First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia ~ Welcome home!

Join us to discuss our support for Black Lives Matter.


Owing to severe weather on January 23, the congregational meeting planned for January 24 has been rescheduled. Please join the lay leaders after the service on Sunday, January 31 for important updates about our finances, our building, and our settled ministerial search; no votes will be taken.

After the service on Sunday, February 21, we will gather with the Social Justice Ministry Team and Rev. Susan to vote on the proposed statement of support and outdoor banner for the Black Lives Matter movement. That vote will be followed by a conversation about possible concrete actions we can take in support of anti-racism work.

All are welcome to attend both sessions, but only members may vote on February 21.

Happy 2016! It promises to be a momentous year for our church, as we dig into our congregation’s potential after several years of introspection and transition. It’s so exciting to finally be at this stage in our journey!

The coming weeks will include important updates on our finances, the settled ministerial search, our programming, and our building. However, you might notice one important omission: we have delayed the launch of our annual stewardship campaign. The Board of Trustees and I are tremendously grateful for your generosity so far this year—we know that your gifts keep our church strong. We’ll be celebrating that commitment at a special service on Sunday, February 28—please mark your calendars and stay tuned for more details about making your pledge for next year.
That said, we’ll have plenty to discuss before then: our gathering on February 21 will include a conversation and vote on our church’s support for the Black Lives Matter movement. Many members and friends have asked me about this in recent weeks, especially as we see our neighboring UU congregations pledging their support and after our own Connie Simon’s tremendous service, My Life Matters: Being a Black UU, on January 3.
I am grateful to all those who have reached out to me with their ideas, questions, and enthusiasm, and I look forward to continuing the discussion at our meeting on February 21. In preparation for that meeting, I wanted to share a few details about how we’ve reached this point and why I think it’s important now:

  • First, as you may know, the Black Lives Matter movement isn’t new—it dates back to 2013, when George Zimmerman was acquitted in the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. The movement gained national attention in 2014 following public demonstrations after the deaths of Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner, in New York City. This summer, at the UUA General Assembly in Portland, Oregon, delegates overwhelmingly approved an Action of Immediate Witness entitled “Support the Black Lives Matter Movement,” which called upon congregations to work for racial justice, learn about the interconnected nature of racism and other systems of oppression, and to recognize “that the fight for civil rights and equality is as real today as it was decades ago.”
  • Our church’s Steering Committee—comprised of the Board president and vice president, the minister, and a representative from the Ministry Leadership Team—began talking this fall about asking the congregation to support the Black Lives Matter movement. We feel that taking this stance is in keeping with our first principle, and we believe that our support must be about more than just a banner. (Although yes, we recommend putting up a banner, too!)
  • As Connie reminded us a few weeks ago, our church has not traditionally been an activist church—in recent years, we have mostly turned our faith inwards rather than taking it out into our community. Whether that model should change is a question for the entire congregation, not just the leadership or the minister. Such a change likely wouldn’t happen overnight, nor would it be meaningful without sustained, intentional work from all of us.

One of my favorite parts of being a Unitarian Universalist is that our faith and our community always challenge us to learn more and to engage more deeply with the world around us. I’m certainly not an expert on Black Lives Matter or on anti-racism initiatives, so I’ve been working hard to learn more about being an effective ally. If you would also like to learn more before our discussion on February 21, see below for resources that I’ve found helpful.

Mark your calendar:

January 31: Info session after the service on finances, building, and settled search.

February 21: Meeting after the service to vote on support for Black Lives Matter and to identify congregational action to fight racism

February 28: Celebration Sunday
Learn more about the Black Lives Mattermovement and how to support it:
#BlackLivesMatter doesn’t mean your life isn’t important--it means that Black lives, which are seen as without value within White supremacy, are important to your liberation.”
–Alicia Garza, co-creator of the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag and movement
Learn more about the UUA’s commitment to Black Lives Matter:
“This struggle is ultimately about respect for the inherent worth and dignity of every human being.”
–Rev. Peter Morales, UUA President
Learn more about how UU congregations have handled pushback and vandalism:
“For primarily white congregations, the experience of having a sign vandalized is only a passing glimpse of the terror of living as a person of color in a racist society.”
–Rev. Jake Morrill, Oak Ridge UU Church

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