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We are honored and inspired by hosting those who are fasting for family unity and immigration justice today. Under the leadership of the UUCPA Immigration Task Force, we have joined thousands of Unitarian Universalists across the country who are currently studying and taking action on the moral issue of immigration. This is a crucial moment in the history of U.S. immigration policy, as Congress weighs the possibilities for real reform. We are proud to stand beside the other member congregations of Peninsula Interfaith Action in making sure the legislation represents our values. Our religious principles guide us to insist upon an immigration system that respects the dignity of all workers;  seeks to unite, not divide, families, including those with same-sex partners; allows freedom of movement and empowers those who wish to remain in their countries of origin to find gainful work there; and warmly invites into citizenship those who wish to join our country.

The current system is broken. It demands cheap, migratory labor, then scapegoats those who come here to work. It makes migrants of those who would prefer to stay in their native lands, and expels those who consider the United States their home and want to continue to stay and serve here. It treats people as criminals for seeking to do what is best for their families and to keep those families together.

As the descendant of despised immigrants, I respect the courage and strength of today’s would-be US citizens. As a parent, when I hear stories of parents and children kept apart by economic necessity and by an irrational and destructive immigration policy, I feel a wrenching pain inside. I am joining in the fast today because I feel this solidarity. I hope that the pangs of hunger will make it impossible for me to forget the pain millions of families feel when they are torn apart.

Some tell us that we need to build walls that keep some of us on one side of a border and others on the other side. We recognize that national boundaries may be necessary, but just the same, our hearts can be, and remain, with the people on both sides of the border. If we must choose sides, then as we sing in one of our Unitarian Universalist hymns, “we are standing on the side of love.”

 

Do you love San Francisco too? We’re renting out our house for a month this summer . . .

Here are a few things I love about this city, inspired during a recent trip through Civic Center /  UN Plaza.

 I, Sailko [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Fountain at United Nations Plaza, designed by Lawrence Halprin. Photo: I, Sailko, via Wikimedia Commons

The F line. It’s a special treat when I have reason to go up Market Street, because I love the streetcars on this line, which are restored trolleys (often antique) from all over the world, including Milan, Mexico City, Brooklyn, Los Angeles, and Zurich. If you’re really lucky, or fanatical enough to check the schedule and hold out for No. 952, you can ride a streetcar named Desire.

Buskers. There appear to be no rules governing buskers in the streets, squares, and stations of the city, as I am reminded every time my trip through the Civic Center BART station coincides with the shift of the impassioned, apparently insane “musician” who thinks a stringless bow on a battered violin makes beautiful music. I have to clench my teeth to keep them from shaking loose, but the reward comes at other times, when we come up the escalator to hear a marvelous cellist playing Bach, or there’s an out-of-work operatic baritone singing at the base of the Simon Bolivar monument at the Civic Center Farmers’ Market. He was there the day my daughter’s class took a field trip to the market, and sang a great rendition of “Fiddle-I-Fee” for the preschoolers. Another day, I was part of the lunchtime crowd at the market, and a busker had set up and gave us beautiful Spanish guitar with our tamales and rotisserie chickens.

Street Sheet. This newspaper, funded partly by the American Friends Service Committee, is sold by people living on the street. The sellers get the proceeds, the buyers get to help people who really need it and get an informative paper at the same time. Whereas simply being asked for money leaves me discontent, whether I give it or not, these interactions always make me happy.

Truth in Trash-Talk. The trash cans in this area, as in many parts of the city, have three categories: Recycling, Compost, and–no, not Trash–Landfill. I like that gentle reminder in our green city of what really happens to whatever we throw “away.”

Anyone who’s kicked around in the field of congregational growth for more than about ten minutes has encountered the concept that there are several kinds of growth. As outlined by Loren Mead in More Than Numbers: The Way Churches Grow, they are numerical growth, organizational or organic growth (appropriate changes in structure–e.g., a 75-member church needs different structures than a 250-member church), missional or incarnational growth (how well people live out the mission of the congregation day to day), and  maturational or spiritual growth (he also calls this “growth in wisdom”). To our detriment, we tend to focus overmuch on numerical growth, for a variety of reasons, a major one of which is that it’s the easiest to measure.

Since other kinds of growth are important as well, though, it’s important to measure them too.  I have been thinking about ways one might measure the maturational or spiritual depth of a congregation and its members: the extent to which the congregation “challenge[s], support[s] and encourage[s] each one of its members to grow in the maturity of their faith, to deepen their spiritual roots, and to broaden religious imaginations”; members’ growth in wisdom. What if we randomly sampled a group of members each year and asked them some questions that would reveal the maturity of their spiritual lives? Or followed several over the course of several years, in a longitudinal survey? What questions might we ask?

What do you think of these?:

I have a regular spiritual practice. (y/n)

I have people at church with whom I can talk about spiritual or religious matters. (y/n) How many? _____

I have people outside church with whom I can talk about spiritual or religious matters. (y/n) How many? _____

In the past month, I have had conversations after church, and/or outside church, about an issue that was talked about in the service. (y/n/I haven’t gone to any services)

Participating in my small group gives me insight and inspiration. (y/n/I’m not in a small group)

I have called upon members of the congregation to help me in some way in the past month.

I have responded to a request for help from other members of the congregation in the past month (examples: brought a meal for our Baby Cafe or Get Better Bistro, gave someone a ride, followed up with someone who shared a sorrow at Caring and Sharing).

I ponder deep questions ___________ (frequently / occasionally / rarely / never).

Things I learn in church help me in my relationships outside church (frequently / occasionally / rarely / never).

In the past month, I have had an experience one might call transcendent, spiritual, or powerfully meaningful at church. (y/n)

In the past month, I have had an experience one might call transcendent, spiritual, or powerfully meaningful outside church. (y/n)

What else would you ask to discern wisdom or spiritual depth? Does your congregation have a process for measuring maturational growth?

As a side note: although Mead is an Episcopal priest and the organization he founded to strengthen congregations, the Alban Institute, is non-denominational, putting his terms into a search engine turns up mostly Unitarian Universalist sites. I’m curious what that’s about.

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