Stand and Be Counted

Cathy Coley

picture courtesy of
Cathy Coley

Cathy Coley presented this testimonial as part of the February 2nd 2014 “From Selma to Raleigh” service at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Peninsula.

A couple of years ago, I gave a testimonial that talked mostly about how I developed my main friendships here at the Fellowship after moving to this area as a Unitarian Universalist.  This time I would like to share about my and our commitment to Social Justice.

Contributing to the Greater Good is imprinted upon my DNA.  My father’s childhood was spent traveling with his father’s work.  With his hands, he built many of the altars, pulpits and pews, and initial architectural models of churches that are sprinkled through the Blue Ridge and Smokey Mountains.

You can talk all you want about how you support something, but unless you contribute in a tangible way, words alone can be ineffective.  Praying for Peace is great, but unless you show up to stand up for it, how will the people who oppress and those who are being oppressed have any idea how broad that prayer is?

Even before I was a Unitarian Universalist, I fought injustices.  I marched for Nelson Mandela’s release from prison in South Africa during Apartheid.  I felt kind of silly traveling by van, with about six others, from my teeny college to little Springfield, MA to do so, but it was important to me to do something.  When I got there, as I thought, who is even going to know that we are doing this?  But I saw thousands gathered, and heard Bishop Tutu and Winnie Mandela speak in person.  If Springfield was enough to make a difference in their eyes, to travel across the world to speak, then it mattered more than my doubt.

I have been active since a teen in the Gay Rights Movement, now called the LBGTQIA Movement, participating in the old ACTUP! Die-Ins at research hospitals in the late 80s to early 90s.  It was a powerful experience, to rally together with others to represent those who were dying of AIDS and call for the research that was coming too late for many, including dear friends.  It came because we made a righteous noise, and publicly visible people are living a quarter of a century later as proof of the actions.  I was among the original votes for a Unitarian Universalist Welcoming Congregation in the mid-90s, an act which contributed to legalizing Same Sex Marriage in Massachusetts.

A large reason I continue here at the Fellowship, besides the friendships and the short drive, is because we have a very Socially Committed Fellowship.  We are active in LINK and PORT, helping to feed, house and job train homeless people.  We gather for the Transgender Day of Remembrance annually.  It may be a small gathering, but it is visible on Warwick Boulevard.  Who would have thought that was even possible in this conservative area not so long ago?  I hope that someday, we gather to celebrate with more transgendered people as members of the Fellowship, not to just remember the dead.  We are doing the steps that will lead us to be an official Green Sanctuary, an action for our environment.  Some of our members joined the Phoenix, Arizona UUA General Assembly to Stand on the Side of Love for Immigration Reform.  More recently Andrew has been traveling with a contingent to speak to our Legislators in Richmond.

Next week, the UUFP Caravan is heading to the Mass Moral March in Raleigh, NC to Stand on the Side of Love regarding recent discriminatory changes that make the vote of minorities and women that much harder to count.  It’s like Selma all over again.

What made Jesus dangerous to the powers that be?  He stood up against the unjust, he loved the lowliest among us and raised them up.  But thousands can only gather for justice if one then another then another show up.  So I hope that you will add your voice, participating in whatever ways you can.  Stand on the Side of Love and be counted.

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About acmillard

Andrew serves as minister to the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Peninsula in Newport News, Virginia.
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