June 2017  
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Minister's Monthly Column

  May2017 Message from Reverend Carolyn

On April 23, All Souls participated in the denomination-wide white supremacy teach-in.  Over 500 of our sibling congregations have signed on hoping that together, we could delve more deeply into the national sin that is racism. Because this event emerged swiftly, I’d like to share how the teach-in came to pass at All Souls.

It all began when UU religious professionals of color called the Unitarian Universalist Association’s hiring practices into question.  That story is long.  You can learn more about it here: https://www.uuworld.org/articles/critics-challenge-uua-hiring-practices?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=post&utm_campaign=mar27.

On April 7 I contacted twenty-five All Souls leaders that included the Board of Trustees; the Worship Team; Religious Education Circle Leaders; the Growing Racial and Cultural Equity (GRACE) Steering Committee; and the Souls who have served as the congregational president since I have served All Souls.  You can read the letter I wrote below.

I was heartened that each person who received the email responded positively.  To a one, the responses reflected curiosity and an understanding that this moment would be one of opportunity, however challenging and complex.  To the invitation to help craft the adults’ experience, twelve Souls came forward, two of which agreed to work with Reverend Caitlin in working with the children and youth. 

The choir, already slated to sing an anthem that would honor Earth Day, would need to shift gears.  Drew Collins, All Souls’ choir director, rose to the occasion.  Similarly, the entire staff rose to the occasion. 

For internal logistical reasons, our teach-in had to be scheduled for the week after Easter, which itself is a detail-laden Sunday not only because it is an important holiday but also because the service is multigenerational.  Two planning sessions were scheduled: one Easter week and the other the following week.  The Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism Organizing Collective (BLUU), the body that had called for the teach-in, got to work curating resources and All Souls’ planning committee got to work curating those resources for our use. 

I met twice with Royce James, a member of All Souls and also a BLUU leader, to discuss how we would tend to People of Color and their needs during the teach-in.  Royce suggested that he facilitate a conversation about UU spirituality as expressed at All Souls and the ways it both intersects and is different from the spiritual needs of UU People of Color, using the 7 principles as guide.

We offered information in the weekly e-blast, All Souls Chat, and on Facebook.  I spoke about the teach-in during the pulpit announcements on April 9 & 16.   And after shifting gears, communicating, learning, imagining, and planning; the day was upon us. 

I didn’t know what to expect.  Would you show up?  Would you show up willing to be vulnerable, curious, and fearless? 

Two hundred and forty Souls showed up.  We squeezed into Unity Hall because one service means we get cozy.  You were asked to sit in a different part of the sanctuary then where you normally sit (perhaps the most trying request of the morning!) and if you arrived with someone else, to sit with someone other than that person.  And as best you could, you went along:  vulnerable, curious, and fearless.

We mixed it up.  The day’s routine was disrupted.  Seven Souls and the choir graced the chancel.  And hopefully, a new day has dawned.  The conversation and the work and the learning continues.

Thank you to the Board of Trustees; all of the leaders who made their way to the table to plan; the Choir, the religious education teachers; the staff and Reverend Caitlin for their trust and support.   And I thank you, Beloved Souls, for showing up in all sorts of ways. And again:  the work continues.

I want to take the opportunity to share some related news with you.  Last week the leadership of the New London Chapter of the NAACP informed me that I am being honored with their “Community Service Award”.  The timing was one of grace as we were all in the throes of preparing for our teach-in.  I told Tamara Lanier, NAACP Vice-President, as much.  I know that I’m receiving this award because as a minister, my work is amplified by the respectability of my position.  I thank you for being persistent partners in the effort to dismantle racism and I will accept this honor (at the annual banquet on June 29) on your behalf, as well. 

Again, thank you for all you are doing on many fronts to live into a more just and equitable world.

With thanks and love for the journey we share,

Carolyn

 

The April 7 email sent to All Souls leaders:

 

Dear Board Members, GRACE Steering Committee, Religious Education Leadership, Worship Team, and past Board Presidents, 

As I am sure you are all aware, the Unitarian Universalist Association is moving through a deeply difficult time having to reckon with the ways of institutional racism within the UUA and indeed, within our local congregations.   

Although this crisis’ bedrock is deep and long standing, the chain of events that has transpired in the past two weeks has been fast moving. Leaders working in the international UU movement have curated a collection of documents that will bring you up to speed if you haven’t the time to wade through the deep waters and many documents that have been circulating.  The links appear in the paragraph that follows this letter. 

As All Souls leaders and dedicated Unitarian Universalists I am looking to you for your leadership in responding to questions that others who are less connected may have.  Please take time to read as much as you’re able.  

You may have heard that the Black Lives UU organizing collective (BLUU) has called for a denomination-wide teach-in on white supremacy within our congregations and national systems.   I am well aware – as are the BLUU leaders – that the term “white supremacy” is provocative and difficult for many.   We are being encouraged to think carefully about our responses to this term and indeed, this crisis and to look deep within ourselves and within our congregations to find the ways that we have fallen short in our pursuit of Beloved Community.  

All Souls will be participating in the teach-in on Sunday, April 23.   There will be one service at 10:00 a.m. and the teach-in will include the children and youth.  BLUU has provided resources to guide us in crafting a program that will best reflect All Souls’ needs within the larger context.

I will be reviewing these materials in the next day or two.  I am inviting whoever is interested to gather with me to craft All Souls’ teach in.   I am imagining 6 – 8 people.  We will sit down to vision and plan together on Wednesday, April 12 at 6:00 p.m. and then again on Wednesday, April 19 at 6:00 p.m.   If you’re interested in being part of the planning, please let me know.   

I am aware that the people of color among us will have different responses to this programming than will white folks.  We are mindful that this may especially be true for the children and youth of color.  Special care will be taken to deeply listen to any concerns that may emerge.  

In time and with tenacious work, All Souls and the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations of which we are a part will be better for having dealt directly with these questions of equity and justice.  Always, the time between now and that better day will be full of questions and uncertainty.  Of this we can be sure:  we are All Souls and we do not shy away from the hard stuff.

We shall not be moved, dear Souls.

So, read up, ask questions, and let me know if you’d like to be at the planning table on the 12th & 19th.   

With Love and hope,

Carolyn

From the Partner Church & International UUs:

If additional context would be helpful for you, please see the resignation letter and an accompanying response from the UUA's Senior Leadership. I urge you to see statements and communications from the Black Lives UU Organizing Collective, from UUA Board Member Christina Rivera, from Aisha Hauser, and from Diverse Revolutionary Unitarian Universalist Multicultural Ministries.