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Month of love and justice returns

Standing on the Side of Love’s second annual Thirty Days of Love campaign runs from MLK to Valentine’s Day.
By Donald E. Skinner

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Jennifer Toth is the new campaign manager of Standing on the Side of Love.

Thirty days isn’t enough time to change everything that’s wrong with the world, but you can get a good start on it.

That’s the premise behind Thirty Days of Love, the annual campaign of the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Standing on the Side of Love program. This year’s Thirty Days campaign began Saturday and will extend past Valentine’s Day, to February 17. It will give individuals and congregations an opportunity to recommit themselves to social justice causes, to come to know themselves better through personal reflection, and to put their faith into action.

When the first Thirty Days of Love was held a year ago almost 1,000 people took part in daily “love actions.” In addition, more than 200 social-justice themed worship services were presented, and at least 75 public witness events were inspired and held during the month.

In this second year, Thirty Days of Love organizers are anticipating even more involvement by UUs and others. “Before the campaign started this year people had been asking us for weeks when it would be ready,” said Jennifer Toth, campaign manager for the Standing on the Side of Love program. “People seem to be really excited about it.” Even before it began, more than 800 had signed up to participate, she said.

Toth joined the UUA staff as director of the campaign in November. She brings experience working with environmental and abortion rights groups and has been associated with the Bellingham, Wash., UU Fellowship and the First UU Society of San Francisco. She will be working out of the Washington, D.C., offices of the UUA’s Multicultural Growth and Witness staff group, along with Standing on the Side of Love Program Assistant Meredith Lukow.

The heart of Thirty Days of Love is a daily email inviting participants to engage in a specific action ranging from writing a personal reflection to joining in a public witness with others.

The first week of Thirty Days of Love is focused on “honoring legacies” said Toth. Two of those “Honor Legacy” moments are Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the presidential inauguration on January 21. A third is the 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, on January 22.

The second week will focus on interfaith work. Participants in “Think Interfaith” will be encouraged to visit different houses of worship, to oppose bigotry against Muslims, and to respond to acts of violence.

Week three, “Moving Beyond Borders,” will engage issues such as immigration and breaking down the gender binary. There will be a live chat with a youth who identifies as queer and who has been held in detention by immigration authorities.

Week four, “Share the Love”, continues a theme from last year, to reimagine Valentine’s Day as a social justice holiday. It will culminate in “Share the Love Sunday” on February 17, when congregations will be encouraged to take up a collection for the work of the UUA. Share the Love Sunday replaces Association Sunday, which was held for five years as a way of remembering and supporting the work of the association.

Lukow notes that Thirty Days of Love will be different this year in that there will be more collaboration with “organizations that do work that we admire.” Last year much of the campaign was focused on introspection and personal reflections, she noted. “This year there is more engagement with external groups. We’ve taken what most resonated with people last year and refined it.”

There will also be activities this year from Michelle Alexander, author of the UUA’s current Common Read, The New Jim Crow, about mass incarceration. A pen pal program for LGBTQ people in prison will be introduced.

Participants will also be encouraged to bestow “Courageous Love Awards” on people in their congregations. or in the larger community, who are doing exemplary work on social justice issues.

Lukow emphasized that Thirty Days of Love is “open source,” in that participants are encouraged to adapt it to what is happening in their own communities.

Why should congregations engage with Thirty Days? “The campaign speaks to many of the things people have been doing in their congregations for years,” said Toth. “We’re just giving them another opportunity to speak out, avenues to connect with other congregations, and a way to frame their social justice messages.”

She said a long-term goal for the program is to make it more available to people outside Unitarian Universalism. “We want this to be available to people of all backgrounds,” Toth said.

Toth noted that matching grants are available for social justice efforts by congregations participating in Standing on the Side of Love programs. The Fund for UU Social Responsibility has made $25,000 available in grants of $500 to $1,500.

The Standing on the Side of Love website details what some congregations did last year.

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