CM @ AU: Best Practices to Promote Justice
Best Practices of UU Campus Ministry at American University
by Meredith Lukow
I first experienced the power of the Standing on the Side of Love (SSL) campaign during my sophomore year of college. It was October 2009 and the National Equality March was taking over our nation’s capital. The American University Unitarian Universalists trekked downtown on a beautiful fall day to join dozens of UUs from area congregations and thousands of other folks from across the country to call on our government to recognize the rights of all people regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. I’ll never forget the striking sea of people in orange t-shirts and carrying orange signs and banners proclaiming their commitment to love that streamed down Pennsylvania Avenue, framed by the distant dome of the United States Capitol.
[Caption: Meredith and other members of the American University UU group with UUA President Peter Morales before the National Equality March. (Credit: Caitlin DuBois)]
Since then, the AU Unitarian Universalists have continued to bring social justice and “love” messages to the American University campus. Last year, after AU was ranked a top ten most LGBT-friendly school, the infamous Westboro Baptist Church protested on campus. The AU community staged a counter-protest, but our group was concerned that the gathering would only meet the WBC’s hate with more vitriolic rhetoric. We decided to bring a loving voice to the rally by borrowing a giant orange SSL banner from a local UU congregation. Our presence was even featured in an American Observer article.
We’ve also used the “Standing on the Side of Love” frame in a number of other contexts. This fall, we organized a powerful interfaith vigil to commemorate the Transgender Day of Remembrance using resources from the SSL website. This weekend, at our first meeting of the new semester, we’ll be doing collective visioning activities in conjunction with SSL’s “30 Days of Love” campaign.
These ventures into social justice work have taught me a number of important lessons about organizing within the campus context. First, events are more successful when you foster partnerships with other groups. Our Transgender Day of Remembrance vigil was made possible by collaborating with other faith groups and the Queers & Allies organization. Our presence at the WBC counter-protest came from getting off campus and connecting with a UU congregation in the wider community.
Additionally, it is important to engage with emerging issues on campus. What is the campus community grappling with right now that could benefit from your loving, UU perspective? Or what should it be dealing with? Your faith voice is important. Consider “harnessing love’s power to stop oppression” by bringing social justice themes to your campus community.
Interested in finding out more about bringing social justice and the Standing on the Side of Love message to a college campus near you? Want to help us develop more resources for campus groups? Sign up for our new campus outreach email list and check out this “Best Practices in Campus Ministry” webinar from December 2011.
This post was contributed by Meredith Lukow, student leader for the American University Unitarian Universalists and program assistant at the Standing on the Side of Love campaign. Meredith is a third generation UU from Racine, Wisconsin.