Which Lives Matter?

Recently at Ohio University, a graffiti wall that had been painted by our Black Student Union with the message “Black Lives Matter” was painted over with a different kind of message, which you can see here. The result has been a resurgence of racial tension, an intensification of discourse around race, and renewed demands that university administrators take action to promote an inclusive community on the campus and in the town.
Predictably, there have been backlash-y reactions to it that highlight the continuing problem of racism in this country (as for example here–although if the “f” word bothers you, this will be a risky click). Much of the backlash revolves around the question, “but don’t ALL lives matter?” To help unpack this conundrum, our campus minister, Rev. Evan Young, offered this explication:

I’m a Unitarian Universalist. And the first principle of Unitarian Universalism is that we “affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person.” So yes, all lives matter. And Unitarian Universalism as a faith community has embraced the‪#‎BlackLivesMatter‬ movement, encouraging individuals and congregations to stand with people of color against the systemic and systematic oppression visited on black people in our society. Our actions speak most clearly about what we as a people believe–and our actions as a nation and a society have been saying, for centuries, that black lives matter less. Because I believe that all lives matter, and because I have seen and recognized that our society treats black lives as somehow less valuable, less worthy of respect and equal protection, I must as a person of faith stand with the oppressed, and I must proclaim with them that black lives matter. That’s what justice looks like; that’s what a just community would do in the face of such injustice. So when people say “black lives matter,” the only response I believe can be made with honesty and integrity is “Yes, they do. Let’s start acting that way.”

At UCM, we stand with those who continue to proclaim that Black Lives Matter. And we commit ourselves to building a community, a culture, and a world in which we all act that way.


Fall Semester Wrap Up

Fall Semester Wrap-up

Some highlights of Better Together at OU Fall Semester include the Annual 9-11 Interfaith Peace Walk, where hundreds of students and community members from many religious and nonreligious backgrounds walked for peace, including a stop at Hillel for a recitation of the Mourners Kaddish and concluding with a candlelight vigil at the Islamic Center. We also organized another environmental clean up with Monday Creek Watershed Restoration Project and hauled thousands of pounds of trash and tires from the Wayne National Forest. We ended the semester with a cosponsored panel discussion with International Student Union on Interfaith Peace and Coexistence and a study break right before finals — All Faiths Have Finals. We’re looking forward to sending 2 new students and one returning student to the Interfaith Youth Core Leadership Institute in Atlanta in January and doing even MORE awesome interfaith organizing. Stay tuned!
ISU – Better Together Interfaith Peace Panel.
Better Together Watershed Clean Up

This Old House

The red brick house at 18 N. College St. has been the home to dynamic campus ministry at Ohio University since it was donated to the Westminster Foundation in 1951.  It’s within these walls that courageous and dedicated clergy, staff, community activists and students have fomented resistance to oppressive forces, agitation for social justice and solutions to community problems for almost 65 years. Here we have counseled Vietnam draft resisters, women with unplanned pregnancies prior to Roe v. Wade, organized for equality and justice for women, people of color, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students and community members, and resisted war and violence of any kind. Here we have sown the seeds for area organizations like My Sister’s Place, Athens AIDS Task Force and the Southeast Ohio Foodbank. For our students, UCM has been their home in Athens – a place to come to feel supported and encouraged to live out their faith; to question and grow and know they’re supported and loved along the way; to flop down on the couch for a quick nap or grab coffee in the basement with another intern.
This house has taken good care of us and we must take care of it. In the past 2 years alone, we have invested nearly $60,000 in building repairs and updates including a new roof, gutters and drain spouts; repairs to ramp and handrails; extensive work to address drainage problems in the basement; and removal of moldy paneling and plaster walls. If that wasn’t enough, we had an unexpected main waterline break this past February deep freeze that required expensive repairs.
Since most of these projects required immediate attention, grant funding was usually not an option (other than the front basement door and railings – thanks Athens Foundation!) So we have had to dig deep into our pockets to ensure that this old house is safe and sound for all who call it home. If you love our old house like we do, and would like to help us offset some of these expenses, please consider a donation today! You can set up PayPal to be an ongoing sustaining donation or make a one time donation on our website or check.
Help us ensure that 18 N. College Street is home for interfaith, progressive campus ministry for years to come! Thank you.
UCM Annual Board and Staff Retreat at the beautiful Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Athens! (Aug. 2015)
(First row, L-R) Anna-Kaye Rowe (social media intern), Kathryn Bublitz (Social Work intern), Kelsey Gerard (Community Service intern), Kelli Wanamaker (Community Service intern), Jackie Duffy (Social Work Inter), Melissa Wales (Executive Director), Amanda Hobson (Board Secretary), Katie Dawes (Board Member), Miranda “Lacee” McKinney (Program Intern), Anne Huddleston (Board Member), Josh Baron (Community Service Intern), Rev. Evan Young (Campus Minister), Andrew Stuart (Board Treasurer), Laura Harrison (Board Member), Sarah Jenkins (Board Member), Josh Bodnar (Board Member), Kellea Tibbs (Board Chair), David Descutner (Board Vice Chair) and Tyler Barton (Board Member)

OU Students are Interfaith Leaders!

We are excited to be sending two more Bobcats to Interfaith Youth Core’s Leadership Institute in Chicago next month! We look for these students to come back inspired and equipped to help Better Together at Ohio University continue to build interfaith community through education, engagement and service!  Thanks to the Ohio University Dean of Students and Diversity and Inclusion offices for their ongoing and generous support!

Make sure the 9/11 Interfaith Peace Walk is on your calendar and start the year off with an always inspiring experience of the amazing religious and non-religious diversity that we choose to celebrate here at OU and in Athens. As always, we will gather in front of the  Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd around 7:00pm on Friday, September 11 and end at the Islamic Center on Stewart St.

Look for another Serve Better Together watershed clean-up project with Monday Creek and other cool events and opportunities to voice your values, engage with others and act together.

If YOU are an undergrad Bobcat and would like to get involved this fall, email us at bettertogetherou@gmail.com, call UCM at 740-593-7301!

Interfaith Leadership Institutes (ILIs) equip undergraduate students, staff, and faculty with the skills to engage diverse religious and non-religious identities to build the interfaith movement on their campuses.
  • Students train to be interfaith leaders who build relationships across identities, tell powerful stories to bridge divides, and learn about ways to mobilize their campuses.
  • Staff and faculty network with other higher education professionals, share best practices about how to be an ally to student leaders, and partner with their students to create change on their campuses.
  • All participants get a chance to build relationships, network, and share best practices with other people from across the country who are passionate about interfaith work. Additionally, everyone will have the opportunity to access key resources and strategies for mobilizing their campuses for interfaith cooperation, such as the Better Together campaign, a student-led campaign for interfaith action. 
The next Interfaith Leadership Institute is January 22-24, 2016 in Atlanta. Let us know if you are interested!

2015 Annual Meeting

You are invited….

United Campus Ministry’s
Annual Meeting 2015

Wednesday, April 15
5:00pm – 7:00pm
ArtsWest 132 W. State Street

Meet the current Board of Directors 

including the newly elected 2015-16 Executive Officers, 

staff and interns.

Celebrate our Sustainer Circle and donors.

Panel conversation on current and future accomplishments including 

this year’s expansion of the Campus Minister position!

Refreshments provided.

We look forward to seeing you!

Campus Minister Evan Young facilitating interfaith reflection and dialogue with students after service project with Monday Creek Restoration Project in New Straitsville.

Dear Friends of UCM,

For as long as I’ve served here at UCM, I have also served other organizations–either as the part-time minister of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Athens, or as an intern minister at the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Marietta. And while I’ve loved my involvement with congregational ministry, while I treasure all I’ve experienced and learned in those settings, I also have to acknowledge that this bi-vocational path I’ve been on comes with a cost I’m simply no longer willing to pay.

 It’s been a trying, demanding, challenging semester at Ohio University, a semester that’s called me to rooms and to tables and to conversations I’ve needed to be in, and where others have needed me. Many of you know about Megan Marzec, Student Senate, the “blood bucket” video, and the ensuing conversation on campus about Israel, Palestine, and justice. (For those who don’t, I wrote a blog post about it for the Interfaith Youth Core–read it at www.ifyc.org/content/cultivate-peace.) Many of you probably remember the People’s Climate March in New York City, and you might know that I went there with a busload of students UCM helped to organize. Most of you know what’s going on now about Mike Brown and Ferguson and Eric Garner and John Crawford and Tamir Rice and all the seemingly endless examples that are showing us how entrenched institutional racism continues to be, and some of you know how students on this campus are coming together to respond to that.

As a campus minister, especially one serving a progressive interfaith campus ministry like UCM, I’m called to show up and to speak out at times like these. And I have. At the same time I’m called to be there for our interns, to be there for the people who come to Thursday Supper and Saturday Lunch, to be there for students who come to us for help with their own personal challenges and crises as well as their social justice concerns. And I’m called to work with and be in relationship with university faculty, staff, and administrators as we work together to shape the future of this institution. It’s a full-time job at minimum–and, when I’m doing it the way I’m called, much more than that.

But I’m only a half-time campus minister. With another part-time ministry, with its own full slate of committee meetings, staff reports, pastoral care concerns, and administrative tasks. With its own expectations about which conferences I should attend, what organizations I should join, and how I should lead. Those expectations are legitimate and important and deserve everything I can give them. And, actually, more than I can give.

So, in this Christmas season, I have a wish. And UCM has a wish. And we’re bringing that wish to you, because you can help.

My wish is to be, for once, ONE THING. I want to be a campus minister, through and through, and I want to serve United Campus Ministry with everything I have to give. Over the nine years I’ve been here, it’s become absolutely clear to me that this is what I’m for, this is where I’m meant to be, doing this. So when my intern ministry ends on June 1, 2015, my wish is to be UCM’s full-time campus minister.

UCM’s wish, in this challenging and demanding time, is to be even more the campus ministry Ohio University needs. To continue to be at the forefront of work for social justice, but to have an even louder voice, an even greater impact, to change even more students through our interfaith bridge-building and community service work. And this semester more than ever, it’s become absolutely clear that a key piece of our being more is, well, having more–more time, more presence, more service–of our campus minister.

Which brings us to you. Because embracing this larger vision of UCM is a leap of faith we need you to take with us. I’ve been blessed to be able to do this work because you’ve believed in the mission and ministry of UCM. Now, when I’m about to be able to commit even more to this work, and when UCM is committed to being and becoming more the ministry that’s needed here, we need more–more of you (meaning more donors), and more from you (meaning more financial support from each of you).

You have it in your power to grant these wishes. You received this letter because you believe in what UCM does. So think about how much you’d believe in UCM doing more—and give accordingly. And then, share this letter, and your own stories and wishes about UCM, with someone you know who doesn’t know about us. Help them to connect with us and with our work, and give them the opportunity to join us on this leap of faith.  And remember—UCM is a registered 501(C)(3) non-profit organization. Your contributions are tax-deductible and will do more than simply finance operating, facilities, and programming expenses. They’ll help make our wishes come true.

 With warm Season’s Greetings from the whole UCM family, and with all best wishes for the New Year–

Rev. Evan Young, Campus Minister

CULTIVATE PEACE – by Rev. Evan Young

Published by Interfaith Youth Core on Oct. 16, 2014

Just as the Better Together team at Ohio University was getting back to campus and getting their feet under them for this year’s  campaign, something happened that changed everything.

On September 2, the newly elected president of Ohio U’s Student Senate uploaded a video response to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge she was issued by the university’s president. Rather than a bucket of ice water, Megan Marzec dumped a bucket of fake blood over her head, while calling attention to the Israeli government’s treatment of the people of Palestine and calling on the university to divest from all academic and other institutions connected to or supportive of the government of Israel.

Within hours, the university president issued a statement distancing himself and the university from Marzec’s position. The Student Senate issued an apology for her actions, and made clear that her statement didn’t express the Senate’s opinion. And representatives of several Jewish and/or pro-Israel student groups showed up at the September 3 Senate meeting to call for Marzec’s resignation.

Then things went viral. Within days, Marzec’s email and Facebook were flooded with hate messages, death threats, rape threats, and vitriol from all over the world. The university and the local chapter of Hillel were deluged with phone calls and messages from concerned parents and donors, threatening to pull their students and/or money from a campus that (to them) was feeling more and more unsafe. It seemed like things couldn’t possibly get worse.

Things got worse. Members of Bobcats for Israel attended the September 10 Student Senate meeting and, as it was called to order, mounted a “filibuster,” reading a statement decrying Marzec and then reading testimonies from administrators at various universities arguing that academic sanctions were counterproductive. They held the floor for close to 40 minutes, while student senators, faculty members, and students shouted their disapproval, raised chants against them, and, at times, physically confronted them. Some at the meeting heard students call them “fascists” and “Nazis,” and video of the event captured something that sounded like “bring on the rope.” At that point Marzec called for a Senate vote on whether they should be removed from the meeting, and four of the protesting students were arrested and removed. Tensions were high.

Meanwhile, our Better Together campus organizers (remember them?) were busy planning our fourth annual 9/11 Interfaith Peace Walk. Started on the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Walk has offered an opportunity each September for hundreds of students and community members to come together to embody a different vision of what religious diversity might look like—people from all faiths united in their commitment to peace. It’s also served as a ready-made public kickoff to the year’s Better Together campaign—a way to get the name and the message out there, on the streets of Athens, in front of several hundred of our best and/or newest friends.

So, the day after four students were arrested at a Student Senate meeting where they called for the resignation of the duly elected Senate president, the week after the University was propelled onto the biggest stage many of us had ever imagined, we called people of all faiths together to walk for peace, and to cultivate peace from the inside out. “We’re at the center of a media storm, and right now peace seems pretty far away,” I said in my introductory remarks. “And yet however tempted by despair, we have brought our sore and heavy hearts here to be something extraordinary, together. It starts here. Right here, in our sore and heavy hearts, is where we need to begin to make peace.” And we walked—Protestants and Catholics, Jews and Muslims, Unitarians and agnostics and atheists and Buddhists. In silence, in quiet conversation, in community. At the end of the walk, in the light of the candles we held, we sang: “I’ve got peace like a river, Joy like a fountain, tears like the raindrops, strength like a mountain.”

In light of how everything changed, think about what Dean of Students Jenny Hall-Jones said at the walk: “There’s healing power in saying ‘This is who I am, and I’m standing next to someone very different from me, but we’re all in this together.'” Or what Student Senate Vice President Caitlyn McDaniel said after making the walk with students from the Muslim Student Association and Bobcats for Israel: “This was very necessary for the community, and it was a beautiful thing to see people coming together, especially today.” Think about seeing the president of Bobcats for Israel on the lawn of the campus Islamic Center, chatting with other students who came to the walk. Our work changes things.

It’s still too soon to know exactly how our community will respond to the interfaith challenge Megan Marzec raised. But we will respond. We’re planning panels and teach-ins and movie screenings. We’re beginning, here and there, to figure out how we can talk about all this. And in all these conversations we’re beginning to build the social capital that will make us resilient, that will empower us to face future controversies together.