Thanksgiving for a local social justice hero

Idaho Falls has lost a champion of social justice. Fortunately, this is not an obituary but a thanksgiving. Rev. Lyn Stangland Cameron, 74, the Idaho Falls Unitarian Universalist Church minister from 2006 to 2018, moved back to Indiana this week.

“Rev. Lyn” recalls leaving Massachusetts, home to many Unitarian Universalists, for the small U.U. congregation in Idaho Falls, but the parishioners welcomed her “with an open mind and caring heart,” and fully supported her U.U. commitment to help Idaho Falls become more inclusive.

She threw her support behind the gay rights movement, attending Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays meetings and leading PFLAG, marriage equality and Idaho Falls nondiscrimination ordinance demonstrations; Idaho Falls Pride events; and efforts to support the still unsuccessful campaign to “add the words” of “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to Idaho’s Human Rights Act.

Volunteering at the Idaho Falls Soup Kitchen weekly for several years, voter canvassing for Medicaid Expansion, marching in every Women’s March here and organizing numerous climate action events, Stangland Cameron has written that effecting change “where you are” is a “moral and ethical” imperative. Exactly a year ago, she organized a rally on the Broadway Bridge urging “Elders, Boomers, Generation X, Y, Millennial, Youth” to stop shopping on Black Friday and the conspicuous consumption contributing to our climate crisis and instead give time.

A frequent venue for her activism because of its symbolism, the Broadway Bridge was the site of her 2015 commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the crossing of the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma. She returned to the Broadway Bridge countless times, including to lead Black Lives Matter vigils this year. When asked how long she intended to hold them, she replied tersely, “Until we don’t need them anymore.”

During the return to Indiana, she texted that being born with a blind, discolored eye and without a prosthetic eye until age 14, helped her see early on that “DNA, family of origin, neighbors, teachers, opportunities, constraints,” beyond our control shape us, adding that once we acknowledge that the need for social justice becomes undeniable.

Stangland Cameron helped establish the Idaho Falls Interfaith Community for diverse local religious leaders to collectively address injustice after seeing a flyer containing Nazi symbols at the Greenbelt. When a Black Lives Matter sign displayed to encourage “active anti-racism” was repeatedly vandalized and stolen from the U.U. churchyard, she insisted that it be repaired or replaced each time. The sign still stands at the church today.

As a former performing arts college professor, Stangland Cameron ministered with provocative flair. Parishioners recollect the invitation for candid discussion at the “Death Café”: “Are you afraid to die? It’s where we all end up. Have you ever wondered about your own death?” Sermons included analysis of Buddhism to interpretive dancing with the entire congregation joining in.

Age, infirmity, and distance from family required leaving Idaho Falls, she texted, adding that she is reminded that the Buddha teaches that learning to let go is one of life’s most difficult lessons. We know the feeling. Heartfelt thanks, Rev. Lyn, for the difference you have made in Idaho Falls.

By Guest columnists Katrin Lepler, Molly Brinkerhoff, Pat Tucker, Cherie Stevens and Annette Harker