On February 4, 2018, Allegheny’s Get Woke/Stay Woke and the Worship Ministry answered the call from the Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism Organizing Collective (BLUU) to create a worship experience centering the voices of Unitarian Universalists of color from across the denomination.
Grateful to be part of a church that has been doing a lot of good things for years that BLUU has challenged Unitarian Universalists to do, like lifting voices of people of color in worship and actively engaging with local organizations that are run by people of color; we still remain vigilant to recognize, address, and heal from remnants of the legacy of White Supremacy that continue to live within the culture and structures of even this Beloved Community of spirit and engaged compassion.
Conscious of the characteristics of White Supremacy culture, our engagement with BLUU challenges and inspires us to live even more deeply into the Beloved Community we seek. Not content to tolerate diversity, we celebrate it. Not seeking to resolve conflict, we welcome it as a healthy sign of life. Not enduring messiness, we embrace the bless of mess. Not giving in to the urgency of now, we live into the deep presence of now. Not reacting with defensiveness, we respond to agitation and criticism with faithful curiosity. Not attending to measurables only, we revel in the immeasurable values of emotional intelligence, conscientious process, and radical inclusion. Not adjusted to hierarchical power, we collaborate and encourage all stakeholders to share in responsibility for leadership. Not relying on the myth of objectivity, we recognize that all of us need all of all of us and lean into learning from those with world views radically different than our own. Not resting in a presumed right to comfort, we are creatively inspired by discomfort to grow our soul.
We’re not looking to ply a new dogma. Nor are we given to the self-righteousness of perfectionism of those who announce themselves as enlightened. We know we will fail. And we commit to “fail forward.”
And so we become the change we seek in the world.
[published March 15, 2018]
A group of Unitarian Universalist leaders have asked our congregations to foster a deeper understanding of how White Supremacy and institutional racism intersect even within our UU institutions–like our congregations and the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) itself. Clearly, the UUA is not White Supremacist in philosophy or theology. But just as clearly, our history is full of assumptions and policies that carried notions of the supremacy of Northern European values and the natural inferiority of other “races.”
Part of healing from this legacy is listening–listening especially to UU People of Color who are our leaders– and taking seriously their admonitions. Even when–maybe especially when it makes some of us uncomfortable. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we chose the term “White Supremacy.” We knew it would make some of us squirm.
It’s serendipitous (which is, as I sometimes say, another word for “God”) that the spiritual focus for worship this month is “Freedom with Responsibility.” We are free from dogma, free to create the church that our neighborhood and world needs now. So we have to take responsibility for the church we build, our beliefs, and behaviors.
love church spiritual racism racial justice african american allegheny unitarian universalist church pittsburgh Rev. Tines preaching it from the pulpit at Allegheny–or what he affectionately calls “my UU church.”
For our congregation, taking responsibility by joining in the “White Supremacy Teach-In” is part of an ongoing work. Here’s the worship synopsis I wrote for Sunday, May 7, 2017, following on Rev. Deryck Tine’s powerful personal reflections the previous Sunday:
Taking responsibility for creating intentional community is extremely counter-cultural in our place and time. In response to Leaders of Color in the UUA encouraging all UUs to reflect on the institutional structures and legacy of White Supremacy, Rev Dave celebrates our annual Founders Sunday by exploring from his perspective the ways that spiritual community intentionally offers both comfort and affliction… and might just save humanity.
Following our May 7 worship, we continued exploring the damaging effects of toxic Whiteness and how to work through it to a place of compassionate and well-informed action during a specially re-scheduled “Stay Woke” gathering.
Some people refer to the Unitarian Universalist faith as “A Movement.” But of course it’s more. Sometimes we have to take a stand. We take many stands. But we don’t stay in one place. To do so would be to have a dead faith. In the words of the Ghanaian song Woyaya we sometimes sing, “We are going. Heaven knows where we are going. But we know within.”
See you in worship.
Always Love, Rev Dave
PS: Here are resources that have been provided by Black Lives of UU if you’d like to go deeper yourself.
PSS: If you have sympathy for this way of putting Unitarian Universalism into action, but some of this happens to be too far outside your comfort zone, let me leave you with words from James Baldwin: “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”
PSSS: Join “Get Woke Stay Woke” conversations and actions toward racial justice, regularly scheduled following Fellowship on the Second Sundays of the month.
[published May 6, 2017]