Outreach: Do they need us, or we them?

by AJ van Tine

From the Outreach Revolution Series: sign up to get shareable social media graphics, learning experiences, and join other UU outreachers like you.

The current social and political climate presents Unitarian Universalists with an opportunity, as well as a challenge. We are overwhelmed by the need to reach out to support those affected by recent racist, heterosexist, transphobic, and Islamophobic policies, and counter with our Unitarian Universalist message of radical love and beloved community. In times like these, how do we stay grounded in our core purposes for reaching out and not get swept up in the latest news cycle, as relevant as it may be. Why do Unitarian Universalists want to reach out?

girl looking out from door
Photo via Pixabay

One reason to reach out is to be loud about our values of love and justice – to evangelize. Evangelism isn’t about recruiting; it says that we have good news for the world, and that we should spread it! We have a truth to share because it may benefit others. Unitarian Universalism may not have a single creed that we want others to adopt, but we do have a message of hope. Our principles describe a vision of an equitable, peaceful, and justice-filled world. We can call this the “they need us” approach, although we know more accurately that they do not need you and me as individuals, but they need the message that we share.

On the other hand, there is a “we need them” approach. This is the seventh principle kind of “we need them.” More than the practical logic that we can accomplish more together than separately, it is the recognition that we have always been inherently interconnected to one another. When we try to achieve our vision of diverse and equitable community with only the people we already know, through networks and methods we are already familiar with, we fall short that very vision which calls us on. The act of outreach is not merely a means to the beloved community, but it is actively how we create it.

Of course, the truth is that these two approaches are not opposites. They are deeply intertwined aspects of outreach. I strongly believe Unitarian Universalism proclaims a saving message that our country is in dire need of today.  If we are to stay true to the content of this message and spread it far and wide, we have to be on guard against talking only to ourselves. Opening our hearts and doors to create vibrant relationships with new people and their communities is both the method and the message.

This isn’t easy. It requires being brave and putting ourselves out there and being vulnerable, and we always want to articulate our message as clearly and powerfully as possible. The good news is you are not left on your own! Here are some social media graphics you can use to spread the good word.

Why outreach? Because it is by building relationships and diverse community that we can transform ourselves and the world. If it is true that we should be the change we wish to see in the world, then our congregations can start the process by practicing radical hospitality within our walls and by preaching love outward into the larger society.

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AJ van TineAJ van Tine is a field education student completing an internship at the UUA. He is a lifelong Unitarian Universalist from Virginia with an aspiration for ministry, and in his second year at Harvard Divinity School. He lives in Cambridge, MA with his wife Ada, who is also a lifelong Unitarian Universalist.

More Like a Marathon than a Sprint

From the Outreach Revolution Series: sign up to get shareable social media graphics, learning experiences, and join other UU outreachers like you.

Growth isn’t always about numbers and getting more people in the door, as has been the premise of this blog all along.  But there’s no denying that the act of growing Unitarian Universalism will always require us to focus outward while simultaneously nurturing capacity and spirit inward.  As more UUs ramp up the exercise of living their values in the political world, the Rev. Dr. James Kubal-Komoto shares the results of some studies that will train us for a marathon.

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Unitarian Universalists by the hundreds and perhaps by the thousands participated in the Women’s March in Washington, D.C., and in sister marches in cities across the United States to stand up for our shared values of compassion and justice for all people. I suspect this was the largest Unitarian Universalist public witness since the 1963 March on Washington. A weekend later, Unitarian Universalists across the country participated in demonstrations again at our nation’s airports.

Will this level of participation continue in the weeks, months, and years ahead, or will it fizzle? It may depend on three things:

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Don’t Panic! The 4×4 Outreach Plan

Overheard by a Unitarian Universalist congregational lay leader recently: “I know Americans are going to church less, all the ‘spiritual but not religious’ stuff, but I’m not sure what to do about it. How are we supposed to respond, how can my congregation adapt? How do we reach out with our saving message? Where do we start?“

calming-manatee-memeDon’t panic, dedicated UU leader! Hopefully, you already know there are lots of guides, curricula, videos, templates, tools and resources to help you do better outreach, available through the UUA at uua.org/outreach. But for most congregational leaders I know, especially volunteer leaders, it’s a lot to digest. Integrating social science research, theological reflection, event planning and Facebook posting into a single overarching strategy is a lot of work when you’re just trying to keep things running week to week. I totally understand.

So we’ve created the 4×4 plan for outreach in your congregation. The 4×4 Plan is a simple, easy and low-cost way to help your community connect with your congregation, integrating all those tips and suggestions into four basic steps. If you don’t know where to start with outreach, start here!

4x4 planThe 4×4 Plan
In one year, the 4×4 Plan asks you to do the following four things in your congregation. They don’t need to be done by one person – in fact, it’s better to spread the joy around! But two or three dedicated folks can knock this out if they want to help their congregation reach out in love. Are you ready? Here they are:

  1. Conversations – Talk to four people in your community (other faith leaders, community leaders, friends, local business owners, etc.) to get some feedback about your congregation. Take them to coffee, ask them what do they know about your congregation? What niche could you help fill in the community? This is the beginning of mapping user experiences, it will give you a valuable outside perspective, and it helps build your network in the neighborhood.
  2. Opportunities – Offer four “entry point” opportunities for people to get to know your congregation. Typically not on Sunday morning, entry points can be events, programs, speakers, concerts, forums, book clubs, play dates or classes. Make sure they connect to your congregation’s mission, and they pass the “friend test” – you’d be willing to invite your non-UU friend.
  3. Content – Create four pieces of original content which can be shared online that relate the life and mission of your congregation to something going on the world. Write a letter to the editor or a blog post, create a shareable holiday image or a short video, put up a piece of art on your front lawn and tell the world on social media. Get creative! Make it something you are excited to share.
  4. Promotion – For each of those opportunities and content pieces, promote them in four different ways. Example – for a community workshop for parents, you could email info to community partner groups, boost a Facebook post for $10, put up flyers at local day care centers and coffee shops, and add it to your local weekly newspaper’s calendar.

Now, while I can’t guarantee that using the 4×4 will instantly generate a flood of new members for your congregation, I can promise you will learn a great deal about how to reach out and make new connections in your community. Give it a try! And if you do, be sure to let us know how it goes in the comments section below. Or email us at outreach@uua.org, we’d love to add a postscript to this post with some stories.

How to Find Your New Best Friends – Outreach Entry Points

I bet your congregation changes lives. That’s why you keep coming back, right? So if it’s true that your congregation has something amazing to offer, how do people get to know about it, and how do they get connected?

doorwayWe know how people find out about Unitarian Universalism. They stumble across our awesome websites, they see our fabulous blog posts, they hear about our justice work in the news. Every day, I help congregations use social media, branding and other communications tools to reach new audiences. But once those new people find out about you, what happens next? How do you translate that awareness into longer-term engagement?

Entry points are a great way to introduce your congregation to new people and help them learn how to get involved. Think of an entry point as doorway into the life of your congregation. In the past, simply inviting someone to visit next Sunday might have been enough. But today, as Americans are becoming less religious, we need more ways to connect with our community that don’t feel so church-y up front. Give folks a chance to see what your congregation has to offer before they take what can feel like a big step – showing up for Sunday services.

An entry point can be any activity, program, event or opportunity where you invite new people to connect with your congregation. Here are a few key features of successful entry points:

bite sized missionBite-sized mission – Entry point opportunities should be explicitly connected to the life and purpose of your congregation. Lots of churches host yoga classes, day care programs and recovery groups, and those are all really important. But if you can’t say clearly WHY an event is a core part of your congregation’s mission, then it doesn’t work as a true entry point, and it’s just a nice but unrelated event.

friend testPass the “Friend Test”  – Would you invite your friend who is not a UU? If not, your entry point opportunity has failed the “Friend Test.” Your entry point could be too insider-y (the weekly Women’s Circle that’s met for the past 20 years) or too high commitment (a ten-week adult faith development class). You want someone who is not currently “church shopping” to feel excited to come.

Probably not Sunday morning – Though most congregations have a welcome script during Sunday worship services, the focus on visitors often stops there. For visitors, going to religious education classes can be confusing, coffee hour can be clique-y, and joys & concerns can run long. So it’s usually better to create entry points where the visitor experience is central to the design and planning (and they don’t even have to be in your building, like doing a park cleanup!). Special Sundays can be decent entry points, like an all-ages holiday service, if they are planned and advertised well.

Once you’ve got an entry point planned, promote the heck out of it! Whenever I talk to congregations that are planning to spend money on advertising or direct mail, (and I hope more do!) I always tell them to include an invitation to an entry point event. This gives you a reason to reach out, a call to action, instead of just saying “hey, we exist!” At the UUA, we’re actually working on a promotional toolkit for congregations, hopefully to be released fall 2016, so stay tuned.

Here are some examples of super cool entry points:

  • Seedy Saturday, annual event to celebrate and learn about gardening and environmental issues (Unitarian Congregation in Mississauga, ON)
  • Luna Rising, community celebration of women and girls (UU Church of Charlotte, NC)
  • Hogwarts/CampUU, Harry Potter-themed summer camp for ages 6-11 (First UU Church of Austin, TX)
  • For the Love of Tiny Houses, showcase of the tiny house movement as a response to the lack of affordable housing (UU Fellowship of Redwood City, CA)
  • Play GroUUp, weekly gathering of toddlers and parents (UU Congregation of Las Vegas, NV)

Remember, entry points can be really valuable for current members as well. All these examples listed here involved members of the host congregation. If you think about the Spectrum of Faithful Relationship, events and activities planned for folks on the left side of the spectrum (your fans and friends) can appeal to those on the right side (your core members and leaders). But it doesn’t work the other way around; events planned for congregational leaders have a much narrower audience.

My final piece of advice for congregations planning entry point opportunities – always have a “next ask,” or an upcoming event you can invite people to. This gives you a reason to collect email addresses and follow up with attendees, one of the best ways to build trust and engagement. Make sure your follow-up event is connected to the theme your entry point event, which shows that you take your congregation’s mission seriously. For example, if you do a panel on the tiny house movement, then do a tiny house tour two months later (good job, UU Fellowship of Redwood City!).

So get out there, start scheduling entry point opportunities! Get the word out, have fun, and collect some email addresses. Got great ideas for entry points from reading this post? Add them to the comments below.

Six Key Mistakes for Recruiting Volunteers in Your Congregation

Volunteering-SVG-800pxThe following article was translated from an article from Thom S. Rainer, a Christian growth strategist called Six Terrible Ways to Recruit Ministry Volunteers in Your Church.

The following are examples of what NOT to do:

  • Make a general announcement that you need someone: You will likely get the folks who already do too much, or folks who have no skills in the area where you need the help.
  • Wait until the last minute: When folks are asked without proper lead-time, it makes the project seem unimportant. Your volunteers can feel overwhelmed, undervalued, or even feel like asking them was an afterthought. We want to show how we value the work and the volunteers.
  • Ignore unique gifts and abilities: People have different schedules, skills, and interests. If someone is put in a position that doesn’t work for who they are, no one wins. Your volunteer might quit because they can’t actually follow through or they might just do a terrible job.
  • Pour on the guilt: Doing the work of our faith can bring people fulfillment and joy! But if they are only doing it because they felt guilty about turning you down, they will likely feel angry, frustrated, and burned-out.
  • Don’t follow up: Not checking in later can make it seem like you were just filling spots on chore chart. Mark your calendar to check in after the first month, and then again at three and six months. Ask how they are doing and what they need? Your volunteers will feel so appreciated and valued!
  • Forget the spiritual: As religious leaders, we don’t want to leave out the spiritual discernment involved with filling our volunteer positions. Take some time to pray or meditate about your people and your programs. It can really help you with clarity.

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red door sarah2 (1)The Rev. Sarah Schurr serves the Pacific Western Region of the UUA as Congregational Life Staff.  Sarah has years of experience working with small congregations who rely heavily on volunteers. In addition to her small church expertise, she works closely with ministerial transitions in the region.

Spiritual, But Not Religious, My Hindquarters!

blog pictBoston, we have a problem. We UU’s are part of a religious movement that can’t seem to embrace religious ritual.

 

Yeah, we execute events and programs like Coming of Age, and Bridging, and the occasional holiday service, but when it comes to spiritual practice, we have some serious deficiencies. Don’t believe me? Well, here’s the proof:

 

Last December, I organized and presented a webinar for religious professionals called “Sunday Morning Best Practices.” In preparation for this webinar, I interviewed eight demographically different congregations from around the country, from Alaska to NY to Florida and places in between, to identify the hallmark attributes of thriving congregational youth programs. Through these interviews, I was able to pinpoint nine positive characteristics of healthy youth programs in a UU context. Aspects like topical flexibility, a commitment to faith in action work, and a youth program woven into the larger ministry of the church were identified and reported in the webinar.

 

But, sadly—and it broke my heart of hearts, there was also one glaring absence. None of the eight congregations regularly engaged in spiritual practice when their youth gathered. Not one.

 

Let me be clear, when I refer to spiritual practice, I am referring to exercises which help us connect with the holy, go deeper, and / or provide us with a reflective experience that transcends the ordinary. Meditation, prayer, mantra, yoga, lectio divina, examen, etc. are examples of practices of this sort.

 

And you may be wondering, “So what? Why should we commit to endeavors of this sort?”

 

For starters, religious ritual and related spiritual practices, are the only offerings that our religious institutions have to contribute that the wider world cannot. Though worthy and worthwhile, philos-political discussions and forays into social action, which are each enterprises that are heavily emphasized in our congregations, are both activities that can be regularly and easily accessed through secular channels.

 

Secondly, when youth exit our religious education programs, will they be equipped with the much needed skills and tools to navigate a complex, and arduous life? Where will their spirit go when they lose a loved one? How will they cope with the losses that life inevitably serves up? What internal space(s) will they access when they experience a transcendent moment? With what methods will they express deep remorse, or gratitude?

 

Ever wondered why so many of our youth don’t return to Unitarian Universalism after bridging? Why we are in constant triage mode in regards to our young adults? I believe firmly that it is because they leave our churches lacking these most critical tools, and also without the religious identity that they indelibly impart upon the user. Spiritual practice is an expression of salvation in this life, and it calls us home.

 

And let’s be clear. Our youth groups are exceptional microcosms of the larger congregation within which they reside. If the congregation is squeamish about spiritual practice, or religious language, or (insert characteristic here), you better believe the youth group will very accurately personify those very qualities. This holds true for positive attributes, too, like commitment to justice, an emphasis on inclusivity, and upholding the search for meaning.

 

So where do we go from here? I recommend that we begin a conversation about how we might intentionally incorporate and embrace spiritual practice in each and every space that UU’s gather. Whether it is a Sunday service, or a meeting of the Board, there should be a purposeful element that reminds us, as Parker Palmer asserts, “That spirit is at the center.” These are religious undertakings, and we are called to be our highest, best selves throughout their span.

 

In my work and to this end, I have put together a multigenerational event this September 23-25th in Portland, Oregon, called the Youth Ministry Revival with the theme of “Engaging Spiritual Practice.” About 80-100 youth and adult teams from congregations around the country will explore how we may more deeply connect to the divine—internally, interpersonally, and community wide, through the art of practice. These teams will be charged with bringing back new tools, skills, and learning, not just to their youth groups, but to their entire congregation. Perhaps you will join us?

 

 

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Bliss photoEric Bliss is the Youth Ministry Specialist and Congregational Life Staff of the Pacific Western Region of the UUA. Aside from his Youth Ministry Specialist duties, Eric is currently a member of the Fahs Collaborative Guiding Team and is on the UUA Youth Ministry Roundtable.  He is the loving father of two beautiful boys, named Hollis and Ozwell, is an avid soccer fan and coach, loves skateboarding, playing guitar, and exploring the outdoors.

 

Commissioning: Called to Care

 

At First Church in Sterling, we trained 18 folks to be members of our “Called to Care” team (a training created by the UCC). When their training was completed, I had a private ceremony for the team, touching them each on the forehead with water to use their gifts for blessing the world. In our public worship service, I used the following words to commission them, and anointed their hands with oil.

Commissioning

 

Commissioning of Call to Care Team

 

 

Robin: I ask the members of the Called to Care Team to come forward and stand at the front of the church.

 

There are many ways that together we provide pastoral care here, because as just one person, I can’t do it all. And so we must always widen our circle of caring, if we are to make it possible to care for our over 300 members and friends with focused pastoral attention. We are called to love one another, and so the pastoral ministry of this church is not in my hands, but in ALL of our hands.

 

And so we have Debbie Gline Allen, our minister for children, youth and families. We have the diaconate who have monthly caregivers on duty headed up by Carol Hoffman, and our meals ministry headed up by Paula Fogerty. All of these groups are a part of the Diaconate, which is chaired by Head Deacon Roy Lane. We have small groups like Aging Gracefully, and our young adult group, and our women’s fellowship, and our youth fellowship. We have a welcoming team for our newest members and visitors. We have a knitting group that makes prayer shawls. And so much more.

 

And today we commission our new Called to Care Team, also a ministry of the Diaconate, and an extension of the pastoral ministry of your professional ministry team.

 

Along with myself, Sherri Direda and Dave Russo are the leaders and trainers of the Call to Care team. The team consists of: Vicki Gaw, who coordinates our activities, Judy Doherty, Judy Conway, Barb Dumont, Clyde Hager, Vern Gaw, Marianne Powers, Jan Patten, Robin Harper, Liz Salo, Carol Hoffman, Cathie Martin, Heather Cline, (Ronna Davis) and Toby O’Reilly.

 

The Called to Care team works very closely with me. They went through several hours of training and mentoring this year by me, Dave Russo, a pastoral psychotherapist and deacon, and Sherri Direda, a licensed social worker and clinician, to learn how to provide one-on-one, confidential pastoral and spiritual care. They will continue to meet monthly with their training team for advising and continuing education. They take this commitment seriously.

 

Dave: There are many reasons why you might want to talk to a lay minister from our Called to Care team. Some reasons include major life transitions like the death of a loved one, divorce, job loss, financial strain, and chronic or terminal illness. Other reasons might be that you are seeking someone to have conversations about spirituality, or that you are continuing to struggle with a longstanding circumstance, or maybe you just want a soul friend, a friend who can listen, ask meaningful questions, and care for your spirit in a unique and gentle way.

 

Lay ministers provide a listening, caring space for reflection about your emotional and spiritual journey. Each of these people were chosen or recommended because of their long-term commitment to our ministries, and their particular ability to listen and to be present. This is their ministry.

 

Let us now commission the Called to Care team in their role as spiritual leaders and listeners.

 

We ask,

 

Friends, are you committed to offering and encouraging pastoral care within this congregation?

 

Will you lead by example in your actions and in your words, in your pastoral prayers and in your personal spiritual life?

 

Will you reach out to those in need, with open minds and open hearts, seeking always to be a healing presence: God’s hands and feet in the world?

 

If so, please say “I will, with the help of God.”

 

Robin: Congregation, will you place your trust in these people?

 

Will you allow yourself, even push yourself, to ask for their care, and to receive their care?

 

Will you honor them with the role and responsibilities of lay ministry?

If so, please answer, “We will.”

 

Robin: In response to, and as a sign of, this affirmation of your call to service I follow the ancient tradition of anointing you with oil that has been blessed in the name of God: in the name of all that is beautiful, true, and good. As this oil absorbs into your skin, may you absorb into your soul all the love and good wishes which surround you in this moment. Let it be an outward reminder of God, who calls you to this work.

 

“May you remember that your hands are God’s hands to those who need your care.”

 

Amen.

 

Called to Care team: We thank you for your faith in us, and vow to do our best to live up to the charge you have given us. We promise, also, to remember that the ultimate responsibility for our church lies with all of us, for this is our home, our community. May we all do what we can to make this a community where we are gathered in the spirit of Jesus, and where we endeavor to create heaven here on earth.

 

Amen.

 

Photo credit: Linda M. Davis.
Photo credit: Linda M. Davis.

 

Robin preaching
Photo credit: Linda M. Davis.

Robin Bartlett is the pastor of a progressive Universalist Christian multi-denominational church that includes, but is not limited to, the UUA in Sterling, MA. She was born, raised and ordained UU and has dual standing in the UCC. Robin firmly believes that every thing, every one and every event deserves a blessing.

I Reach Out to You; Will You Reach Out to Me?

The Unitarian Universalist Church of Delaware County in Media, Pennsylvania, has become a place where “everyone in the congregation feels empowered,” says Jody Malloy, a member of the church’s executive team. It's just one of the reasons Delaware County was named a 2016 Unitarian Universalist Association "Breakthrough Congregation."
Photo from UUWorld article on The Unitarian Universalist Church of Delaware County in Media, Pennsylvania, which was named a 2016 Unitarian Universalist Association “Breakthrough Congregation.”

One could be overwhelmed with the sadness and the violence that is all around us. I can only imagine what it must be like for others who have experienced it first hand. What can Unitarian Universalists do to fight against the hate that is going on in the world today? I think a lot of the hate is born out of oppression. It leaves people feeling powerless and desperate, with nowhere to turn. Hate is invited in when you are oppressed, unloved and have little to loose. What I suggest is, love. We need to radicalize love.

 

Where do we begin? It seems to me that the only place we can begin is with our own hearts. I must begin with myself. Am I willing to allow love into my heart? Am I willing to look at creation lovingly?   Am I willing to manifest more love in the world? When I fail to be as loving as I should be, am I willing to forgive myself? Am I willing to forgive others? Can I set loving boundaries around behaviors that I find draining or destructive? Can I remain firm, yet act lovingly as I set healthy boundaries?

 

How might radicalized love help me to be in deeper community? It is in community that we will have our greatest impact. I am not talking about a community of like-minded people, or a social club, or a discussion group. I am talking about full mind, body and soul community.

 

Dr. King’s Beloved Community is a global vision, in which all people can share in the wealth of the earth. In the Beloved Community, poverty, hunger and homelessness will not be tolerated because international standards of human decency will not allow it. Racism and all forms of discrimination, bigotry and prejudice will be replaced by an all-inclusive spirit of sisterhood and brotherhood. In the Beloved Community, international disputes will be resolved by peaceful conflict-resolution and reconciliation of adversaries, instead of military power. Love and trust will triumph over fear and hatred. Peace with justice will prevail over war and military conflict. This is beautiful and it seems to be so far away.

 

I went on line and looked up The Beloved Community. I found a wealth of information. Josiah Royce is quoted, as is Dr. King. There are sermons from all across our Association. It is compared to The Kingdom of God, Utopia, Nirvana and the harmony of all life. We say that we are growing Beloved Community but it is easy to mistake a community where I am comfortable for Beloved Community. A community that is merely comfortable for those already there runs the risk of being the walled city on the hill.

 

Dr. King’s Beloved Community is a global vision. We cannot get there in small pockets. Therefore, the Beloved Community cannot happen merely inside a congregation. Inside the congregation is where we are fed so that we can carry out the real work in the real world. Inside the congregation is where we practice the loving promise – our covenant. Inside the congregation is where we are challenged to become, and become and become yet again. Inside the congregation is where we can lay our burden down for a moment and find comfort, but only for a moment. We must go out into the world and love there too. Our congregations do not exist in isolation. Our congregations exist in this world, this imperfect human world. This imperfect world where basic needs go unmet. This imperfect human world where oppression is the water in which we swim.

 

In this world of imperfection, what can we hope for? What is to be done? How can we make a difference? Where do we begin? What can we change? Again, we begin with ourselves, as we are. We begin with a change of heart. I reach out to you; will you reach out to me?

 

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ConnieConnie Goodbread is a credentialed Director of Religious Education, has held every lay congregational leadership roll you can imagine and has served our UUA in Northern New England, St Lawrence, Florida and Mid-South Districts – all while living in Palm Harbor Florida.  The commute was amazing.

 

That’s Camp. That’s Church. That’s faith.

quuest-indoorsLast week I was the only adult of color on a 16+ person staff for QUUest church camp in CO. There were 14 youth of color at high school camp.

 

Being the only staff Person Of Color (POC) during this week of violence, protest, and grief was the toughest challenge of my professional life.

 

I’ll say this: The choice between white fragility and solidarity really matters.

 

We had 14 young people of color who were terrified that they or family members or friends might be the next hashtag, and we had folks who seemed more concerned about the camp schedule/their idea of what camp ought to be.

 

The POC high schoolers spent a lot of time in POC-only space last week. It was hard and healing.

 

At first the group feared gathering. It’s unusual for them to be around other POC, and they worried about dividing the camp. Quickly they saw that it was most important for them to *take care of themselves* and be in community. They ate, laughed, grieved and sang–together.

 

They got close not just through mourning Philando Castile and Alton Sterling and the officers in Dallas, but through seeing that they are not alone. It was life-changing, life-affirming space. They found and made home.

 

I was the lone adult POC supporting them. Luckily several of our white adult/youth staff members helped. Predictably, that wasn’t true of everyone.

 

As the schedule kept changing, as tragedy and need to process kept “getting in the way,” though several were supportive and helped the schedule shift, some folks expressed frustration–with me, with the prospect of losing camp traditions, with the POC-only space, and more.

 

I badly want white UUs and other progressive folks to know and see that carrying out white supremacy isn’t always obvious. It can look like never asking “How can I help?” or “How are you holding up?” It can be never asking “I wonder how this black person is handling two black persons’ murders.”

 

It looks like responding to a white person’s statement of “next year Kenny can’t be the only POC on staff” with “beware of affirmative action,” like there aren’t fifty other wonderful religious professionals/young adults of color we couldn’t pay and have join us.

 

If you take nothing else from this status, take this:

 

I’ve attended camp since I was four. It means eeeeeverything to me. We can get stuck on whether to sing Rocky Raccoon or I Wanna Linger at Bridging, or whether it’s Good Friends or Dear Friends (it’s obviously Good Friends ‪#‎SWD4lyfe) or whether moving talent show/coffeehouse back a night messes up the flow of camp, or who knows what else. I say this as someone who *loves* traditions.

 

Camp, and church, and faith, are about showing up for people when they need us. It’s about finding compassion even through our frustration. It’s about loving hard and saying “how can I help?” It’s about letting people cry and weep and holding them as they do.

 

I barely made it through this week, friends.

 

I called and texted UU adult POC like Elizabeth Nguyen (UUA’s Leadership Development Associate for Youth and Young Adults of Color) and Jamil Scott (Director of Religious Education serving First Unitarian Society of Denver) in tears over and over because I didn’t think I could be what the youth of color needed and because the killings brought such grief.

 

Alicia Forde (UUA’s Professional Development Director) drove two hours on one night’s notice to spend Friday with us so I wouldn’t be alone and so the youth could be with a minister who shared their experience.

 

That’s camp. That’s church. That’s faith.

 

If we’re not doing that for each other–supporting others when we’re less directly affected, and sitting together in hard times, and driving or moving to be there for each other–then I have to ask: what’s the rest of it even for?

 

I fail at this all the time. I’ll fail at this tomorrow no doubt. It’s hard work. But it’s worth it.

 

To my UU and human families: I love you. To my POC UU fam: as we’ve said and sung to/with each other so many times this summer, I need you to survive.

 

May we demand more of one another, be kinder to one another, and remember why we gather.

 

_________________________

SONY DSC
SONY DSC

Kenny Wiley is a UU World senior editor and director of faith formation at Prairie Unitarian Universalist Church in Parker, Colorado. His writing has also appeared in the Boston Globe, the Houston Chronicle, and Skyd Magazine.

Sophia Fahs Sunday 2016

SFS meme 1[1]So many of us are longing to be a part of an authentic multigenerational community. A place where children, youth, adults, and elders share, learn, worship and grow together. We believe one of the most important ways to build multigenerational community is through worship.

Sophia Fahs Sunday 2016 Here Together: Developing Multigenerational Communities Through Worship is a resource that is free online for you and your community. It is a video course on all the aspects of planning, creating, and celebrating worship to include everyone!

The Fahs Collaborative brought together a team of musicians, ministers,and religious educators to create a “best practices” learning course, to help you create great, multigenerational worship. This includes videos, resources, reflection questions, and music. Sophia Fahs Sunday highlights multicultural diversity, multiple learning styles, and the best of what we know about faith development.

Watch the videos on your own, or invite your team of planners to watch the videos together and discuss them together. It’s all about Collaboration!

Find Sophia Fahs Sunday 2016 Here Together: Developing Multigenerational Communities Through Worship and information on other Fahs Collaborative projects here.

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