Media roundup: Unitarian Universalists offer pastoral presence, resistance during contentious election

Media roundup: Unitarian Universalists offer pastoral presence, resistance during contentious election

Also in the news: Louisville church provides sanctuary to protesters against police brutality; congregations in Massachusetts and Missouri will host homeless shelters all winter.

Voters wait in line before the polls open at All Souls Unitarian Church in Tulsa, Okla., Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020

Voters wait in line before the polls open at All Souls Unitarian Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Election Day, Nov. 3, 2020. (© 2020 Stephen Pingry/Tulsa Worldvia AP)

© 2020 Stephen Pingry/Tulsa World via AP


The New York Times and FOX8 both highlighted the work of Unitarian Universalist ministers and others in Ohio who joined a call for religious professionals to help assuage tension at the polls during this especially contentious election. The Rev. Joan Van Becelaere, executive director of UU Justice Ohio and chair of the Voter Registration Team for the Nonpartisan Ohio Voter Outreach Committee, co-developed the non-partisan Ohio PeaceKeeper for the Polls project, which trained clergy and social worker volunteers for early voting and election day. ( New York Times, FOX8,11/1/20)

The Rev. Jennifer Nordstrom, senior pastor of First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee, described the training offered to 125 members and friends of the congregation to prepare for attempts to undermine election results. “We’re going to follow the leadership of people who are experts in this area. But if they say, ‘Okay, this is the real deal, time to come out into the streets,’ we’ll be able to get our hundred people and be part of the millions that will show up.” (Wisconsin Examiner, 10/29/20)

On the evening after the election, First UU Church of Niagara Falls, New York, hosted a “post-election detox” conversation for the community. The event was in person, with masks and social distancing. (WGRZ, 11/4/20)

The Unitarian Universalist Church of Norwich, Connecticut, provided buses to polling places in partnership with the NAACP. (The Day, 10/31/20)

A story about New Hampshire churches’ approaches to politics quoted UUA New England Regional Lead Woullard Lett, who observed, “one of the things we say to our congregations is that you have the chance to impact the tone and center of the political arena by being involved.” (NHPR, 10/27/20)

Unitarian Universalists appeared in several articles about “Count Every Vote” rallies around the country. On November 4, the Rev. Claudia Jimenez, minister of the UU Church of Asheville, was among the speakers at a rally in Asheville, North Carolina; Count Every Vote protesters also rallied on the lawn of First UU Society of Burlington, Vermont. (WLOS, Seven Days, 10/4/20)

The Rev. Cecilia Kingman, minister for faith and justice at Edmonds UU Congregation in Edmonds, Washington, discusses resisting authoritarianism and defending the integrity of the democratic process, in Real Change, Seattle's street newspaper. “We have to force our institutions by virtue of protest and public will to withstand the attempt at a coup. We have to be patient until all votes are counted. But the most important part will be not giving up in the middle of that process." (Real Change, 11/4/20)

After a remote religious education class discussion about the conduct of the U.S. President, teachers compiled the thoughts of the 9- to 12-year-old children at the Unitarian Church of Westport, Connecticut, into a collective letter to the editor. (, 11/1/20)

The Rev. Wil Darcangelo, minister of First Parish UU Church of Fitchburg and of First Church of Christ Unitarian in Lancaster, Massachusetts, writes an essay celebrating Unitarian Universalism’s Fifth Principle (“the right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large”): “The Fifth Principle is insistent, it is demanding, it is impelling, and it knows its own worth.” (Lowell Sun, 10/31/20)

Congregations support protesters and civic initiatives to combat racism

WLKY offers a look at how and why First Unitarian Church of Louisville, Kentucky, ended up protecting protesters marching for justice for Breonna Taylor from police in riot gear. (WLKY, 10/27/20; see also “Inside the church at the heart of the Louisville protests,” AP News, 10/1/20)

A federal judge granted a preliminary injunction against the Department of Homeland Security in a lawsuit brought by First Unitarian Portland and others against the use of federal agents to detain Black Lives Matter protesters in Portland, Oregon, which the plaintiffs said was a violation of their First Amendment rights. (The Oregonian, 10/30/20; earlier: “Portland church joins lawsuit over federal agents at Black Lives Matter protests,” UU World, 8/6/20)

The City of Newburyport, Massachusetts, and First Religious Society UU are launching a campaign together called “Hate Has No Port Here” to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion—starting with a video featuring civic leaders. The Rev. Rebecca Bryan said, “What we have seen recently across the nation is a clear sign that our communities need to do more to condemn racism and hate and solidify our standing as safe havens from hate.” (YouTube, 10/29/20; Wicked Local Newburyport, 11/4/20)

Watch “Hate Has No Port Here”

Newburyport MA: “Hate Has No Port Here” (YouTube)

UU congregations lend space to homeless shelters

The Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbia, Missouri, will donate most of its building to Room at the Inn from December 13 to March 14. Room at the Inn is a nonprofit that in years past has coordinated housing for people without homes in different churches, but this year the UU church—which is holding all events online only—is making all of its space available as a winter shelter. (Missourian, 10/29/20)

The Unitarian Universalist Society of Amherst, Massachusetts, is also stepping up to help. The congregation will house sixteen people who are currently homeless from November to April; all services and activities of the UU Society are remote through June. (WWLP, 10/21/20)

Long Island congregation uses bequest to fund social service grants

On Long Island, New York, a $100,000 bequest to the UU Congregation of the South Fork has been turned into a social services support program that offers High Impact Community Outreach grants. Several of the first group of grants are helping the Shinnecock Nation extend Internet access, address food insecurity, and repair homes for members of the tribe. Another grant is addressing higher maternal and infant mortality rates on the island for Black and Indigenous people. “We’re a church of today’s growing values,” said Michael Daly, president of the congregation’s board, “and with that, we’re gonna strive to figure out how to include more people and to raise more funds so that we can serve more of the needs that are out there.” (Southampton Press, 11/3/20)

ICE financially targeted immigrants in sanctuary

New Sanctuary Movement activists have obtained ICE documents that show that nine immigrants in sanctuary in U.S. churches were being targeted with fines totaling $3 million. (After litigation last year, ICE reduced the fines, which activists are still challenging in court.) Vicky Chavez, in sanctuary with her daughters at First Unitarian Church in Salt Lake City, was initially fined almost half a million dollars. (FOX13, 10/22/30)

Related: Last year, UU World reported on the fines levied against an immigrant in sanctuary at First UU Church of Richmond, Virginia. (UU World, Winter 2019)