September and October 2018

The monthly newsletter of the

Unitarian Universalist Church of Tucson

4831 E. 22nd Street, Tucson, AZ 85711, 520-748-1551, www.uuctucson.org.

To view previous editions of the newsletter, click here.

Newsletter editor: Craig Rock at newsletter@uuctucson.org.

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Faith Floods the Desert

Faith Floods the Desert: interfaith leaders unite to assert that humanitarian aid is a moral imperative. See articles below from UUA President Susan Federick-Gray and from the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee on the recent gathering in our nearby borderlands. Photo courtesy of No More Deaths (nomoredeaths.org)

From the UUA(.org) Website

Reflections on Humanitarian Aid

and the Arizona Desert

by UUA President Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray

During World War II, Chiune Sugihara, a Japanese diplomat, wrote illegal visas for Jewish families fleeing Lithuania. He did not follow the rules about who should get a visa and who should not. He followed his moral compass. He wrote them for anyone who asked. He issued 10-day visas for transit through Japan in clear violation of his orders. He decided he had the power -- even though he could have assumed he had none. “I have the seal to stamp the visas; I have my signature.” He wrote visa after visa.

I learned about Sugihara the same day I learned some children who have been separated from their parents at the border are being drugged to keep them listless and sleeping. The guardians who have been reunited with their children find their children are not the same — they are changed from the trauma they’ve experienced.

Just like Sugihara, we must all ask what our conscience requires of us in this time when the most inhumane abuse is being carried out against the most vulnerable by the government.

When asked what the most important commandment is, Jesus answered, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and ...Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these."

As a religious person, my faith calls me -- in no uncertain terms -- to help those who are suffering, to help those who need sanctuary and safety, who are facing death and persecution.

I return to Arizona this week, a state where I spent nine years as a Phoenix faith leader advocating for migrant rights and fighting deportations, the abuses of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and laws that criminalize, dehumanize and terrorize immigrants in Arizona.

I return to join faith leaders from around the country in a small town with a lot of heart, who will put lifesaving water in the desert. Faith leaders have been asked to place gallons of water in a place where just this year people discovered the human remains of 58 people trying to cross into the United States.

We have been asked to put gallons of water in the desert knowing this very act of providing water has been criminalized.

Nine humanitarian-aid volunteers from No More Deaths are currently facing federal felony and misdemeanor charges for their humanitarian aid. And they are fighting their charges saying that humanitarian aid, helping to save lives, can never be a crime. Rather, it is an act of conscience, the practice of deeply held religious beliefs.

Scott Warren, a geography professor, has been the most aggressively targeted. He faces 20 years in prison, if convicted, for allegedly giving food and water to two migrants in the desert. Scott’s defense team argues, "The government’s attempts to criminalize religious charity in these circumstances impose a clear substantial burden on Dr. Warren’s sincere religious belief."

My values and religion ask me to save lives and help my neighbors, particularly in the face of laws legitimizing the torture, dehumanization and killing of people.

As a religious person, I answer to a higher law of love and justice. I pledge allegiance to love and to our fellow humanity, to our ancestors and the generations yet to come.

We are all accountable to uphold our values of compassion, interdependence, and the worthiness of all, over any of the fallible laws of this land.

We must support those who are being persecuted for providing humanitarian aid, for organizing their communities, for speaking out and using the power they have to save lives.

What would it mean if every moral and religious person looked at the tools in their own hands, just as Chiune Sugihara did, and used those tools to save lives?

May we answer these questions, together. Onward in faith!

Newsletter Contents

Page 1 - Messages from UUCT President Frank Valdes and Rev. Bethany Russell-Lowe; UUA and UUSC Reflections on Flooding the Desert with Humanitarian Aid.

Page 2 - UUCT Finance Report; HIV AIDS Fundraiser; RE Updates; Pot Luck Dinners; Announcements; Share the Plate - September and October.

Page 3 - Report by Brian Moon; Water Protectors - Action of Immediate Witness; SAZCUUPS Updates.

Page 4 - Report from a PSWD District Board Member; Harvest of Shame Movie Showing Sep 3; No More Deaths Fundraiser with Author Luis Alberto Urrea; Sep 15 Hunger Walk; Oct Crop Walk.

Page 5 - Sunday Services - September and October (starting September 9).

Working in Covenant

by UUCT President Frank Valdes

We welcomed our new settled minister last month -- hooray! Rev. Bethany is just getting to know us and how we have been doing our ministry in the past. Our task now is to covenant on how we will work together moving forward into a new ministry. This means agreeing on our roles and responsibilities and how we interact with each other. This is much more than just with Rev. Bethany. It includes how each member of the UUCT community interacts in the many combinations of minister, Board, staff, committees, congregants, and even beyond UUCT.

To this end there will be many discussions taking place in the next year. The Board will be meeting in retreat with Rev. Bethany and with the other Boards of the Baja 4. The congregation will meet in a Start Up Workshop in November facilitated by our district support team. There will also be a facilitated Healthy Congregations workshop in the spring that will touch on these issues, including how we individually covenant to treat each other. The Board hopes you will all participate in these important discussions.

A final thing to look forward to is the Installation Weekend after the Holidays where we more formally join together with Rev. Bethany in our new ministry.

Beginning with Monthly Themes

by Rev. Bethany Russell-Lowe

Thanks to everyone who has made my first month here full of gratitude and generosity. It has been a full month, and I am so happy to be among you.

Part of the reason I was drawn to UUCT from the beginning is that you value collaborative ministry. Collaboration between and among committees/teams, lay leaders, and staff.

One of the ways we will be leaning into that vision of collaboration is through an experiment with monthly themes. Monthly themes are used by hundreds of UU congregations across the country. These themes influence what is discussed in worship, RE, small groups, and more! There are different paid monthly theme subscriptions. I have signed us up for Soul Matters, which is a program that grew out of the Unitarian Church of Rochester, NY and is used by UU congregations across the country. To give you a sense of what a “theme” is, here are this year’s themes for Soul Matters.

“What does it mean to be a people of…”

September: Vision

October: Sanctuary

November: Memory

December: Mystery

January: Possibility

February: Trust

March: Journey

April: Wholeness

May: Curiosity

June: Beauty

Every month, we receive three packets of information on that month’s theme. There is a packet for worship planning, a packet for religious education, and a packet for small group ministry (aka covenant groups).

Because this dive into theme-based ministry is an experiment for this year, I am asking our Worship Associates to “lean in” to these themes, but to not feel constrained by them. Jamili is using the resources from the small group ministry packets with our high schoolers. The themes are already helping Brian and me to plan ahead and pick out music for the rest of the church year.

My hope is that these themes give us an opportunity to create more opportunities for connection in the congregation. For example, imagine if, in October, the conversations about “sanctuary” that happen in the Sanctuary and in the RE classrooms extend into social hour! Or imagine what might happen if we bring these themes home and discuss them with friends or family during car rides or over dinner a few nights a month. There are so many possibilities.

If you have any questions about themes or want to know about how you might access the packets for your small group ministry/covenant group, contact me. I’d love to chat with you. See you around!

UU Topics - Conversations on Sundays

12 Noon to 1 PM in Rev. Bethany's Office

About twice a month from September through June, Rev. Bethany will lead a discussion of a spiritual and/or religious concept. Think Torah/Bible/sacred text study with a Unitarian Universalist twist! She will bring a reading, song, or short article for discussion and attendees will have the opportunity to share their personal beliefs on the topic, even (and especially!) if those beliefs are still evolving. We will be meeting on September 23rd to discuss "faith," October 14th to discuss "sanctuary," and October 28th to discuss "blessing." All are welcome to join! No need to RSVP. Just bring your whole self. While people of all ages are welcome, these classes will be discussion-based, about an hour long, and may not be engaging for every kid. Childcare is always available after worship. Please let Mary (mweise@uuct.org) know in advance if you will need childcare.

A Press Release from the UUSC website (Unitarian Universalists Service Committee)

In Sacred Act of Solidarity,

Faith Leaders Flood West Desert

with 125 Gallons of Water

on Remote Migrant Trails

AJO, Ariz. — August 6, 2018 — In over 100-degree heat, approximately 60 faith leaders and advocates from across the U.S. hiked 125 gallons of life-saving water for migrants into the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge on Sunday morning, despite a heightened law enforcement presence and recent obstruction of aid efforts on the refuge by land managers. Their action comes in response to a growing crisis of migrant deaths and disappearances in the West Desert surrounding Ajo, where 444 known deaths have occurred on federal public lands since 2001 and many more deaths have gone uncounted.

“Humanitarian access to the West Desert is urgent to prevent further deaths of undocumented people on these lands. The borderlands have been converted into a graveyard of the missing. We urge Cabeza Prieta and other land managers to act immediately to ensure that life-saving aid can be consistently provided in this corridor,” said Kate Morgan, a longtime volunteer with No More Deaths. A co-organizer of the action, No More Deaths is an Arizona-based, volunteer-run organization working to end death and disappearance in the borderlands.

Faith leaders and advocates brought water to two distinct places in the desert outside Ajo, an arid area where the journey from the U.S.-Mexico border to Interstate 8 can take upward of two weeks.

Since the policy of Prevention Through Deterrence was instituted more than 20 years ago, migrants have been increasingly funneled into dangerous and remote terrain such as this. In 2017, 128 migrant deaths were reported in Arizona and, of these, 57 were found in the West Desert outside of Ajo, which accounts for 44 percent of the total, up from 11 percent in 2013.

While these numbers are devastating, the number of known deaths is dwarfed by reports of those who go missing every year and whose remains are never found.

Law enforcement officers from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Parks Service inspected visitor permit information and identification cards of participants in the humanitarian action. Agents from the Bureau of Land Management and Arizona Fish and Game also monitored the action. Last year, U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials referred nine No More Deaths volunteers for prosecution on misdemeanor charges after collecting identifying information from humanitarian volunteers in the field. Their cases are now pending in federal court.

Charges filed against No More Deaths humanitarian aid volunteers come during a national attack on refugees, undocumented communities, and sanctuary activists, as well as an increase in deportation and incarceration of marginalized communities. Just last week, 95 migrants between the ages of three months and 60 years were detained near Ajo, Arizona.

“To say the least, this was an incredibly transformative experience,” said Rev. Mary Katherine Morn, president and CEO of Cambridge, Massachusetts-based human rights organization the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC), which co-organized the event with No More Deaths.

“Simultaneously, I felt a sense of heartbreak experiencing the intolerable conditions migrants brave in the desert while also being in absolute awe of the many volunteers who tirelessly work to support and affirm their dignity. I’m honored to be with them today and carry the spirit of this work into the future,” said Morn.

“It’s absolutely tragic and heartbreaking that we live in a nation where we criminalize people for exercising a right that we all implicitly have: the right to move,” said Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) President Susan Frederick-Gray. “I spent a few hours witnessing and walking the paths of these migrants, leaving water along the trail, and I am humbled by how arduous a journey like this must be.”

The action was the culmination of the weekend-long event “Faith Floods the Desert,” a joint collaboration between No More Deaths, the Ajo Samaritans, UUSC, and the UUA. While leaders and adherents of faiths from across the country converged on Ajo to express their solidarity, hundreds of individuals and groups signed on to letters to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona demanding that charges against No More Deaths volunteers be dropped, and to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Parks Service, Barry M. Goldwater Bombing Range, and Bureau of Land Management demanding that land managers grant access to humanitarian aid on public land without fear of harassment or prosecution.