We’ve been reflecting on the shift that just happened at Justice GA. So many are reporting a difference. As a faith tradition, we seemed to have gone through a collective growth spurt. This is the third in a 4-part series featuring examples of how we experienced and observed health and transformation.
Incarnational/ Faith in Action
Check out the video: Thousands of Unitarian Universalists protest Sheriff Arpaio’s ‘Tent City’ jail
When I work with a congregation on growth I will often ask them, how do people outside know you’re Unitarian Universalist? take a moment and think how you would answer that.
For those of you who have never been to Phoenix in late June, let me tell you. It is hot. Really hot. Three digits hot. The City of Phoenix set up a water cart on the street outside the convention center where city workers in nice, orange polo shirts handed out fresh, cool water and constantly reminded us to stay hydrated. I found this so welcoming and caring that I stopped to tell one of them.
“It’s a pleasure! We’re so glad you’re here.” The sincerity with which he declared this caught me off guard.
“You are? We’re Unitarian Universalists. Do you know who we are?”
“Oh yes! I looked you up. I know what you’re about.” He put a hand on my shoulder, looked me straight in the eyes, and continued, “I know who you are. I’m really glad you’re here. It makes a difference. You make a difference for me.”
Yes, I invited him to church on Sunday to hear Rev. John Crestwell’s message. And every time we saw each other we’ve wave and say, “see you on Sunday!”
- If you asked a random person on the streets of your town what difference the Unitarian Universalists make in your town, what do you think the answer would be?
- What keeps you from inviting people you meet throughout the day to your religious community?
I bought a soda from one of the food court eateries in the convention center. The woman behind the counter noticed my empty water bottle and cheerfully offered to fill it with ice and fresh water.
“It’s so important to stay hydrated out there!”
“I can’t get over how nice and hospitable people of Phoenix are! What is your secret?”
She laughed. “I think most of us come from somewhere else, and we remember what it’s like to be new to a place. We want you to feel like you’re welcome, like you could stay.”
“Thank you. I will take that with me.”
- What does it say about your religious community from the manner in which you welcome visitors?
- Remember back to the moment you first walked through the doors of a Unitarian Universalist congregation. What would have made a positive difference to you in the way you were or were not welcomed? What can you do to better welcome the visitor, the pilgrim?
I bought a t-shirt from the Puente Movement that said, “Arrest Arpaio, Not the People.” And I wore it to the airport. Through security. I have to admit, I really wasn’t thinking about the consequences, and that is part of my white privilege and responsibility. One agent from the Transportation Security Administration stared at my shirt, and brought me into the reality of Arizona and other places. The TSA agent who looked at my id glanced at my shirt and then quietly leaned in toward me.
“Are you one of the Yellow Shirts?” I gulped.
“Yes, I am.” I stood a little straighter.
She almost whispered, “Thank you for coming and being here. It makes a difference. A lot of us are too scared to say anything.”
“We’ll keep coming back, m’am.” Our eyes locking. We nodded to each other as I moved on through.
- How do you wear shirts or make statements that others might not be able to, because your privilege allows it and demands it?
- How do you show up for people who are too afraid to show up themselves?
- How do your partners in your community know that you are Unitarian Universalist by your actions?
Those are some examples. How else did you experience and/or observe growth spurts at General Assembly? Please share your thoughts in the comments and include your name and congregation.