Occupy SF, Occupy Oakland

Everett Hoagland and I went down to the Interfaith Clergy Solidarity with Occupy Wall Street San Francisco today. We walked to various banks where two dancers, labeled “Equality” and “Justice,” set up a golden calf, representing the idolatry of money, and ritually covered the idol with a cloth:

A poem started bubbling up for Everett, so he dropped out of the march to do some writing. I kept walking. There were something on the order of 150 to 200 clergy and other faith leaders marching; I counted ten Unitarian Universalist ministers, and half a dozen of our seminarians. TV news coverage of today’s event: Rev. Jeremiah Kalendae of the Unitarian Unviersalist church in San Francisco is quoted in the text portion of Channel 5’s (CBS) coverage. Link to ABC’s live coverage. Radio coverage on KQED (story begins 0:37).

In the afternoon, Everett and I went over to Occupy Oakland, and spent an hour or two there, talking to some people, and just trying to lend our support. I was impressed that the occupiers have a children’s program during the day, a library, classes and committee meetings, and they have started a garden:

The city of Oakland keeps threatening to arrest all the occupiers — nevertheless, with accommodations for children, and a garden, they are planning for the long term. More on the Oakland occupation: From KALW today, “A Day in the Life of Occupy Oakland” (audio with transcript).

An item of concern

For the past decade or so, I’ve been most concerned with the institutional health of liberal religion: there are human values which are carried best by human institutions, and without a strong institutional structure those values seem likely to wither like a plant without water and adequate soil.

But recently I have become increasingly concerned about the spiritual health of liberal religion in general, and Unitarian Universalism in particular. We religious liberals spend so much time on social justice — and there is indeed an overwhelming amount of social justice work to be done — and we spend so much time on the health of our institutions — and again, there is indeed an overwhelming amount of institutional work to be done — that it has come to seem to me that we are slighting our spiritual well-being.

Along with that, we have come to understand “spiritual well-being” in such individualistic terms that the phrase has almost no meaning within the context of institutional Unitarian Universalism. In the past month or so, I have heard the following mentioned, and even glorified, as activities that foster spiritual well-being: yoga; Zen retreats; shamanic training; dream work; walking the labyrinth; meditation that is rooted in non-Western practices. These are either highly individualistic practices, or practices rooted in another spiritual community; or both.

Yet I rarely hear religious liberals speak lovingly of the core practices that lie at the center of our own liberal religious tradition. Those core liberal religious practices include the following: Continue reading “An item of concern”

Tidbit on William Jackson

I’m still finding out bits about the life of Rev. William Jackson, the African American minister, abolitionist, and military chaplain who declared himself a Unitarian in 1860, and was ignored by the American Unitarian Association.

I had Jackson’s birth date — 16 August 1818 — but not his date of death. Everett Hoagland, poet, retired professor, and UU, writes to me that Jackson died 19 May 1909, according to the reference librarian at the New Bedford Public Library.

Jackson is well worth a full book-length biography. He, with some others, helped to forcibly free an escaping slave imprisoned under the new Fugitive Slave Law in Philadelphia. He may have been a conductor on the Underground Railroad. He was converted to Unitarianism by Frances Harper, but was rebuffed by the A.U.A., and so remained a liberal Baptist. He was the first person of color to receive a commission as an officer in the U.S. Army, and served briefly as chaplain to the famous 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, before being transferred to the 55th when it was formed. And in the late nineteenth century, he was one of those middle class African Americans who began summering on Martha’s Vineyard. His life would make a great Ph.D. dissertation, or a great book.