinner. We learned about the good work this organization is doing in Bradenton to support our young LGBTQ people who know first hand what hate feels like.
A few weeks ago after the Sunday service, Rev. Fred and Mariano Vera led an informational meeting to give the congregation an opportunity to give feedback on two ideas that the board and social justice committee are suggesting: One is a banner in front of our building that reads, “Hate Has No Home Here” and the other is a Tiny Library which would be placed in front near the sidewalk. The Tiny Library would contain books banned from school classrooms and libraries by Gov DeSantis and the Florida Legislature. The books are free to take home and read and return, or not. Both actions are controversial and confrontational, and both were overwhelmingly supported by those who attended the meeting.
We at our fellowship recognize the assaults on the marginalized groups in Bradenton. Our UU values and principles guide us to take whatever action we can to demonstrate to the citizens of Bradenton that “Hate Has No Home” at Manatee UU Fellowship.
It’s the first of March 2023 and we have begun our annual Stewardship campaign, the time when the appeal is made to all of us to think about the future, near and long term, of our Fellowship. Board member Becky Smith and Rev. Fred are co-chairing this year’s effort. Becky said some powerful words in her testimonial on a recent Sunday morning. She reached back to the early years of our Fellowship and named some members whose generosity is with us today. She used the phrase, “… standing on the shoulders of giants.” It’s true that much of the funds in our legacy account today are due to the generosity of those who came before us. Rev. Fred says every week,” Our spiritual ancestors planted the vision of this fellowship.” He continues with the words, “We follow in their footsteps and plant trees knowing that we might not be the ones who harvest their fruits or see their grandeur.” Three cottage meetings are scheduled. Please sign up to attend one and learn where we are today, financially, and where we need to be when Rev. Fred’s contract ends. You have the letter from Rev. Fred and Becky, and your pledge card. Ask yourself, What does Manatee Unitarian Universalist Fellowship mean to me? Truly mean to me. Take your time. Answer honestly. And then consider your gift for our future.
Love Beyond Belief. What do those words mean to you? I am writing this on February 25. This day is designated as a “National Day of Hate” by white supremacists who claim that “the one true enemy of the American people is the Jew.” Law enforcement agents are on high alert around Jewish houses of worship in NY, CA, IL, FL. I pray that our Jewish relatives, friends and neighbors remain safe from harm. Love Beyond Belief. Our religious beliefs might be different, but love is our strongest UU value.
Our social justice team is bringing before the board a request to place a banner in front of our building that says, “Hate has no home here.” My hope is that the board and the congregation all say Yes to the banner. Hate has no place here or anywhere. We are speaking up with boldness and courage, compassion and love.
And remember, when the world is too much with us, Stop, breathe, clear all thoughts. Breathe in, slowly. Hold. Breathe out, slowly. Repeat. It really helps.
With love beyond belief,
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