Racial and ethnic diversity is a rich topic in Unitarian Universalism today, both at the national level and among many congregations. At Neighborhood Church, the recent congregational assessment done by consultant Tony Robinson stated that “a significant number of members wish for greater racial/ethnic diversity in your congregation.” While noting that, due to various inhibiting factors in the larger culture, this isn’t easily accomplished, Tony also says that “We can work, and should work, to build bridges and to welcome those of whatever race, culture [or] class….”
As a part of such welcoming work, this spring NUUC member Corinne Grant and I will co-facilitate a small-group process over eight consecutive Sunday mornings (plus a 1.5 day Opening Retreat). The curriculum was developed by Dr. Mark Hicks, professor of Religious Education and my advisor at Meadville Lombard Theological School. It’s called Beloved Conversations: Meditations on Race and Ethnicity—and we’d like you to consider participating. Here’s how Dr. Hicks describes the program:
Beloved Conversations is framed in the spirit of small-group ministry or a covenant group (what many at Neighborhood know as a Chalice Circle). Facilitators and participants work to encourage seeing anti-racism/anti-oppression work as acts of faith formation; of becoming more fully human. Everyone involved—whether socialized within the framework of a dominant cultural group or as targets of oppression—is asked to grow, take risks, struggle with ambiguity, and love each other into a bigger sense of self.
And here are the topics for each weekly seminar:
1) The Invisible Footprint of Racial/Ethnic History (Part 1)
2) The Invisible Footprint of Racial/Ethnic History (Part 2)
Exploring our Dynamic of Racism and Privilege
3) Racism Today: Micro-Aggressions
4) Congregational Audit: What’s In Your Congregation’s Backpack?
5) Community Audit: The Experience of Race and Ethnicity in Your Community
6) The Legacy of Racism in Congregational Experience
7) Toward a New Identity: How Can We Be in the World?
8) Collecting our Wisdom, Creating Our Future; Celebration of Learning & Community
Schedule & Logistics
In deciding whether to apply, it’s important to note that in fairness to all concerned, participants should have the intention and ability to attend each and every weekly session, as well as both sessions of the Opening Retreat. (All will be held in Ross Chapel, with one exception TBA.)
Here’s the complete schedule:
Friday, February 14 – Opening Retreat with Dr. Mark Hicks:
6-7pm light supper; 7-9pm Retreat
Saturday, February 15 – Opening Retreat with Dr. Mark Hicks:
8:30-9am light breakfast/coffee; 9-4:30 Retreat (with lunch on site)
[NOTES: Retreat meals will be provided. Participants also need to view the film Gran Torino prior to the Retreat. If it’s not easy for anyone to procure a copy, the church will provide one.]
Sunday Sessions run eight consecutive weeks for two hours each session:
Sunday Feb. 23 – Sunday April 13 from 9:15am-11:15am.
Application Process and Deadline
As Rev. Nelson does for his popular “The Preacher in You” class, we are requesting that those interested and available write 300-500 words on why you would like to take part in Beloved Conversations. As part of this, please include one brief example of how an issue related to race and/or ethnicity has impacted your life. (This impact can be negative, positive, or mixed.) Please also mention how long you have been involved with UUism and Neighborhood Church.
If writing isn’t your strong suit, please don’t let that deter you. The truth of your experience and your interest in the subject are the only important matters.
E-mail your composition to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you don’t have email access or prefer to provide a hard copy instead, drop or mail your application to the church office, attention Peter Farriday.
Applications must be received by 5:00pm on Monday, January 27, 2014. Applications received after this date and time will not be considered.
In consultation with Rev. Dr. Nelson and Dr. Hicks, participants will be selected with the goal of creating as rich a learning environment as possible. This means a mix of racial (including Caucasian) and ethnic backgrounds, genders, ages, involvement with UUism, and related factors.
Applicants will be notified of their status no later than Saturday, February 1, 2014.
Since the group is limited to 16 people, it’s likely that not everyone who applies will be selected. While this is regrettable, please know that Beloved Conversations is intended to be part of an unfolding process of raising awareness concerning issues of race, ethnicity and what it means to be truly welcoming, especially as the congregation considers who its new Senior Minister will be.
While we can’t say ahead of time what that process might look like moving forward, one possibility is that the Beloved Conversations curriculum will be offered again, guided by different co-facilitators. So those not selected this round could well find another opportunity to be involved.
Speaking of Opportunities…
A different chance to become involved in such consciousness-raising is happening Friday-Sunday, January 17-19, at First UU Church in San Diego. It’s a regional conference that brings together people of color who are members and friends of DRUUMM (Diverse, Revolutionary UU Multicultural Ministries), and white supporters of racial and ethnic justice who are members and friends of Allies for Racial Equity (ARE). Corinne and I are attending, and we’d love to have you join us! (Fyi the main conference activities begin on Saturday morning, January 18th.)
For more information on this terrific opportunity, visit roarwithsoul.com. (Even if you can’t go, visit that website and read the descriptions of these organizations found at the bottom of the home page. It’s highly worthwhile information from which every UU can benefit.)
A Beloved Bonus!
Finally, we are thrilled that Mark Hicks will take part in our worship services on February 16. So please highlight that on your new 2014 calendars, and join us for an especially beloved worship experience that Sunday.
Meanwhile, we look forward to considering your Beloved Conversations applications. Thank you so much for your interest and support.