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Aspirations by Alison: Toward Healing, Together

My ministry in October has been focused on trauma and healing. Our Southern Oregon UU Partnership community came together with the UU Trauma Response Ministry on October 10th to share our experience of the September wildfires. We learned that so many of the responses we may be experiencing — including irritability, lack of focus, headaches and insomnia — are normal, human responses to an abnormal event. We also learned that we are not alone. We share so much of our experiences of the fires in common, whether we live in Ashland, Klamath Falls, Grants Pass or somewhere in between. We saw that we can provide a community of support and care that stretches across Southern Oregon. At the event on the 10th, we began to discuss the possibility of a weekly, drop-in Zoom meeting for members and friends of all three SOUUP congregations. I was incredibly encouraged to see folks in attendance asking for something that I had been hoping we might one day create — a regular opportunity to experience the love, faith and community which, as Jackie Clement says, “if nurtured…can serve as the very bedrock of our lives.” Stay tuned or be in touch if you’d like to help with or participate in a drop-in community care Zoom with your siblings in faith across Southern Oregon. 

This month, I’ve also lifted up the intergenerational trauma that black folks carry as a result of living with white supremacist oppression in North America for 400 years, and that white folks carry as a result of accepting and perpetrating that oppression. Healing that trauma so we can move forward into something different and better is the focus of Resmaa Menakem’s book My Grandmother’s Hands, which is so much more than the taste I offered you with the help of my friend Kokayi Nosahere at our service on October 11th.  I want to encourage you to read Menakem’s book and use the tools he presents, not just for healing racialized trauma, but for healing any trauma you are holding in your body. Using our breath, our song, and the sway of our body to stay settled and not let our trauma get the best of us can help us process the trauma of wildfire as well as white supremacy. One of the most encouraging messages I took away from Menakem’s book is that healing myself isn’t something I do only for me, but rather contributes to healing our world as well.  

As 2020 winds down, many of us would describe this year as piling trauma upon trauma: COVID 19, so many deaths, living through climate catastrophe, and our deep political divides about to culminate in one of the most significant elections of at least my lifetime. Tools for staying grounded in these times are so essential, and that is a big part of why my ministry this month has been focused on trauma coping. In closing, I’d like to offer you two tools for the weeks ahead. The first is an embodied practice you can use any time, focused on healing trauma through the movements of Tai Chi. I was introduced to this practice in one of my seminary courses, and although it seemed a bit cheesy at first, I’ve returned to it again and again over the past year, along with my five year old daughter, who loves to do these 15 minutes of Tai Chi with me. Every time I revisit this video, I am amazed at how different I feel in my body, mind, and spirit when the 15 minutes are up. 

I also want to make you aware of an offering from UU clergy and congregations across the country to provide spiritual grounding on Election Day, November 3rd. Any time from 7am to 7pm Pacific, you can join the Zoom meeting here (meeting ID: 995 5323 1971, passcode: 954636, find your local dial-in number at https://uuma.zoom.us/u/aeHgtFP7Ry) for as long or short as you like, to find respite, positive energy, peace and spiritual practice on Election Day. As Unitarian Universalists, we understand the democractic process as key to the values and the practice of our faith. What better way to move through this election season than in the company of our siblings in faith? I know I plan to drop in on the 3rd, and I hope you will consider doing the same.  

Finally, please know that I am here to provide you with direct support as well. I am available Tuesday through Sunday to meet by Zoom or by phone, or even just for an email or text message exchange if that’s what you prefer. Email me at intern.minister@rvuuf.org or contact me by voice or text at 541.291.1718.  

–Alison Duren-Sutherland, Intern Minister
Southern Oregon UU Partnership

Aspirations by Alison: Let’s #UUtheVote [UPDATED!]

(scroll to the end for links to ongoing #UUtheVote action opportunities)

On my first Sunday morning leading worship as Intern Minister with Unitarian Universalists of Grants Pass, in the wake of the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, I heard our collective grief and fear for the future. I shared that, grounded in the 5th of our 7 Principles, I was preparing to exercise my right to vote, and writing letters to encourage others to do the same. And the congregation asked me, in their words and in their silence, how can it be enough?  

The following Wednesday, the day that the sitting president refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power, and the day that no one was held legally accountable in the killing of Breonna Taylor, I joined UUA President Rev. Susan Fredrick Gray and UU the Vote for their Gather the Spirit online event, celebrating the work our faith has done together in 2020 to embody that 5th Principle. During the call, it was announced that the number of voters reached through the work of UU the Vote had already surpassed their goal of one million, by another 300,000 people – and the work continues! They’ve increased their goal to 2 million contacts, and we can be a part of it! Gather the Spirit ended with a call to action. Phone banks are ongoing, and their Week of Action is coming up in late October. (I’ll share more as the week gets closer.) Their partner organization, Vote Forward, makes it easy to mail out personalized letters to encourage folks to vote.  It is not too late to get involved, in fact the most important time is now. Vote Forward’s Big Send date is October 17th – plenty of time for you to get a few letters ready to mail out to encourage others to vote.

I’ve signed up for my first UU the Vote phone-banking session, calling voters in Florida, on Tuesday the 29th. I’d love to see some familiar faces there on Zoom with me. Folks who shared about their participation in these phone banks during Gather the Spirit said that even as introverts who didn’t like to call strangers on the phone, they had felt well-prepared by the Zoom training provided and had had fulfilling conversations with the voters they called. Make no mistake: these contacts will lead to more people voting. This is crucial, and not only from a UU perspective. The most important thing we can do to ensure a peaceful transfer of power is to make sure the outcome of the election is clear and resounding, impossible to deny. My UU faith assures me that the more people participate, the closer we will come to achieving justice. The arc of the moral universe is long, and it is ours to bend.

Starr King President Rev. Rosemary Bray McNatt shared with me recently a teaching that she carries close to her heart these days: “It is too early to despair.” While there is work still to be done, it is too early to despair. While we are here to do the work, it is too early to despair. While the outcome is yet unknown, it is too early to despair.  So, my friends, let us not despair yet. Instead, let us #UUtheVote!

UPDATE! With one phone banking session under my belt, I feel at ease with the technology and excited to continue to multiply our impact by working together in this way. Although many of my calls ended in hang-ups, I was able to identify a few Spanish-speakers to get a follow-up call in their own language, as well as help a woman figure out that she could vote early, and where her polling places would be for early voting. I immediately signed up for the next Florida phone-bank on October 27th, and I’d love to see you there.

I’ve also learned that my fellow Ministerial Intern, Jennifer Hackett in Eugene, has organized an ongoing West Coast UU the Vote action, where folks can join to make calls every Saturday at noon up until the election. As with the national UU the Vote actions, all training will be provided when you log on to Zoom for the event at noon on Saturdays HERE with additional training materials available to review prior to the Zoom events HERE.

HOW TO GET INVOLVED & #UUtheVOTE:

  • Sign up to phone bank with other UUs from around the country with #UUtheVote national HERE.
  • Sign up to write letters to infrequent voters with Vote Forward HERE.
  • Join West Coast UUs to phone bank. CLICK HERE to join the Zoom session on Saturdays at noon.

–Alison Duren-Sutherland, Intern Minister
Southern Oregon UU Partnership

Southern Oregon Wildfire Relief: You can help!

As the fires still burn, good people throughout this community are taking action to help their neighbors. Our UU siblings at the Rogue Valley UU Fellowship in Ashland, where at least eight families have lost their homes, has published a comprehensive list of ways you can help on their blog HERE, including donations through RVUUF or to community organizations including the MRG fire relief fund which is being administered by local grass-roots groups, and by assisting low-performing GoFundMe campaigns for fire survivors.

The Klamath County Library Services District also has some fire information especially pertinent to those in our area on their website HERE, thanks to UUFKC member Nac Payne. This includes ways to stay abreast of what’s happening with fire activity in our area, ways for folks to get help if they are affected by the fires, and ways that we can help those affected.

Finally, the Klamath Tribes are working hard to participate in relief efforts. Find information in the infographic below for both providing and obtaining assistance for local fire survivors. In addition, relief supplies will be available for pick up by folks affected by the fires on Wednesday & Thursday, September 16th & 17th, 11am-3pm at 204 Pioneer Street in Chiloquin as well as on Monday as shown below.

The Klamath Tribes is still accepting donations at 3949 S. 6th St in K-falls, and via their GoFundMe https://gf.me/u/yx6sc2