Religious witness at Tent City

As I write this, Unitarian Universalists and local allies are holding a protest rally, or “religious witness,” at Maricopa County’s infamous Tent City. The local temperature is 101 degrees (38 C.) right now, at nine o’clock at night: that’s the kind of temperatures prisoners have to endure during the long summer months at Tent City, which is part of the reason why many people consider Tent City prison to be cruel and unusual punishment, and inhumane.

The Web site for 3TV Phoenix News interviewed Sheriff Joe Arpaio yesterday, and reported: “‘They’re not going to stop me with their little demonstration,’ said Arpaio.” This is a true statement: the voters of Maricopa County have kept Arpaio in office for the past two decades, and a couple of thousand people protesting at Tent City is unlikely to influence the electorate.

I decided not to attend the religious witness at Tent City tonight. I’m not doing well with the heat, I’m trying to get another article written for the GA blog, I’m past tired. But I’m also wondering how this is religious witness action is going to make much of a difference. I hope our presence heartens our local allies; I hope it makes us feel less powerless ourselves. But on the other hand, Joe Arpaio loves this kind of controversy: it gets him press coverage, and gives him additional publicity for his nasty agenda.

I’m watching live streamed video from OPHKMickey — here’s a screen shot showing people streaming in to the protest site:

Update 11:00 p.m.:

A newly-posted video on 3TV Phoenix News shows Sheriff Joe Arpaio at a microphone flanked by Rev. Peter Morales and Rev. Bill Schulz. Arpaio says exactly what you’d think he’d say: “[unintelligible] for people to come in here from out of state, think they’re going to tell this sheriff how to run his operation.” No one likes outsiders telling them what to do, and Arpaio is obviously milking that for all it’s worth.

Service of the Living Tradition

I attended the annual Service of the Living Tradition yesterday, and was struck by both the sermon, and the new way that religious professionals were recognized during the service. You can find a video recording and a script of the service are online here, and my post on the blog here.

Here on my own blog, I’m going to take the time to reflect at greater length on this service:

The Rev. Sarah Lammert, Director of Ministries for the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) welcomed the congregation to the large hall at the Phoenix Convention Center in which the service was held. “Ministers are called forth from the lay people they serve,” said Lammert, and the purpose of the Service of the Living Tradition is to honor professional ministry. She added that as those being honored went up onto the stage, the congregation was invited to “raise a glad noise.”

This represented a change from recent Services of the Living Tradition, when the ministers and other religious professionals being honored did not go up onto the stage, but merely stood up where they were sitting. Also in recent years, worship leaders discouraged the congregation from cheering those being honored.

Another change was that the ministers and other religious professionals did not process in to the service together while the congregation sang the familiar hymn “Rank by Rank Again We Stand.” Instead, they were seated throughout the congregation, with their family and supporters. Each group — ministers achieving preliminary fellowship, ministers in final fellowship, credentialed religious educators, credentialed musicians, etc. — was introduced with the words, “I call forth from among you these persons….” The symbolism was clear: religious professionals gain their power and authority from the people they serve. Continue reading “Service of the Living Tradition”