What a month… June had its ups and it had its downs for all of us. Following the Soul Matter’s monthly themes this month the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Montclair, New Jersey focused on “celebrating blessings.”
Since the Supreme Court’s terrible decision to overturn Roe V. Wade, many people, especially women, are not feeling so blessed. In addition, there is talk on outlawing contraceptives and then same sex marriages and other LGTBQIA+ rights. Florida already has the “Don’t Say Gay” law in effect in its schools. It seems that lately we are going backwards. It makes me wonder if they will start persecuting Pagans or those they believe may follow the occult again.
Therefore, it makes it hard to feel blessed, much less celebrate this idea. There are however, things even if small, to still lift up.
I just finished serving as a delegate for my congregation at the Unitarian Universalist Association’s 61st General Assembly. It was in Portland, Oregon this year however, I was able to be 2,885 miles away in my bedroom. Yep miles away and a hundred percent present. Yes, a Pagan single woman attending virtually with the trust to vote according to the whole congregation. During the General Sessions, virtual participants could speak freely in real time on the items we were voting on. Now, I know that Unitarian Universalism is a liberal religion, so this is no shocker but it’s still a blessing.
The ability to communicate instantly while across the United States is something our ancestors could not do. I was texting with my fellow UU Montclair delegates and in Zoom rooms or chat rooms with others. We were included, although through a screen, and that was so very important. Workshop leaders in Portland acknowledged and incorporated virtual participants calling on us too for questions or responses. They even had links created for those online who needed the use of American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters.
Speaking of inclusion, I entered raffles in the virtual booths. Many of the booths held on site and virtual raffles recognized the distant participants as equals. I ended up winning three prizes. The first prize from the UU Ministry for Earth which I asked a fellow delegate to pick up for me. Another extends my CUUPs membership – thank you for that, so helpful right now. The last I just received an email about as I am writing this and it will be shipped to me. All these prizes have meaning, purpose and will enrich my learning.
This year there were more delegates participating online than there were in person. There were 1,348 on site and 1,879 virtual delegates. This just shows the importance to continue both platforms. It is a blessing for those that could not attend in person for whatever the reason may be.
We all learned quickly how to adapt during the COVID-19 pandemic. Worship services were no longer in congregations’ buildings. Instead, clergy live streamed them on some platform – Facebook, YouTube or Zoom from ministers’ homes or alone in their churches.
Zoom is a blessing, or a curse to some people, it depends on how you look at the platform. We held our first multiplatform ritual for Beltaine and it went rather well. Gathering my Sacred Wheel CUUPs members together in person for a Litha ritual was just not happening this year. Timing, distance and transportation were all roadblocks to meeting in person. However, gathering online was the best option for all but one member. This is another blessing – to be able to come together for ritual but still be apart at the same time. Attendees came from New Jersey, Ohio, Massachusetts, Alabama and Arizona.
I was excited to participate in the CUUPs virtual bonfire. I loved that it was an evening gathering. The downside of virtual participation is that much of the connection events end early. I learned some Pagan songs that I did not know before to share with my group. Additionally, the host shared Pagan hymns in the teal hymnal – Singing the Journey, that I wasn’t aware of were shared.
Going back though, to the loss women are suffering on abortion laws, we need to stay positive and fight peacefully. We need to keep our blessings in mind and do all we can for those who are not that fortunate. Sometimes it’s difficult to stay positive and celebrate our blessings, even small ones, when terrible things happen in the world. We need to stay grounded and centered the best we can and keep focused on the result.
As Pagans, we can and need to do all we can to make a difference. Now that the Supreme Court eliminated Federal protection on abortion, we cannot be silent. This does not stop here with one law. We are all at risk, especially minorities, the LGBTQIA+ community and us Pagans. Some people may fall in all those categories. Many of us are already afraid to be ousted to ridicule. Now we have to fear hefty fines or worse prison for doing what is right for our bodies, our lives.
I was so pleased to see photos of my fellow delegates rally peacefully in downtown Portland gathered in Lownsdale Square. UUA Board president, the Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray, spoke on behalf of the denomination.
Side with Love, sponsored by the UUA, made sure this and other related events took place during the annual conference. Side with Love is a public advocacy campaign that seeks to harness love’s power to stop oppression.
So reflect on what you are blessed with and think about how you can help those who aren’t. Maybe you can help financially, or join a rally, send letters; there are so many ways to take a stand. The Important thing is that we do stand, singly and together.