Now that July is here my Sabbatical technically has come to an end. However, I’ll still be away from UUFA on Sunday mornings and from other routine activities during July while I plan and prepare for the upcoming program year. During this Study Leave time I’ve already scheduled a number of meetings to learn what happened during my absence and what UUFA’s needs might be going forward. Because of the wonderfully energizing Sabbatical time away I feel ready to jump back into the regular business of ministry at UUFA.
Planning for the upcoming year was kicked off by my attendance at the Unitarian Universalist Association’s (UUA) annual General Assembly (GA), this year in New Orleans. I was joined by UUFA members Karen and Lee Cornell, Karen Solheim, and Susie Weller. As you’ll hear from them during the service on July 16, this was an unusual GA. It was inwardly focused on how our association, congregations, and we as individuals perpetuate white cultural dominance and how that threatens our becoming a truly multiracial religious organization.
During the professional Ministry Days which preceded GA I heard several ministers of color share painful experiences in Unitarian Universalist circumstances. They revealed times they had been discriminated against during ministerial training and the difficulty of leading mostly white congregations when they managed to be called to one. They identified ways well-meaning white colleagues and congregants unintentionally diminished their own non-white culture. One Latina said she felt she had to leave her body outside the door because a full-bodied religious experience was frowned upon. One African-American said he felt awkward being the only one to interact with the UU preacher by shouting out affirmations. White culture in our congregations generally discourages such non-white norms from becoming UU norms.
It was painful for me to hear and acknowledge the truth of their stories. Those of us who identify as white, as I do, are being challenged to accept the truth of the experiences and feelings of people of color. For me to deny their truths would be my attempting to be the one in power who gets to decide what is true and what isn’t. That’s white dominance, or supremacy, at play.
These issues were raised at GA because a recent hiring event which may have given preference to a white male over other candidates, which was then followed by the resignation of UU President Peter Morales, brought the issue forward. Decentering whiteness and the impact of white supremacy then became the focus of GA.
As UUFA’s program year proceeds, we’ll be exploring these issues more deeply. My brief summary of the 2017 GA and the deeply spiritual work it calls us to do only scratches the surface of the self-examination required. The difficult work we began at GA will continue to be challenging. But we do this because we value racial equality and the work must begin with ourselves. I look forward to the spiritual journey we’ll take together.
Be well, Rev. Alison
For earlier Sabbatical Road posts follow the links below.