Media roundup: Members of Maine congregation wrestle with racist history

Media roundup: Members of Maine congregation wrestle with racist history

A weekly guide to stories about Unitarian Universalists from other media sources.

Rachel Walden

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First Parish Church in Portland, Maine, houses two memorials to its founding pastor, the Rev. Thomas Smith, who is known to have owned slaves and profited from the sale of scalps of Indigenous people. After taking down a small brass plaque in the congregation which honored former confederate president Jefferson Davis, members of the congregation are now weighing what to do with the Smith memorials. Marcy Makinen, a member of the church’s racial justice committee, is advocating for placing a new plaque near the others to explain how Smith’s actions run counter to modern Unitarian Universalist values. “As a person of mixed heritage, I don’t need any reminders of where we’ve been in the past. But the plaque we add could be an affirmation of our position today on the choices he made back then.” ( Portland Press Herald - 7.24.18)

Photo book released by Knoxville congregation depicts healing, growth

Ten years after a tragic shooting took the lives of two members of Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee, the congregation has published a book of photos from the year that followed the shooting. Church member Karen Krogh took photos of the flowers and cards left after the shooting, but also photos that show growth and healing as the congregation slowly moved on. The title of the book, Love is the Spirit, is taken from the church’s affirmation statement, which is said during every worship service: "Love is the Spirit of this Church and service is its law. To dwell together in peace, to seek the truth in love, and to help one another. This is our great covenant." ( WBIR - 7.25.18)

More coverage:

“10 years later: Remembering the deadly shooting at Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church” ( WBIR - 7.27.18)

Pennsylvania detention center criminalizes families

For over two years, community members have protested the Berks County Residential Center in Leesport, Pennsylvania, urging leaders in the state to shut down the facility. The Center is one of only three family detention centers in the country, but the only one to hold immigrant families long term. Detainees have reported widespread medical neglect and abuse and volunteer visitors from First Unitarian Universalist Church of Berks County said they have witnessed negative psychological effects of detention on the children housed inside. “The point is that there are much better ways for [detention center funding] to be spent, to support these families, and the criminalization of them is what the problem is, at every stage,” said the Rev. Sandra Fees, minister of the congregation. ( Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - 7.21.18)

More coverage:

“Grandparents to protest at Berks County Residential Center” ( Reading Eagle - 7.26.18)

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