Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Worship in April 2018


The metaphor/image for the month of April is “Blooming Flowers.”  This is the beginning of our spring season when we consider questions of purpose.


IN THE SANCTUARY

April 1:  A Rite of Spring
No fooling -- On this morning when our Christian brothers and sisters celebrate Easter, we will have our annual “Rite of Spring” service of words, sounds, and images, to help us consider all of the “spring-inspired” truths our human kin have found and that we, and our world, so desperately need to hear.  [The TJMC Choir will be singing.]
April 8:  Divine and Nature
Is all of nature sacred?  Is there a God that is expressed in nature?  Are we to find inspiration and comfort in nature?  How do we make sense of natural events that cause human suffering?  These questions and more will be explored by Rev. Alex McGee, with Wendy Repass as worship weaver.

April 15:  How Do You Want to Bloom Here?
What does it mean to call ourselves a “member” of this congregation?  What can we expect from one another (and what can the community expect from you)?  How can your engaged participation nurture your best self and help you to truly bloom?  Rev. Wik and Jeanine Braithwaite will facilitate this exploration of these questions.  [The TJMC Choir will be singing, and the Social Action Collection will be in support of BRAAF – Blue Ridge Abortion Assistance Fund.]

April 22:  Flower Communion
Created in 1923 by the Rev. Norbert Capek for the congregation he served in Czechoslovakia, the “flower communion” was brought to the United States by Capek’s wife, Maja.  It has since become a regular celebration in many Unitarian Universalist congregations across the country.  Please bring a flower with you – one picked from your garden or along your path is great!  We will then take these separate flowers and create one boquet, as we create together one community.  At the end of the service we will each be invited to take a flower home with us, just as we each carry a part of this community with us wherever we go.  Rev. Wik and Lorie Craddock will weave this worship.  [The Children’s Choir will be singing.]

April 29:  Where Did We Come From, And Where Might We Be Going?
Postponed from a month ago, this morning we will celebrate the founding of our congregation 75 years ago with a four-line classified ad in The Daily Progress.  Over those years this faith community has been tested, and triumphed many times over.  There is so much to celebrate in the story of how we got to be who we are, and within this story are pointers toward where we might go in the future.  Rev. Wik and Wendy Repass will facilitate this time of remembrance and hope.  [The TJMC Choir will be singing.]



COMPLEMENTARY WORSHIP EXPERIENCES

There is also be Children's Chapel in the church parlor each Sunday at the same time as there is Worship in the sanctuary.  The two are very different in form and "feel," yet both are moving and can be powerful.  If you've never been to one or the other, you should try it out one week and see what you've been missing.

The UU Christian Fellowship meets holds its services on the 2nd Sunday (at 10:00am) and the 4th Thursday (at 7:00pm) each month.  (The UUCF is a welcoming place to explore Christianity and the life and teachings of Jesus in a liberal, open-minded, and non-dogmatic context.)

The Clear Spring Buddhist Sangha meets for zazen meditation and conversation each Wednesday evening at 7:00pm.  (All are welcome, regardless of prior experience.)

Each Wednesday at 11:30 there is contemplative worship for a time of renewal mid-week.  Participants can walk the labyrinth, stack stones under the oak tree outside the social hall, linger in the Memorial Garden, or sit in the sanctuary for a time of reflection, meditation, lighting Candles of Hope and Remembrance, writing in the Sands of Forgiveness and Atonement, journaling, or simply being silent and at peace.


Tuesday, March 20, 2018

How Should We Respond?

Following the public Congregational Listening Circle on Monday, March 19, 2018, Rob Criaghurst offered these thoughts.

The purpose of The Talk of TJMC is to provide a place for congregants to have a place to share their thoughts about things we, as a congregation, should be talking about.  It provides a forum that is longer than a Facebook post, and more public than an email.  If you have something to say, and think that this is the right place to say it, please send your piece to revwik@uucharlottesville.org.


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It strikes me that the nature of our conversation around the letter to Christina is distorted because of one simple thing.  The letter was not signed.  It was anonymous.  The result has been a maelstrom of conjectures about the writer mixed in with a healthy dose of UU angst and guilt.  I see a lot of flailing in the dark (including me).  Sadly, the path I see some people—including leaders in the church—follow doesn’t line up with my UU values.

But maybe there is a better, clearer path.  To find it, however, instead of asking, “How should I (or the church) respond to this letter?” I ask a different question, because sometimes answering a different question sheds light on how to answer the first question. 

The second question is, “What if the letter had been signed?”  What if we all knew who wrote the letter?  Then I think our path would have been very different.  It would have been a question of “How do we embrace this person, while at the same time repulsed by his/her action?”  The conversation would be full of conflict and angst, still.  But the requirements of our journey would be much clearer.  We would need to engage with that person.  We would engage with each other on how we engage with that person.  We would introspect, UU-style, on how we engage with each other, etc. ad nauseum.  (We can’t help it.  We’re UU’s.)   But the goal of our engagements would be love.  Not excommunication.   Not condemnation. 

I believe the conversation would be VERY different if we were engaging with a real, identified person.  So, shouldn’t the answer to the first question be the same even when we don’t have a name?  After all, the person who wrote the letter does exist.  He or she may still be attending church.  (And if not, that doesn’t change anything.)   Shouldn’t we treat that unidentified person with the same covenant of love that we would an identified person?  It would still be difficult and unpleasant for all, yes.  And it would have an additional existential weirdness because we’d be talking to an empty space, of sorts.  But, at least, it would be a direction that would make sense to me as a UU.

Rob Craighurst

PS -- This addresses only our response to the letter writer.  Our support for Christina is another matter outside the scope of this letter.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Evolving Thinking

Kate Fraleigh, who until recently was Chair of the Racial Justice Committee, shares some of her evolving thinking about what's been happening here since Christian Rivera found an anonymous racist note in her mailbox on Monday, February 26, as well as about our work in ending white supremacy.  [Here is a link to the immediate response of congregational leadership (which includes a photograph of the note.]

The purpose of The Talk of TJMC is to provide a place for congregants to have a place to share their thoughts about things we, as a congregation, should be talking about.  It provides a forum that is longer than a Facebook post, and more public than an email.  If you have something to say, and think that this is the right place to say it, please send your piece to revwik@uucharlottesville.org.


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I’ve been a UU since I was 6.  I’ve been with this church off and on for more than 20 years.  My Mother ran the church program supplying food to the Salvation Army Day School.  There is a hymnal in one of the back rows dedicated to my father Arnold Fraleigh. I love to see his name in the sanctuary of our faith. My Mother and I witnessed Leia’s marriage.  My roots are here.  I believe our faith and our church are sturdy.  I can work through the chaos and come out better for it.  I believe we all can.  I have trust in our leadership, our congregation, and in our commitment and ability to work this out.  It’s a process.  And it’s painful.  I’m writing because I think seeing my process might help someone else.

I’ve divided this into two parts.  You’ll see numbers in the first part.   Those numbers will be used in the second part. 

I’ve been gradually processing what’s been going on at church.  I find it useful to process with friends so thank you to all the people I’ve talked or emailed with and I hope we’ll continue the dialogue.  The process is still going in my head so this isn’t the final version of my opinions and understanding.  These days I try to question my initial reactions to everything.(1)

The note to Christina was a racist note.  Racism is prejudice plus power.  The writer accentuated the power by being anonymous, placing the note physically close to where Chris works, and including her children.  It was an act of purposeful intimidation.  I didn’t get to this point of view so firmly right away.  I worried that the person was mentally ill, angry, felt there was no other way to make a point, have an opinion heard.(2)  I’m very firm now.  The note was an attempt at intimidation.

The things that have happened and the words spoken and written blur together.  I wasn’t expecting the response to the perpetrator to be so strong.  It challenged my faith.  I wrestled with how the first principle applies, how much it matters that the note was anonymous, who was it?, that it was a person many of us probably know well!  My response was to write in face book that I would like to have a conversation with the person who wrote the note.  I had and have no idea what the person would say so I had and still have no idea about how I would or will respond.  I don’t want to have a concrete plan of what I might say because I want listen fully first.  The door is still open. 

Then I heard that the perpetrator would not be welcome in our church.  I was on board with not accepting the behavior but not accepting the person?  Then I thought about equity and equality and here’s what I came to.  The perpetrator I believe is white.  The perpetrator has huge amounts of evidence and reinforcement of dignity and worth everywhere in society.  For a life time.  So, I don’t and my church doesn’t have to reinforce that to a high degree.  The victim, a person of color does not routinely have validation.  Therefore the victim needs and deserves a huge response from me reinforcing her dignity and worth. She needs to be believed and supported to help her resist the intimidation and heal the wound.  I have done enough to show unconditional positive regard to the perpetrator.  I need not do anything more.  And I don’t think my church needs to either.

I think no one is perfect and it doesn’t work for me to connect the racism in the note with the performance innuendo.  That only gives an excuse to the perpetrator, only blames the victim, only lets the rest of us off the hook for addressing the racism. It also lets me off the hook from listening to our staff suggestions and opinions(3).   I deal with this by separating the issues. I don’t like authority, I don’t like to be told what to do.  I have trigger words that make me uncomfortable, cause me not to listen, to ignore perfectly valid opinions and options because I’m stuck and get sidetracked(4).  So I have to prepare myself in advance by changing the words in my head.  Or if I’m surprised and unprepared I have to go back and see what my lack of listening missed.

So the two strands:
The racism and what we can do about it.  I asked Christina what I and the Racial Justice Committee could do.  I imagine other people did too. So Christina provided guidance.  The word complicit had an impact on me. I thought- Oh my god You want me to do more?(5)  After I rearranged my head I realized it doesn’t mean that what I’ve been doing already and what we’ve been doing together already has been wrong or not valuable. It means I’m not done yet, and I agree.  I’m looking at it differently.  Maybe we have to evaluate what we’ve done and how we are doing it and accept advise and direction.  The universe is full of white supremacy so it’s not surprising that racist behavior would appear in our church.  Addressing racism and white supremacy is a life long hard process and worth doing. 

The second strand is the strand of congregational organization, decision making, staff performance, communication, commitment to sticking together to work this out.  I feel confident that the avenues that exist will have results.  It will take time.  The avenues now are the personnel committee, the committee on the ministry, the individual person involved, the pulse survey, the Board.  The Board is responsible and we elected them.  Sometimes(maybe often) I feel like I’m flying by the seat of my pants and that the church is too.  Maybe we haven’t addressed these problems well before but this incident of racism has shaken us up and the direction out will be found.  I have the courage to move forward. 

Part two:  About white supremacy and the outline and article Christina shared.  I’ve been using that article for some time in looking at myself and at other people and at organizations.  I am no academic.  I find the article useful so I use it. 
1.      I figure all my first responses to anything are learned and patterned behavior built over many years in the air of white supremacy.  So I try to remove that aspect from my response.  It takes work.
2.      This has to do with not liking or doing well in open conflict.  It’s also detouring from the primary topic.
3.      Detouring
4.      My right to comfort
5.      Defensiveness
6.      Fear of Open conflict
7.      http://www.cwsworkshop.org/PARC_site_B/dr-culture.
I am not done processing.  The listening circles may help. We can together make our faith and church stronger than ever if we work together to fix it.


Kate Fraleigh

Friday, March 16, 2018

Congregational Listening Circles

In the two weeks since the hateful racist note was anonymously left in the office mailbox of Christina Rivera, our Director of Administration and Finance, there have been a variety of responses: some of us have felt clarity; others, confusion.  Many of us feel conflicted.  Some have felt supported, while others have felt silenced.  The integrity of our community, and our commitment to living our covenant, has been questioned by many of us, even by those who disagree within h one another about just how and why they think that.  For us both individually and as a community, this is disturbingly new territory, and we understandably are finding it disorienting.

Congregational leaders have offered a strong and consistent response, condemning the particular violent act, while challenging us all to consider how our congregational culture reflects the dominant culture of white supremacy, in spite of our best intentions. One thing which hasn’t happened yet, though, is an opportunity for us to come together and share our feelings and thoughts about all that’s been going on.

Our first responsibility has to be addressing the needs of the people of color who call this their spiritual home.  The attack on Christina was not an attack on her alone.  It raised questions about the safety of this community for people of color more widely (as well as for those of us who live in multi-racial families).

This Sunday, following the second service, there will be an opportunity for people of color to meet and reflect on their experiences of recent events, and as people of color in an overwhelmingly white congregation (and denomination). This gathering will be facilitated by Steven Ballesteros, who has served as a member of the Diverse Revolutionary Unitarian Universalist Multicultural Ministries (DRUUMM) Steering Committee and as chair of the General Assembly Right Relationship Team. He also has experience facilitating identity caucusing and anti-racism, anti-oppression, multicultural workshops for multiple congregations and UU communities in the Pacific Western Region.  Even if you don’t personally feel the need for such a gathering, I would encourage you to attend.

While congregational leaders are working to find a skilled facilitator who can help the entire community process what has happened and engage the work we must do if we are going to become the beloved community we desire to be, there is an immediate need for a safe space in which we can come together and share our feelings and thoughts. Everyone is invited to participate in a Congregational Listening Circle on Monday, March 19, from 7:00-9:00pm.  I will be facilitating this evening, and it will be a time for any of us to say whatever we feel needs to be said, without any debate or judgement.  Perhaps even more importantly, the evening will also give everyone who participates an opportunity to listen deeply to what others are, and have been, feeling and thinking.

The turmoil we are experiencing right now effects the whole congregation, and we must all engage in the work of looking honestly at who we’ve been, and who we are, and what we are called to be by our commitment to dismantling the culture of white supremacy – in ourselves, in our congregation, and in our society. This isn’t work we are starting now; it’s been a part of who we are since our founding 75 years ago. Yet the recent heinous act of blatant racism gives new impetus to our efforts, and we must all find our place in the work Christina always reminds us is for our mutual liberation.

If you have questions, or would like more information, please contact Rev. Wik at revwik@uucharlottesville.org.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

In support of the church I love


Longtime member Lynn Heath wrote the following as a letter to the Board of Trustees, and has asked to have it published here as well.  The intent of this blog is to provide a place for congregants to have a place to share their thoughts about things we, as a congregation, should be talking about.  It provides a forum that is longer than a Facebook post, and more public than an email.  If you have something to say, and think that this is the right place to say it, please send your piece to revwik@uucharlottesville.org.


I remember a church where members of the congregation reached out in love. We reached out in love, even when it was hard.

In my first or second year as a member, a young man who grew up in our church committed a serious crime. His brother was in my RE class, and I watched that class make a circle around their friend. They held him in their arms, and in their hearts, and they told him they would be with him.

And the congregation surrounded that whole family. They raised money for legal help, although the crime was a terrible one. They wrote him letters throughout his prison term. Some members visited him regularly. They held on to that young man, and they loved him, and he started a new life.

That congregation knew how to hold both the perpetrator and the victim in their hearts. I was new to the church, and it was a powerful message.

It was the same greeting extended to me. I came to the church hurt and angry and lost, and I was surrounded by love. There was an energy that surrounded me and pulled me forward, out of my misery. I met people who embodied love, who lived the seven principles. I met people who modeled what I wanted to be when I grew up. They loved me into being a kinder, happier person.  They gently challenged me, and I rose to that challenge.

I remember when my church adopted a new statement of covenant. The draft said “if” we fall out of covenant, we will reach out to bring each other back. We changed it to “when,” in the knowledge that we are all moving towards the goal, but we will inevitably fall short.

It’s been 16 years since I joined the church, and I tell people my life has been transformed by this church.  Nearly all of my friends belong to TJMC, and all of my good friends do. I was invited into a book club that talks more about church than books. I think of it as the “kitchen cabinet,” because its members include such wisdom, such breadth, and such commitment to our beloved church. Among our members, we cover almost every aspect of church life, and our varied perspectives add greatly needed depth to our conversations.

One of my first church events was the dinner where the Alliance (literally) passed the torch to the UUppity Women. We honored those women who built our church, sustained it, and provided leadership for so many years. It was a sacred moment, full of history, appreciation, and continuity. As that group ages into our senior years, I don’t see the same spirit. Instead, I hear how a small group of people thinks they run the church and they need to let go. Not only do we feel unappreciated, we feel maligned.

I find myself in a crisis of faith. I want to believe my church is a church of love, that we support each other and we support our church. It’s becoming increasingly hard. Our church is doing a great job of afflicting the comfortable, but has it stopped comforting the afflicted? Has that job been off-loaded completely into our individual circles of friendship?

I remember when we were rallying for marriage equality, and Dick Dershimer movingly and bravely stood up and said that he had been homophobic, and we had gently challenged him and stretched him and he had changed his views. We didn’t bully him or shame him or guilt him. We loved him into examining his own beliefs, into a personal search that led to transformation. We met him where he was, we stretched out a hand, and we walked with him on a new path.

I don’t see that happening now. I see voices being stilled, being outshouted. I don’t see room for growth; I see demands for immediate change. I don’t see room for dissenting views. I don’t see people being lovingly brought back into covenant. I see judgment and casting out of those we don’t agree with. I see prescriptions, proscriptions, punishments, and harsh words aimed at people deemed complicit. Some of us are wondering what on earth we did wrong, why we are encouraged to form “accountability circles” when our leaders seem accountable to no one, and – possibly most important – what form dissent is allowed to take these days.

As Unitarian Universalists, we are called to a personal search for meaning, but also to test that meaning by bringing it back into community. One of the best things I have learned in my years at TJMC is to listen deeply and non-defensively, to see what I can learn from others. In countless committee meetings and outside discussions, I have learned that the best solutions are derived from thoughtfully incorporating wisdom from many sources, despite the time it may take to reach agreement.

I think we have lost the church that I loved. I think we have forgotten how to give each other the benefit of the doubt, to believe that we are motivated by good intent. We are so busy looking for ways we have breached our covenant that maybe we have forgotten that we agreed to it in the first place. We agreed that we would try our best, that we would fail, and that we would try again. In love.

Lynn Heath

Saturday, March 3, 2018

A Culture of Complicity



Like every other Monday morning since I started at TJMC-UU in 2015, after our ministry staff team meeting I picked up my mail and sat at my desk to sort it. I came to “the note” towards the last. As I read the note, my breath stopped…not like a metaphorical stop, it actually stopped. I couldn’t breathe and at the same time I wanted to vomit. I must have made some kind of sound because Alex came out of her office and stood in my doorway and asked if I was alright. I could only hold my hand out in a stop motion so that she wouldn’t come near me, I couldn’t image anyone touching me in that moment. 

When I finally took a breath it was to begin a keening cry of rage, anger, hate, hurt and sorrow. In my mind I was desperate to know where my children were and remembered they were at school.  I didn’t know what to do; I couldn’t stay at church and I didn’t want that vile piece of paper in my hand so I took a picture of it, handed the note to Alex and asked her to get it to Wik. I ran from the building to my car and drove away. Do you feel it? Do you feel my humanity being stripped away in one quick motion? Do you feel a mother’s terror at thinking this person who has hate in their heart for me knows my children?

This is not the first time a member of this congregation has anonymously attacked a staff member.   Rev. Leslie Takahashi recounts this event:
In the winter of 2008, we were conducting a church-wide exercise in visioning and we asked people to send in their wishes/hopes/dreams. One was not signed and it said something like: “My hope is that we never have to hear Leslie's (derogatory words) voice again.”

We raised it with the Board however their sentiment was that it was just one voice. That incident was part of our decision to move on because it was clear that there was not commitment to protect me as a minister of color. Glad to hear the Board has a different response today.  In faith, Leslie

But let me be absolutely clear…the congregation as a whole and individually are responsible for these types of racist attacks. Let me say it again, if you are reading this you bear some measure of responsibility for this attack. Because it is a congregational culture of white supremacy that made this person feel it was entirely appropriate to have these thoughts, had them affirmed and then acted out on them. This congregation is complicit in creating an atmosphere in which those thoughts and feelings thrive and were then born into action. 

And in the time I have been here, I have experienced a myriad of ways the congregation has exerted its white supremacy culture into my ministry. In the following examples I urge you NOT to focus, discuss, perseverate and try to form an opinion as to merits/demerits of each specific incident but rather look at how together they would contribute to a culture of complicity. How someone in the congregation being part of, or witnessing, these conversations would come to a place of comfort and affirmation in their racist thoughts about me. They would feel not only justified in thinking of me as “less than” but comfortable in expressing those thoughts in whatever way they thought appropriate. If you’d like the link to the document explaining these categories of White Supremacy Culture you can find it here:
  •          Micro-aggressions: telling me I speak well without an accent, telling me that my sons QuinceaƱera is just like a Sweet 16 birthday party and then arguing with me when I said it is not, asking me where I’m from and when I say Los Angeles replying “no, where are you really from”
  •  Perfectionism: Finance committee members feeling like they had less input into budget development when it was the same process, the only difference was I completed the draft budget rather than the former treasurer, a white male minister. Making a mis-assumption that I do not understand how to use Excel and then talking to others about that assumption before ascertaining if it is correct (it is not.) Staff rarely hearing about what we are doing right, only about when we are not living up to someone’s perceived standard.
  •  Sense of Urgency: Questioning why calendaring request for events months in advance were not on the calendar with urgency.  Every request for staff time comes with a sense that this must be our priority as well. That my requests that we consider how our participation in racial justice efforts in our community effect communities of color are met with “we need to do this now, it is urgent we don’t have time to be discerning, we have always done this project, we feel good doing this project.”
  • Defensiveness: when I have suggested that treatment of me has elements of racism it is met with “but they didn’t mean it like that.” Staff and leadership spent enormous amounts of effort trying to make sure that individual members of the congregation wouldn’t get upset about going to a Program Budget rather than being able to assume that those members would be curious and want to give something new a try to see where it could lead us. So much so that when I don’t spend this time to make sure everyone will be ok, when I assume that leadership is what you want and what I should give, I am viewed to as too uppity, too full of myself.
  • Worship of the Written Word: Last year I took vacation time accrued from when I first arrived, it was suggested that since I hadn’t asked for the accrual to be documented that it was not proper to take the time. Such documentation had not been asked of other staff in similar circumstances. When I questioned why I alone on staff had an offer letter that eliminated the payout for medical benefit I was told the policy had been changed, but when a white colleague later challenged this for their own benefit, it was found that the policy had not been changed. It was the element that this potential policy change had not been written anywhere that led the discussion and hours/months were spent trying to research if/when the policy may have been changed. Once a decision was made to uphold the policy as written, another line in the policy is now under review and has put the decision on hold once again. 
  • Either/Or thinking: We can either have a balanced budget or we can have a program sized church. We can either take care of our infrastructure or we can try to pay at the fair compensation guidelines. Chris can either work on Racial Justice or take care of her DAF duties.  Chris can either spend time on denominational service or take care of TJMC.  
  • Power Hoarding: The tendency to use and view pledges as barometers of how a person views staff/leadership performance. The same small group of people have power whether or not they serve in direct leadership capacity. Criticism of my ministry from any of in this small circle has consistently set the tone for how others view my ministry.
  • Fear of Open Conflict: Budget documents passed around at last year’s Annual meeting that were unsigned and contained factual errors related to my performance.
  • Objectivity: The idea that if we can’t have specific measure of how the staff performs then our assessments are not valid. Being told that it is hard to do my assessment because leadership had to be careful about any criticism because it could be seen as racist.
  • Right to Comfort: People of Color only seating section at Jesse Jackson made congregants uncomfortable, and because they did not understand it they tried to exert their right to comfort by seeking an immediate change to the seating plan rather than trust that I knew what was needed by our communities of color.  Later I was told that this was reverse racism.

I have appreciated your many notes, emails, calls and messages of support and encouragement. Many of you reached out to say how glad you are that I am here, that my family and I are in your thoughts and prayers. I really appreciate all of those expressions…AND I, WE people of color, need your BEHAVIOUR to change. Let me say it again, thoughts and prayers are lovely AND we need your BEHAVIOUR to change.

And if you don’t think any of the above behavior actually made a difference in the culture of white supremacy which led to me receiving that note, let me just challenge you to this…just try it…try and change your behaviour and let’s see where that gets us. Set up an accountability circle, and decide on actual behaviours you are going to change and then check in with each other. When you are uncomfortable take a moment to check in with your circle. Maybe nothing will change…and maybe everything will.

So here are some behaviors we need to change at TJMC-UU to make a shift into a culture that embraces Anti-Racist Anti-Oppressive Multi-Culturalism (ARAOMC):

  • You will not undercut my, or any staff’s, ministry anymore. The time and effort we spend thinking about how you all are going to react to every level of decision making is exhausting and makes our entire congregation, and our ministry in particular, ineffective. 
    •  We are going to assume that you are behind us…all the way…for EVERY decision we make. Because you called us to this ministry…and we are finally going to take you at your word
    • If you have a concern about our leadership, you will come to me (or Wik or Leia) directly, that’s it…no stopping off anywhere else on your way to us. If we cannot work it out, we will seek the help of an appropriate facilitator AFTER you have met with a clearness council which will help you work through your concern with an ARAOMC lens.
    • But other than that, we are going to lead…because that is why you called us. If, after participating in the process named above, you don’t like where or HOW we are leading, you will need to leave the issue unresolved without undermining our leadership or leave or ask us to leave.
  • We are going to fully fund the budget. If you are here you are all in. No more using your pledge like a weapon or an assessment of staff’s performance. It is a pledge of your financial commitment to this church, its mission and our service in ministry. Because as long as we are looking inward at our perceived scarcity we are not looking outward at work that needs to be done in the world.
  • Everyone will make some stewardship commitment as able in their circumstance:
    • Financial and/or
    • Volunteering (RE, Buildings and Grounds, Worship, committee service, making a meal for staff, something!)
  • Support the Board of Trustees as they navigate these new waters.
    • Are you concerned that the Board isn't getting something done, ask how you can help rather than assume something nefarious is at work.
    • Wondering about a decision? ask that person and then sit with the answer for at least a week. Or better yet take it to your accountability circle and discuss.
    • Check in with the Board, how can you help support their leadership and success? What do they need?
  • Bring at least one idea to the Racial Justice team about how we can be active in our community, directly supporting communities affected by mass incarceration and deportation. And then be prepared to not act on any of the ideas that you brought but support other ideas which might come from these communities. Why these communities? Because it’s what we said we’d do when we passed the Black Lives Matter public witness statement. Now is the time to act on that commitment.
  • Celebrate our ministry (Board and Staff), this is a church, we are a people of a joyous noise! 
    • Let us AND THE CONGREGATION know when our work touches you spiritually, makes a difference in your life, the life of the congregation, or the community
    • Affirm our decisions, even and ESPECIALLY when you are not sure about them
    • Specific to me, your religious professional of color, this is LIBERATION THEOLOGY at work. Because of systemic racism and oppression, I start off from a place miles behind my colleagues. It will take your intentional amplification of my ministry just to bring me to the same starting point (equity) as my ministerial colleagues….and it always will. This is the work of dismantling white supremacy.

And if you see yourself complicit in any of the above and right now as you are reading this you have already formed defensive thoughts….you will please STOP…stop right now. Stop being defensive and start being CURIOUS. Curious about what grounds your defense, what cultural assumptions ground that defensive posture and then questioning again…can you really support any change in the world with just thoughts and prayers? Because our Unitarian Universalist theology gives a resounding “no” to that question and if you are not prepared to change your behavior then it is time to think about whether you are here as a Unitarian Universalist or as a social club.

For the past 4 days as I walk by my office door, I have not be able to even pull out my mail. My hand starts to shake and my breath becomes ragged. As I walk into my office I try to tear my eyes away from looking at my inbox. I don’t know what awaits me in there. I’ve taken to asking another staff member to go through it, to make sure it is ok for me to see. I have had to change my behavior based on hate brought to me by this congregation.

So I ask you again, as I have sacrificed my safety to be in community with you…what are you willing to sacrifice…what change are you willing to be in the world…what discomfort are you willing to bear…how will you change your BEHAVIOUR in order to work for our mutual liberation. Because anything less is keeping us in chains.

In the words of Assata Shakur (featured on the wall of my office):
It is our duty to fight for our freedom
It is our duty to win
We must love each other and support each other
We have nothing to lose but our chains.

YoUUrs in service,
Christina Rivera
Director of Administration and Finance