Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Somerset Hills

Open minds, loving hearts, helping hands


Called to Stand Vigil

Author Rev. Jennifer, Written Nov 25, 2014

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mlk quote candle

In my sermon earlier this month “Trust in the Face of Evil” I shared:

“When I found out yesterday that we’d have no heat today (due to ACCESS Project renovations) I was kind of glad, because I knew I’d be getting hot up here under this robe.

 I knew that I’d be sharing with you today that I’ve been afraid.

 I’ve been afraid and silent. I have not spoken with you explicitly from this pulpit about the killing of an unarmed Michael Brown by Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri and about my call to anti-racism work within our denomination and within our country.

I have said, in small or one-on-one conversation with some of you, many of you braver than I am that have welcomed such dialogue, that I thought that it was too soon in our ministry together to start talking about race. That we were not settled in long enough together. That we had so much going on and race work is difficult and complicated and, with everything else we are doing, did we have the capacity right now to be in that together?

I’m fearful of saying the wrong thing as a white person and impacting a person of color. But mostly I’m fearful because it’s fairly apparent, in my estimation, that we are all fearful. Racism work remains within our denomination of mostly, well-meaning liberal white folk of, mostly silent, and historically with few responses to calls to respond….

 [I encourage you to please read UU Kenny Wiley’s piece. He has written a powerful piece about his own personal experience as a black man growing up in our Unitarian Universalist community.]

What became clear to me this week, when I saw the news that it was expected that soon we’d be hearing the grand jury’s decision on whether to indict Officer Darren Wilson for the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson– was that I could remain silent no longer and that I would like us to be in dialogue together about race. The world isn’t waiting for our shared ministry to determine if this is going to be a 3 year, 13 year or a 30 year relationship. People need us and our compassionate leadership now. I feel personally called to respond.

An indictment by the grand jury is extremely unlikely. Whatever it is, whenever it is, there will be much pain and anger that will be expressed in a variety of ways.

In the words of UUA President Peter Morales:

Ferguson is not about Ferguson. It is about the systematic dehumanizing of people all over America.

 And the first step to me out of silence, is to acknowledge and recognize:

 When the jury decision out of Ferguson comes – if I am in town here in New Jersey, I am going to stand on our front steps, at dusk, with a candle and with a sign that says Black Lives Matter. And I will sing. If you are so called to be with others during that time of that decision. Please join me.”


In response to last night’s Grand Jury Announcement out of Ferguson, MO I will hold a candlelight vigil the Unitarian Universalist Church of Somerset Hills TONIGHT, beginning at 7pm. We will begin in the sanctuary of our building at 123 East Cliff St, Somerville. We will be open for all who come to join us, and we will hold prayers for justice and peace in this nation.

We will end our gathering with closing prayer, song and proclamations of commitment to building Beloved Community on the front steps of the church. Signs consistent with our message of solidarity are welcome. Suggestions are signs that say: “Black Lives Matter”, “All Lives Matter”, “We Stand with Ferguson” or “Peace and Justice”. Unitarian Universalists are welcome to wear ‘Standing on the Side of Love’ T-shirts and carry ‘Standing on the Side of Love’ signs.”

As you prepare to be with us, PLEASE NOTE: OUR PARKING LOT IS CURRENTLY CLOSED due to the renovations to make our building ADA accessible. Street Parking is available. As a reminder in NJ it is illegal to park on bridges or within 25 feet of a crosswalk.


From Michael Brown’s family, excerpt from the statement they issued this evening:

“While we understand that many others share our pain, we ask that you channel your frustration in ways that will make a positive change. We need to work together to fix the system that allowed this to happen. […] Let’s not just make noise; let’s make a difference.”

From Unitarian Universalist Association President Peter Morales,

“There are vigils and witness events taking place around the country. I encourage you, if you are willing and able, to witness for justice in your community. Take a moment, however you are able, to be in solidarity with the people of Ferguson, for all who want to end systemic racism, and for those who continue to be abused by a system that is meant to protect them.” Full response here:

From Unitarian Universalist Service Committee President Bill Schulz,

“We know that racism wears many faces in today’s society, some of them subtle and some of them blatant. We know that whatever happened in Ferguson is but symptomatic of larger stresses that face all of our communities. And we know that good people of any race who are prepared to recognize the fragility of all life; the common woe of all injustice; and the need to reach out loving hands to all who suffer that good people like that can eventually change the world. As we react to the decision of the grand jury not to indict officer Darren Wilson, may we remember these eternal truths and stand in solidarity with our sisters and brothers in Ferguson and across this country who seek to dissolve the boundaries that divide our hearts.”