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Rev. Meg Riley
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Rev. Meg A. Riley is Senior Minister of the Church of the Larger Fellowship, a 3500 member Church Without Walls. She has worked in the intersection of religion and culture in a variety of contexts, including serving as Director of the Unitarian Universalist Association's Advocacy and Witness staff group, Office of Lesbian, Bisexual and Gay Concerns, Washington Office for Advocacy, Youth Programs, and as a religious educator in several Unitarian Universalist congregations. Riley was the founding director of Standing on the Side of Love (Harnessing Love's Power to Stop Oppression, Exclusion and Violence). She was founding President of the Board of Faith in Public Life: A Resource Center for Justice and the Common Good, and of Equal Partners in Faith. She has served on the national boards of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, the Interfaith Alliance, and too many working groups to name.

Entries by Rev. Meg Riley

Seven Ways to Prepare for the Ferguson Grand Jury's Statement

(15) Comments | Posted November 5, 2014 | 4:50 PM

Police are allegedly stocking up on riot gear. Shop owners are preparing to shut down and protect themselves from looters. So I was thinking I should prepare for the Ferguson grand jury's announcement too.

Like the police and the shopkeepers appear to be doing, I am...

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Uses of Power that Start with A: Abnegation, Abuse, Avoidance

(0) Comments | Posted September 23, 2014 | 4:39 PM

This morning, I began the day at a school conference with my high school senior, to find out if Jie would be suspended for carrying a weapon at school. When Jie's teacher called to initiate this meeting, I was flabbergasted. Jie? An A student, hyper-responsible kid, was carrying a weapon...

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What We Do When We Don't Know What to Do

(3) Comments | Posted August 28, 2014 | 11:34 AM

It's a confusing time, as we move tentatively into the aftermath of the dramatic events of these past few weeks in Ferguson, Missouri. As we enter this new time, we are choosing to whom we will listen, deciding what accounts we will believe. These times can be transformational -- these...

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Up to Our Necks

(53) Comments | Posted August 14, 2014 | 1:47 PM

When I opened my door yesterday morning, there were dozens of police cars and fire engines with lights and sirens blazing. Stunned, I walked out into my sleepy Minneaopolis neighborhood to find clumps of neighbors talking in quiet voices. It appears that one of my neighbors, digging a trench to fix a pipe that leaked last winter when the ground froze very deeply, was sucked into a sinkhole. He was, literally, buried up to his neck in dirt. As we watched, careful digging and eventually a truck with huge suction hoses made it possible for him to be safely and carefully evacuated. It was several hours before the man was taken out on a gurney, conscious and awake. Alive, thanks to the hard work of first responders.

First responders. So often we thank them for the brave work that they do, caring for those who need help. I thanked some folks this morning. Some of you are first responders, and I thank you now. And yet, if I lived in a different neighborhood, one where primarily African American people lived, I might not have walked out sleepily to find out why police were congregated near my house. Rather, I might have chosen to stay inside, fearful not of dangerous criminals on the loose but rather of the police themselves.

Someone I know here in South Minneapolis, an African American woman, attempted to help the police in her neighborhood. They were shouting with bullhorns at the house next door to her. A black youth was inside gazing in terror out the window; they were calling a name and demanding that he come out. This woman, seeing that the name they were calling was not in fact the name of the youth they were yelling at, attempted to tell the police that they had the wrong person, to tell them the name of the youth in the house. Before she knew it, she was arrested for interfering with the law, and spent the night in jail. She sat next to me at church the next morning, still in shock and trauma.

Generally, as a white woman, I expect police to believe me and support me. However, when the Republican Convention took place in St. Paul in 2004, the police terrified me. In full riot gear, they attacked dozens of law-abiding protestors. Mothers of young children. Journalists. Bystanders. I witnessed some of this. I found the riot gear, behind which actual officers were completely invisible, terrifying. Lawsuits are still being settled. People are still healing.

This week, a young African American man, Michael Brown, was walking with friends, unarmed, in Ferguson, Missouri. Stories diverge wildly between the police and the witnesses about what happened next, and the police did not wear cameras, but what we do know is this: Brown was shot with multiple bullets by a reportedly white police officer, and killed. As I write this, Ferguson is still reeling, not only from that shooting, but from the arrival of police in riot gear -- just the kind that terrified me in St. Paul -- to disrupt a peaceful memorial vigil for Brown. Tanks, curfews, and tear gas are now overrunning the small town, intimidating and brutalizing residents. Journalists are not allowed to document it. People are being told they can't be in their own yards.

Where do you locate yourself in these stories? Who do you see as dangerous, and who is trustworthy? Where do you locate safety? What would safety look like for the people of Ferguson now, for instance? As a white person in the U.S., I am conditioned from birth to see whiteness as safety -- white neighborhoods, white people, white authority figures. My lived experience, my conversations with people of color, and my study of history have shown me over and over that this is a wild and cruel perversion of the truth. But the cultural conditioning is strong. Unless I fight it every day, white superiority seeps into my brain in slow, almost undetectable ways.

As a nation of diverse races striving to be one people, we are buried up to our necks no less than my neighbor, with histories that won't quit, of violence and brutality against people of color. Where do we look for safety, for help, as we try to excavate ourselves from this sinkhole?

I'm struggling with this. Right now I would locate myself as one of the mostly silent, but increasingly alarmed, white folks, one who has the class and race privilege to be on the sidelines, struggling to discern how to be part of the solution instead of part of the problem. Even as I know that standing silently, trying to figure things out, and not taking action, is a life-threatening course of action when you and your neighbors are buried to your neck.

I don't know everything, but I do know this: This is a problem for our whole nation, not just for people of color. We are in this together. And riot gear, intimidation, and more brutality from police are not the way forward towards healing. They are, in fact, yet another giant step backwards. As for me, I'm looking on the local level for practical actions I can take. And I refuse to be silent or still any...

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The Limits of Love

(4) Comments | Posted August 13, 2014 | 3:45 PM

My facebook community, at least a significant part of it, is reeling from the suicide of Robin Williams. None of us would deny what one person wrote: "People! This is a celebrity! We don't know him! Let's talk about people we do know!" Undeniable. He was a celebrity, not a...

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Why Are White People Afraid to Watch 12 Years A Slave?

(0) Comments | Posted December 3, 2013 | 10:33 AM

Since I wrote my blog last week, "For White People Who Can't Bear to See 12 Years a Slave", I've been talking to many white people, friends and strangers alike, about the movie. Hundreds of white people, actually, along with quite a few African Americans and other people...

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For White People Who Can't Bear to See '12 Years a Slave'

(129) Comments | Posted November 27, 2013 | 11:48 AM

Yet another white person said to me yesterday, "I'm not sure I can go see 12 Years a Slave. It just sounds too painful to watch, and I wonder, why would I want to pay a babysitter so I can be in agony for two hours?"

I've been having these...

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Reflections of a White Parent in a Racist Society

(3) Comments | Posted July 15, 2013 | 1:09 PM

I'm not a celebrity, but I share a trait with many famous actresses -- I am a white woman raising an adopted child who is not white. Tonight I am wondering if Angelina Jolie has warned Maddox and Pax that the police might mistake them for gang members, and to...

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Justice Is Justice

(65) Comments | Posted June 29, 2013 | 2:48 PM

This week's roller coaster Supreme Court sessions have left many liberal religious people queasy -- that's certainly what it's done for us. Both of us are Unitarian Universalist ministers. One of us, a straight African-American woman, is a parish minister in New York City. The other is a lesbian white...

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Minnesota Marriage Equality: Top Ten Reasons this Victory Is So Sweet

(240) Comments | Posted May 15, 2013 | 8:23 AM

With the flourish of a signature, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton declared yesterday that, "Love is the law." Here are my top ten favorite reasons that this victory is so sweet.

1. The self-righteous, narrow-minded, divisive thinking that led Republicans to put constitutional bans on same sex marriage into constitutions in...

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The Minnesota House of Representatives Is Voting on My Family Today

(12) Comments | Posted May 9, 2013 | 10:49 AM

It feels real now. Today I'll be driving over to the Minnesota capitol in a carload of clergy and I'm sure that our conversation will turn to the practical considerations wrapped up in, "How will we officiate at all these new weddings?"

What a great conversation to have! If things...

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On Tuesday, Minnesota Voted on My Family

(9) Comments | Posted November 9, 2012 | 3:14 PM

On Tuesday, Minnesotans voted on my family, and they voted against excluding us in the state constitution. Yep, they did. You betcha.

All the LGBT people I know, and people of all orientations who spent these last months focused on the campaign, have been pretty much falling apart since then....

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Today, Minnesota Votes on My Family

(11) Comments | Posted November 6, 2012 | 11:42 AM

I will confess that I dread going to the poll today, which I am planning to do soon, despite the rain, so that I can go out for one more long day of Get Out the Vote work.

I am afraid that I might cry as I fill in that...

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1 Day Till Minnesota Votes on My Family

(4) Comments | Posted November 5, 2012 | 3:39 PM

Wow. When I started this blog series, 99 days seemed close for the election; now, barring the kind of recounts that Minnesota is becoming famous for, we are within hours of the whole thing being decided!

Today in the No Vote campaign, we will focus heavily on door-to-door...

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4 Days Till Minnesota Votes on My family

(12) Comments | Posted November 2, 2012 | 3:23 PM

I'm sitting in the Get Out the Vote section of Minnesotans United for All Families' Minneapolis (Loring Park) office, welcoming and logging in volunteers who are here to do phone calling to voters for a few more days. I decided to take the week off from work and give the...

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6 Days Till Minnesota Votes on My Family (VIDEO)

(38) Comments | Posted October 31, 2012 | 10:10 PM

With all the scary weather out East, Minnesotans have continued going about our business in the landlocked Midwest. Even as we ramp up our get-out-the-vote efforts, folks are still having conversations with people we know about the marriage amendment. The election is now so close you can almost touch it.

...
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13 Days Till Minnesota Votes on My Family (VIDEO)

(1) Comments | Posted October 24, 2012 | 5:11 PM

As we get closer, the "how will I feel on Nov. 7 if we lose?" question is with me, even as I put in a final haul to win. And here's what I've realized: Win or lose, this campaign has been a huge gift. It's woken me up from a...

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20 Days Till Minnesota Votes on My Family

(3) Comments | Posted October 17, 2012 | 12:38 PM

After reading descriptions of all the horrific things that people say on the phone that I posted in my last blog, folks may wonder why it's worth trying to have phone calls or conversations with people they know who are against marriage equalilty.

In fact,...

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25 Days Till Minnesota Votes on My Family

(3) Comments | Posted October 12, 2012 | 3:59 PM

Whew! We are getting close to the election! There are weeks, not months, left to fight this thing! My old D.C. friends, who look at things like numbers and polls from the national level, tell me it's a foregone conclusion that we're going to lose this fight. Our own polls...

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32 Days Till Minnesota Votes on My Family

(10) Comments | Posted October 5, 2012 | 9:09 PM

I woke up Wednesday not knowing where I was or what day it was. (I was in my own bed. It took me a considerable amount of time to figure that out, and several more hours to remember what day it was.) I think my disorientation was somehow related to...

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