Blessings ~

Practice gratitude, gratitude, gratitude, gratitude, gratitude, gratitude, gratitude, gratitude, gratitude, gratitude, gratitude, gratitude, gratitude, gratitude, gratitude, gratitude ~

Saturday, November 29, 2014

A Word About Ferguson ~

Early on in my ministry in Marblehead, I received a phone call from a young woman who wanted to talk to me about race. She was considering a cross cultural adoption and, as a white woman, had some questions about the complexities and challenges of adopting a child who was African American. At the time, I was President of UU Allies for Racial Equity and had some answers. Together we journeyed through the difficult questions of the disconnect between Marblehead's view as a place that embraced diversity and the reality of its lack of diversity. I shared my own perceptions of that divide. I shared knowledge I had from young people of color who felt targeted in the schools whenever there was a problem, stories of 'extra' attention in shops and by police and of racist comments being hurled from a passing car at a young woman of color and in a different instance, a young boy. Although the instances were far fewer than I knew of in some other communities, so too, was the number of people of color.
     Our conversation continued and we talked about the complexity of race in our larger culture. What does it mean for a white person to be adopting a child of color? How will this child learn about their story in that larger culture? I will never know if I was helpful in that conversation but I hoped to simply witness that in addition to the very real questions present in all cross-cultural adoptions, there are different realities her child would face. Further, these realities would include some things that might be unfathomable, and perhaps even unbelievable, to her when they arose. I cannot tell you whether this woman decided to adopt or not, or whether the child was or was not African American. I can tell you that since that time, any couple in similar situations have found themselves in an identity group they perhaps did not expect to join. They, like every parent of a child of color in this country, have questions I never asked. Questions like "At what age should I tell my child that if they are stopped by the police, they should put their empty hands out the window first to show clearly that they are unarmed? Should I tell my child to run toward a police officer if they are in trouble or run away or just freeze with their hands in the air? What do I tell them when they get into a tussle in school with mostly-white friends who don't believe they are treated differently? Do I let them see the coverage of deaths like Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Tamir Rice? Do I let them see my tears? 
     And what of us, who are not parents of children of color. One might first say, we are all parents of all children. But, as much as we wish to live in a world in which that plays out in real ways, every moment of every day, most of us will not be tucking in a child tonight and wondering 'is this the moment? Is this the moment that I should tell this beautiful child that his life is in danger? That the world is less safe and less just for him? Last night I told him he was special because of his artwork and creative soul. The night before I told him I loved how his eyelashes felt when he gave me a butterfly kiss on the cheek. And the night before that I called him my special angel for how kind he was to a friend. Is tonight the night I tell him he is special in this other way? Or is age 8 too soon? Age 12 was too late for Tamir Rice, murdered this past week by police who then did not offer any care for four minutes.
     We, who are not parents of children of color have difficult questions to wrestle with too. The difference is that while our souls are certainly at stake, our lives are not. My prayer today is that we take the health of our souls seriously but the sake of the lives of all children of color more seriously. My prayer today is that we believe that life and justice are different for people of color in our country. My prayer today is that we resist the voices who cry out 'oh, no, ALL lives matter' and miss the point that our collective reality does not agree. And that we are not distracted by the specifics of any single incident but look at the collective and understand that a policeman shooting a 12-year old playing in a park alone, despite the fact that he was waving a fake gun, is a 12-year old playing in a park alone and he should not have been murdered before they even got out of the car to ask a question!  And that we hear the voices that cry out in despair over and over and over and over again that this is not new. My prayer today is that we are not lost in our own assessment of the rioting in Ferguson that violence should not beget violence and recall instead the words of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. three years after his I Have A Dream speech and two years before he was murdered "I contend that the cry of "black power" is, at bottom, a reaction to the reluctance of white power to make the kind of changes necessary to make justice a reality for the Negro. I think that we've got to see that a riot is the language of the unheard."
     My prayer is that each of us will find a way to step deeper into our own understandings of the systems of racism at play in our country, in our communities and within our own heads and hearts. That we pledge ourselves anew to the goal of justice for all people and that we begin right now with the recognition that we are far from there for any child for whom tonight might be the night they gaze up from their bed expecting a word of affirmation and a kiss goodnight and instead hear the words "I've decided there is something I need to share ...."

Yours on the Journey,

Rev. Wendy von Zirpolo



Monday, July 7, 2014

Walk Toward Trouble–Stop the Deportations July 31st

Walk Toward Trouble–Stop the Deportations July 31st

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Jul 07, 2014
Last week during the UUA General Assembly Ware Lecture, immigration reform advocate Sister Simone Campbell, organizer of “Nuns on the Bus,” made a passionate call for us to “walk toward trouble.” Our General Assembly delegates did that when they passed an Action of Immediate Witness calling on President Obama to stop the deportations of our immigrant siblings and called for Unitarian Universalists to participate in a broad coalition of faith groups and immigrant advocates at the July 31-August 2 Pray for Relief! Not One More Deportation actions in Washington, D.C. Now is the time to walk- or roll, or move- toward trouble and fulfill that call.
Organizers hope 100 faith leaders will engage in civil disobedience to protest the cruelty brought by the over 1,100 daily deportations and that hundreds more will come in support to the Faith Summit and Not One More Deportation Day of Action. Imagine if 25 of those faith leaders arrested were Unitarian Universalists. We have walked toward trouble before to protest the separation of families and we have pledged to do so again at this action.
From July 31 through August 2 we will be in Washington, DC. Will you be there with us? Will you be there for families, for children, for justice? You can sign up to attend the July 31-August 1 summit, engage in witness and/or civil disobedience, and stay for the National Day Laborer Organizing Network’s Not One More Deportation Day of Action on August 2nd atStanding on the Side of Love—Pray for Relief—Take Actions to Stop the Deportations!
And this Thursday, July 10 at 4pm EST/1pm PST, join Standing on the Side of Love and the UU College of Social Justice for a joint call-in and update from the US/Mexico border. Call 605-475-4000 and use code 476389#.
President Obama has said that he will take action in the event of Congressional inaction on immigration reform. The president has the power to bring relief to the millions of families living under the threat or already suffering from mass detention and deportation. The President needs to hear from those who can bring to this moment the moral voice. A voice that values the worth and dignity of all people, over profit and politics. A voice that hears the cries of human suffering and moves in solidarity against injustice. A voice – joined with voices of other faiths – to say Not One More Deportation!
We know many of you have been working to achieve compassionate immigration reform and stop the deportations. UUs and our partners all over the country have been witnessing, fasting, advocating, and marching together calling for action. We have been leaders within the faith community in standing boldly on the side of human dignity, boldly on the side of love with immigrant families. We know what trouble looks like. Children fleeing violence in their own countries, reaching the United States only to be warehoused and face deportation. Families torn apart every day because of detentions and deportations. Immigration laws and US foreign policy, including trade policies, have created an exploitable workforce of undocumented people and unsettled the stability and economies of countries south of the border. Now is the time to move toward trouble, to bring a light to it and witness for a better way. We have acted. We must act again. We must urge President Obama to act.
On July 31- August 2, faith leaders and human rights activists will gather in Washington to say, “Not one more family separated, not one more deportation”- in demonstrations and in an act of civil disobedience. We will also gather to strategize next steps and further build our communities of resistance and hope. We hope to see many Unitarian Universalists and their partners show up in the face of trouble. Will you be there to stand on the side of love? We hope to see you there.
In faith and solidarity,

Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray
Lead Minister, Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Phoenix

Rev. Wendy von Zirpolo
Minister, Unitarian Universalist Church of Marblehead MA

P.S. Standing on the Side of Love will be raising $ to pay the $50-$100 fines for UUs and our partners who are joining the civil disobedience action. We are working to get the donate link up by Wednesday so please check our page here  for updates.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Dear Mr. President, let this be the last Mother's Day that a child has to wonder ....

Dear Mr. President,

     Last week I said I'd be writing you each week as part of my weekly 48 hour fast for immigration reform and a stop to the deportations. As I enter the final 6th of this week's fast for immigration reform I offer these reflections. I thought it would get easier each week. It has not. It is taking an increasingly larger amount of mental effort to go without food for two days and keep focused on what is good and right in the world. I cherish that reflection because it invites me to think of what it takes to work day in and out for months and years to have your child returned to your arms after they were sent back to a country they never knew, to stop worrying that an unjust and abusive system of immigration 'control' won't rip away a piece of your family each day and night, to suffer abuses in workplaces, homes and other settings because you cannot risk reporting, to show up with energy and love and engage in justice seeking work because you know it is the only way forward for our species.
     So, yeah it's harder this day but it is this one small piece I can do this day as we continue to press upon our representatives to move the vote forward, continue to raise awareness among our own family and friends and communities of connection, as we continue to write and call our leaders and say 'stop the deportations of people who are important pieces of who we are, together, in this beautiful fabric of humanity and fix our immigration system now.'

     Mr. President, I'm heading off now to lead a sleepover at my Unitarian Universalist Church. There, children and youth will make Mother's Day presents, enjoy playing games and even play hide and seek in the sanctuary. They will have a great time and so will I. In the morning they will greet their mothers with breakfast goodies and then we'll enjoy a Sunday worship service in which we are dedicating children and babies. We'll remind them of how important they are and how wonderful they are, exactly as they are! It will be joyous but on the inside, a slice of me will be weeping. I will weep for the many Mothers who will be in pain.
    Please let this be the last Mother's Day in which children wonder ‘Will my mother be taken today?’ 

Yours on the journey, Rev. Wendy von Zirpolo

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Dear Mr. President ~

Dear Mr. President,
I hope this finds you well. You  have brought so much integrity, hope and vision into the White House. Thank you.
I’m writing today with an empty stomach and heavy heart. April 7th I joined 104 women in the We Belong Together fast and am continuing to fast 48 hours each week. During my fast I am working to raise awareness and act toward the end no child goes to bed worried a knock on door might rip away a parent or send a sibling away. This week I used social media to debunk 24 myths about immigrants and now I am writing to you. I’ll be writing weekly until immigration reform passes and the deportations of non-violent undocumented immigrants stops.

Mr. President, I have been to jail twice for this cause because there is a higher law to which we are called. The law of our collective soul, some call God. The law that cherishes all creation's children and insists each of are due respect, safety, justice and love. 

 Now, I forgo food because there is a greater sacrifice being paid by children each day. I appreciate your efforts but more must be done. Here in the country we love and share, this is the greatest human rights issue of our time and we are stained.

I recall the autobiography of Anne Moody, an African American woman who grew up in the midst of the battle for civil rights in Mississippi. A story she told mirrors what is happening today in the name of border patrol and protection against immigrants.  She tells of a young man being yanked from a gathering, dragged by police, not resisting arrest but unable to stand because of how he was dragged. He was beaten by officers and taken away, bloodied.  I can tell you first hand that this kind of violence is taking place today and in the name of “immigrant control.’ I have been in its presence in an Arizona jail. And I have born witness to many more stories. This, nearly half a century since the horrific instances of racism were brought to a country finally willing to see, to own and to correct such horrific human rights abuses.

In Anne's accounting, two white men sat watching in a car, unwilling to participate.  Silent. 

Mr. President, the fact that deportations are occurring in record numbers and that immigration reform is stalled feels like silence. Please use your power. Speak so loudly that every child fearing that this day their family will be torn apart hears your voice.

Respectfully yours ~ Rev. Wendy von Zirpolo

Sunday, April 20, 2014

I Woke Up ~
     Friday morning with stunning clarity. Clarity that I would fast for 48 hours each week until Congress moves forward on fair immigration reform. The 48 hour fast will be a repeat of the 48 Fast for Families I just had the privilege of participating in on the Mall in Washington, DC. The fast, organized by the group We Belong Together ( , was a terrifically well-planned, well-executed action to call upon Congress to bring a vote to the floor on an immigration bill that already has widespread support with the American people and bi-partisan support that should see its approval. Between March 8 and April 9, more than 1500 women fasted in 80 events in 35 states, DC and in Mexico City, and 105 of women, including me fasted for 48 hours on the National Mall in DC. Together we went without food to feed the courage of House Republicans to give us a vote on a fair reform bill now, and of the Obama administration to take immediate action to stop deportations for 11 million undocumented immigrants. While we fasted, many congressmen & women visited the tent to address the group, listen to stories from women most impacted by our current, broken and abusive system and answer questions. Among the visitors some of President Obama's top aides. First Lady Michelle Obama's office applauded the group in a tweet and Vice President Biden met with a contingent following the fast.
     The important work of this group and many others continue. We are protesting the Republican Leadership's failure to bring HR 15, a bipartisan immigration reform bill, to the House floor for a vote and President Obama's failure to stop deportations that are tearing up families now. The hope is the vote will be brought to the floor before the break in August. And the hope is that President Obama uses his executive power now to halt deportations.
     My decision to recreate the 48 hour fast each week until Congress acts is one that I did not make lightly. Fasting is not an easy task nor does it come without some risks. But it was an easy decision. I awoke Friday morning with the clarity that this was the thing I could do to keep my commitment present in my weekly life. That with each weekly fast I could write our representatives and others to plead for action. That with each weekly fast I could share more information debunking the many myths and propaganda about our immigrant communities. That with each weekly fast I could remain connected with the deep call for justice that compels me to be part of building a better tomorrow.
     Fasting is not new to people of religion. It has long been a tactic for change, utilized by Gandhi, Jr. Cesar Chavez, Nelson Mandela and other leaders and many more. It has also served as spiritual practice in religious life, providing a focused time of sacrifice that one might become closer aligned with inner spirit and the divine.
     For me, the fasting is a time of sacrifice and connection. Sacrificing food that our bodies, minds & souls can focus on listening to the call for justice/connection with spirit/God/etc. (I'm a religious humanist) and on power.  For me, the physical deprivation connects me to the oppression though it is such a small piece. I know I will eat again. I know food awaits. I know I will not be hunted and harmed or killed because of my skin color or where it looks like I'm from. I do not worry when a knock on the door occurs. I do not worry my children will be parentless or that I will be parentless or lose my partner.  For me it's not just about immigrants as the racism in this structure is rampant and ICE policies creates scapegoating and racial profiling of all people who are black and brown so the deprivation piece helps me connect with a wee piece of not having what our bodies and souls need and deserve.
     For me, fasting in this manner also keeps me connected to the 104 other women who fasted and the many who supported us. Participating with this group stands as one of the most powerful times of living faith I have experienced. It, along with my two arrests for this human rights issue, were not tests of my faith, rather they were expressions of my faith. The experience of participating across cultures and theologies for the greater good was and continues to be powerful and hopeful as we seek to build the world we profess to seek.  
     Finally, for me, this is about my commitment  to my religion and my call to religious leadership. These fasting days allows me space to hone in on soul and action. With food out of the equation I find my connection to my inner moral compass and my call to spirit-led life and the golden thread of humanity that connects us all readily accessible. Even more so than usual.  It's part intentionality and part a complete absence of energy spent on food preparation and consumption gone! Well, almost gone as I learn to quell the voice asking for food. This, in turn allows me to take advantage of whatever I bring into that space. In this case, certainly a focus on my commitment to this specific cause, but also my call to ministry in the context of my service to parish ministry with the Unitarian Universalists of Marblehead, MA.

Friday morning I woke up, to a new level of religious awareness and commitment. 
And I am glad.

Yours on the journey,

Rev. Wendy

For more information about the ongoing fasts and call for fair and compassionate immigration reform, and/or to support these courageous groups, visit and
To join the fast, in whatever manner you choose or to support UUs fasting, join the facebook group UUs Fasting for Immigration Reform.

Monday, December 16, 2013

   When I sit down with my family for our traditional Christmas Day dinner, it will be with an empty plate.  Beginning just after our Solstice Service on December 22 I will be starting a 72 hour Solidarity Fast for Immigration Reform.  This effort is taking place all over the nation. Some are fasting for a single day.  Some for many more. All are adding their effort to a group Fasting in Washington, DC. The DC fast began in November with 17 fasters and continues today with groups and individuals lending their support.  The original group said they do not fast out of hate or anger but have hope that change is within reach.  They noted frustration that there has been little action and the organizers at Fast For  Families say “This fast is our way to highlight the moral crisis that this nation faces with this badly broken immigration system. “ The DC group has drawn attention from many politicians and leaders and included a visit from President and Michelle Obama.
     I thought long and hard about the timing. There was never a question that I would lend my support. For me, this is the civil rights issue of our time. It’s not about border control. It’s not about US citizens losing jobs. It’s not about undocumented people draining our system. Each one of those myths continue to be used to manipulate public opinion. The money issue is the most egregious. It’s sinful how much money, our money by the way, is being pocketed by big business incarcerating people for as long as they can get away with it and disallowing any contact. Families are being broken up. Children put at risk. And they aren’t Canadian. That we are participating in such blatant human rights violations is unconscionable. If more people knew what the facts were, how racism is at work and how the primary victims are women and children, it would stop. Given that this is a time of year that so many of us honor the birth of a child and the hope of a different tomorrow, it seemed fitting to time my fast to include Christmas.

     For those wishing to join in the effort, please consider a donation to MIRA (Massachusetts Immigrant & Refugee Advocacy Coalition) at Centro Presente(member-driven Massachusetts Latin American org) at or by  using the donate button on this page.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Sacred Gifts ~

      When I woke this morning, I knew I was going to write a newsletter article about gifts. What I didn’t know is that I would encounter one that brought tears and hope to my eyes.  Tomorrow, Dec 14, marks the anniversary of a death that shook our household. My 24 year-old niece, Sarah, was on her way to work.  She was a respiratory therapist. She was newly engaged to be married. She was a treasured older cousin to our school-aged children.    She was beautiful inside and out.  She was ours.
      Sarah was also grieving the death of her father, who just six weeks earlier had succumbed after a decade-long battle with Lupus. She had been a central player and angel in his care and in his peaceful passing.
On that fateful day, a drunk driver ended her life.  The entire family, still actively mourning the death of her dad, gathered. There at the same funeral home, the same church, the same group gathered, wept and tried to make sense of a world in which this could happen. 
       In the midst of the sadness stood one little blonde girl with a soulful look in her eyes and a broken heart. You see, Sarah was also a central figure in the life of her own niece, Beanie. Within 6 weeks, this little girl had lost two people who were arguably the people who held her closest in all ways. With a complicated family situation, her grandfather played a strong role in her daily life and she lived with Sarah. Of all those shedding tears, hers were perhaps the most difficult for me to witness.

And yet …. And, yet.  These were the words that greeted me this morning:

"My aunt Sarah was killed at 24 years old by a drunk driver on Route 16 in Milton NH at the 30 mile marker December 14th 2000, she was on her way to work where she was a brilliant respiratory therapist.. I do not carry anger or hate in my heart, because no matter how much you hate someone for something so horrible.. It doesn't help you heal. It just breeds hate. Don't breed hate."

       Sometimes we receive gifts that aren’t necessarily intended for us specifically. They aren’t wrapped. They don’t have tags. They are offered into the universe for those who might see their value. 
Thank you, dear one for passing this one along to me.