Help Lift Up...
UU Retired Ministers and Partners Association (UURMaPA)
In recognition of the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising (June 28, 1969), the Unitarian Universalist Retired Ministers and Partners Association (UURMaPA) has launched a UU Rainbow History Project, focused on collecting and preserving the history and stories of LGBTQIA ministers, their partners, and allies.
Many of us have witnessed an amazing cultural shift over the past 50 years toward ever greater acceptance, inclusion, and celebration of LGBTQIA folk in our UU faith communities. Ministers have often led the way, and sometimes paid a harsh price for being in this vanguard. The stories are rich, stirring—and important.
But time is not an ally in this process, so we want to move quickly to document the remarkable transformation of the UUA into a welcoming and affirming faith for people of all relationship choices and gender expressions. We are reaching out to draw forth memories from folks who remember the times and have valuable perspective on this evolution. Stonewall inspires anew, here among us today, exactly 50 years later!
The UU Rainbow History Project has begun gathering memories, photographs, sermons and other memorabilia on a website (www.uurainbowhistory.net) and in social media. Soon we will be working on producing a book to document this significant turning point in UU history. And all materials will be placed in UU archives, so future generations can learn about this incredible story, hopefully from many firsthand testimonials.
We are also sponsoring two conferences during this 50th anniversary year and if the October event is anything like the one last February (see pix below), it will again be powerfully meaningful. One attendee at the first conference remarked afterward, “This was a wonderful perspective on LGBTQ history—a breathtaking journey—and very uplifting. We have come so far. And I am so proud of the pioneers who lived in the disdain of society and bore such a burden.”
All this productive activity has a price tag, though, especially the technical developments and support for attendance at our conferences. And UURMaPA (which exists entirely on donations) has limited funding. The UU Funding Program has gotten us started, but through this Faithify Campaign YOU can help ensure that what we discern and discover about this pivotal era can become part of an enduring UU Rainbow History Project. Many thanks for your support!
Reverend James Reeb...
Many Unitarian Universalists know the story of Reverend James Reeb, the UU minister who was murdered in 1965 in Selma, Alabama after answering Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s nationwide call for religious leaders to come south to march in support of voting rights.
What UUs may not know is that James Reeb grew up in Casper, Wyoming, and served there as a Presbyterian minister before his faith journey led him to Unitarian Universalism and to civil rights activism. He eventually moved with his family to Washington D.C., where he served as the Assistant Minister to All Souls Unitarian Church. His next call to ministry and activism took the Reeb family to the Roxbury area of Boston where he worked for fair housing and advocated for people living in poverty.
Marie Reeb, Reverend Reeb’s widow, still resides in Casper along with many of his extended family, and yet much of the Wyoming community is unaware of his legacy and this important Wyoming connection to America’s Civil Rights Movement.
Partnering with The Table, a downtown Casper dinner church, the Unitarian Universalist Community of Casper is raising $10,000 for a James Reeb Memorial Mural here in his hometown of Casper. Understanding that UUs and others involved in social activism across the country feel deep respect and reverence for Reverend Reeb, the UU Community of Casper is extending an invitation to be a part of this unique opportunity to promote James Reeb’s legacy, social justice, community partnerships, and interfaith engagement.
The James Reeb Memorial Mural project will also include a website, a short film, and several public events to heighten access and engagement with Reverend Reeb’s story. Public art is a beautiful way to introduce this amazing story to a larger audience. The mural will be ideally located across the street from David Street Station, downtown Casper’s new and popular public square, which hosts concerts, farmers markets, and countless other public events. The mural’s public unveiling will be held August 24, 2019. Reverend Reeb’s story will also be shared at an August 28th story telling event at The Table and at the UU Community of Casper’s August 25th Sunday service. In addition, Reverend Reeb will be honored at Casper’s International Day of Peace Celebration on September 21, 2019.
The UU Community of Casper’s fundraising goal for this project is $10,000 of the $30,000 estimated total cost of the mural, film, website and public events. The remaining two thirds will come from grants and public donations. Any amounts raised by the UU Community of Casper in excess of our $10,000 goal will be contributed to the James J. Reeb Memorial Scholarship Fund at Casper College, the local community college Reverend Reeb once attended.
Our interfaith partner, The Table, is a downtown Casper dinner church led by Pastor Libby Tedder Hugus. The Table has long been involved in the Casper Mural Project to beautify and revitalize downtown Casper’s public spaces through mural art. The Table follows the teachings of Jesus, and its members and friends value and seek to honor the truth found in wisdom traditions beyond Christianity. Many UU Community of Casper members and friends enjoy participating in The Table gatherings, and Pastor Libby has been a guest speaker at our UU church.
The James Reeb Memorial Mural committee consists of individuals associated with many other Casper groups and businesses. An integral member of this committee is Reverend Reeb’s granddaughter Leah Reeb, who has traveled nationwide to share her grandfather’s legacy with UUs and others. Local mural artist Tony Elmore is working closely with the Reeb family and is seeking their guidance during his creative process.
The timing of the project is fortuitous: National Public Radio recently launched the serial podcast “White Lies,” which tells the story of Reverend Reeb, his murder in Selma and the aftermath of failed justice. His story was also included in the 2015 Academy Award nominated film “Selma.”
Please consider accepting our invitation to be a part of the James Reeb Memorial Mural Project.
Revisiting UU History:...
In our time, Unitarian Universalist congregations are challenged and called to come to terms with the white-centered culture and systems of oppression embedded in our congregational practices. Because our congregations reflect the dominant culture from which our two parent traditions emerged, it is important to revisit our history for a fuller understanding of the insights and oversights of our forebears and the cultural forces that shaped our tradition. How can we tease our liberating religious theology apart from the influence of a culture steeped in racial hierarchies and white supremacy? What little known stories of Unitarian and Universalist forebears of color can we lift up to offer both inspiration and a more complete understanding of who we have been, who we are, and who we are yet to fully become as we strive to more fully embody the promise of our radical theology? What wisdom and scholarship do historians and scholars of color have to share? How can we provide inspiration and help for congregations who seek to revisit their own histories, looking for narratives that help Unitarian Universalists meet this moment? These are but some of the questions the UU History and Heritage Society is asking as we consider why history matters and why the stories we tell about ourselves are important.
One of the gifts the Unitarian Universalist History and Heritage Society (UUHHS) offers to Unitarian Universalists and to our faith tradition is an annual lecture at General Assembly. Named in honor of Conrad Wright, the lecture provides a chance for UU religious professionals and lay leaders to hear from scholars whose work illuminates our history and sheds light on today’s challenges. The UUHHS Board has established an endowment to offset the program’s necessary expenses, such as honorarium, travel, lodging and General Assembly fees for the presenter. Income from the fund will allow us to continue revisiting the complexities of our history as new movements call us to live our values more completely.
The Conrad Wright Lecture was inaugurated in 2008 to honor the scholarship and influence of one of the most important historians of our liberal religious tradition. As Professor at Harvard Divinity School for decades and the author of innumerable books, papers and articles, Dr. Wright contributed significantly to the understanding of our history and heritage. Honoring Conrad Wright’s work, the lecture encourages us to move further and deeper into our understanding of our own history and heritage, just as he did in his time.
Through the Faithify campaign, we offer a chance for others who believe with us that knowledge of our past helps us navigate present challenges to be part of this effort. The fund has a goal of $20,000. To date, about $12,000 has been raised from members of the UUHHS Board and others close to the society. We ask for your contribution to this campaign, helping UUHHS to make significant historical scholarship available to all Unitarian Universalists.
Find out more about the UU History and Heritage Society at www.UUHHS.org.