Declaration of Conscience unprecedented

There’s been nothing before quite like it. That is a good summation of how officials of our congregation, and the UU Association of Congregations and the UU Service Committee describe the Declaration of Conscience that we will consider approving as a congregation at the FRS annual meeting, after the service on Sunday, May 21, 2017. The Declaration says in part:

At this extraordinary time in our nation’s history, we are called to affirm our profound commitment to the fundamental principles of justice, equity and compassion, to truth and core values of American society. As people of conscience, we declare our commitment to translate our values into action as we stand on the side of love with the most vulnerable among us.

Read the full declaration, which has been endorsed by FRS’s Parish Board. You can also add your name as an individual supporter at this site. Since Inauguration Day, the UUA says, it has gained the support of about 15,000 individual UUs, 860 clergy and 400 congregations.

The declaration was created after the presidential election by former UUA President Peter Morales and UUSC President Tom Andrews, according to John Hurley, UUA director of communications. In a joint letter, the presidents say that in taking this action their independent organizations have undertaken an extraordinary degree of coordination.

“As far as I know,” Hurley said, “the Declaration as a joint UUA/UUSC initiative is unprecedented.” The UUA’s Board of Trustees had formally endorsed the declaration.

“This may be the first time we’ve asked UU congregations to sign on to an original statement exactly like this, though we’ve done similar things in the past,” said Carey McDonald, UUA outreach director – and son of FRS’s Lea Pearson. As an example, he cited the Commit2Respond effort for climate justice.

“The pace of activism is speeding up!” McDonald said in an email. “As a tool for online organizing,” he said, “it's pretty common these days.

“And indeed, our thinking was not only that the Declaration would be a powerful, timely testament to our values, but that it would help us identify supporters for the work ahead and build our email list.”

This organizing effort has led to an initiative called Love Resists, which says this in the letter announcing its formation:

“In the wake of growing fear and hate-mongering policies and actions from city councils, state houses, the White House, and Congress that target Muslims, tear apart immigrant families living in the United States, and criminalize people on the basis of their identity, Unitarian Universalists (UUs) are mobilizing their denomination and others who share their values to fight back and support communities at risk.” Read the full letter.

At our Annual Meeting, the Declaration of Conscience is the sixth article on the warrant.

In her note to the congregation in the May 2 Steeple Biweekly, Parish Board Chair Barbara Garnis wrote, “Article 6 asks members to act on the recommendation of the Parish Board to adopt the Declaration of Conscience proposed by the UUA. By signing the declaration, FRS affirms the congregation’s core values on pressing social justice concerns and declares our willingness to put these values into action.”

A word about the UU Service Committee, which FRS supports financially, from the UUSC website: “UUSC advances human rights through grassroots collaboration. In more than a dozen countries throughout the world, UUSC fosters social justice and works toward a world free from oppression. UUSC’s innovative approaches and measurable impact — in promoting economic justice, bolstering environmental justice, and protecting rights at risk — are grounded in the belief that all people have inherent power, dignity and rights.“ UUSC is based in Cambridge, while the UUA headquarters is in Boston.

--John Harwood, Tom Stites