By Dan Tuft, Racial Justice Ministry
Over five years ago our community embarked on a journey to educate ourselves and act upon our understanding of not only the insidious, enduring structural aspects of racism in our world, but to also gain an understanding and willingness to change the inadvertent, at times unseen, and casual participation as a church community in that world. We dedicated ourselves, through our willingness to adopt the 8th Principle, to continue to examine the ways in which we as a church can change both internal and external structures that center and raise up one race’s interests over the creation of a caring and beloved community with a spiritual commitment to racial justice.
We have intended to act not in manner that condemns who we are or judges us for our participation in a culture, but to encourage each other, continue to educate ourselves and to act to create the beloved community both within these walls and to join efforts with like-minded people in the larger community to increase the ripple effect of their, and our efforts.
For the last two years, the Racial Justice Ministry has engaged in a ‘check in’ with all the groups, committees, teams, and ministries that make up the complex matrix that is UUCWC. Our intention has been to engage in conversation to see how the journey is going for you in the nitty gritty of your particular group’s work, and also to lend an ear and hopefully creative dialogue to find a way forward when we struggle as to how our efforts are and can be even more connected to our work making live our commitment represented by our adoption of the 8th Principle. Our lifting up this principle in no way means that we denigrate our commitment to the other 7 Principles…on the contrary we are a community committed to 8 Principles…not 1, not 3, not 7…. but 8. Rest assured, we check in with you to keep the conversation going, moving forward. If we stray from that, please let us know.
It is my sincere hope that in the near future we will not need a Racial Justice ministry that has an internal focus as well as external, because the internal one has been taken on, owned and acted upon not just by all of us as individuals but is a core part of how we are in our groups, committees—how we work together because we will have institutionalized our commitment to this 8th Principle.
I am not going to go through each group that we spoke with – around 25 or so – and I do not have a nice spreadsheet and I am embarrassed to admit I do not know how to make one even. We are all along a spectrum from trying to define how we can apply the 8th Principle to our specific group’s mission and work to a well-integrated norm that considers the Principle not only in its mission but in the conduct and structure of meetings—Board I am referring to you! But I do want to highlight three groups and where they are in this process. This year we asked: What has worked in your efforts to center your work in line with the 8th Principle; what are the challenges you have faced; and how can RJM assist you with those challenges.
I first want to lift up the Auction Committee for truly engaging in this process in their work under challenging circumstances. Maria Baratta spoke with them this year and came away with 12 points of discussion including ways to increase participation that include moderate pricing, exploring ways to encourage visibility and participation of businesses that are minority owned. Thank you for engaging with this community in new ways as we move forward together.
I also want to highlight the Food Ministry as they continue with discussions, ye,s but also actions that show they are engaging with and listening to those who benefit from their untiring efforts. Sharing a meal with food recipients, changing menus based on their input…I was able to review the meeting notes that were dedicated to the evaluation of their goals and their implementation for the past year using the lens of the 8th Principle.
What RJM is most encouraged by as signs of progress are the levels of conversation within most of our groups regarding the lens of racial justice and the 8th Principle informing our life and work together. The conversations also reflect a growth in practices and applications of the Principle. Which leads, finally, to the Board, and I want to lift up the leadership of Nathalie and Marianne as well as the entire Board….you should go to a Board meeting and see in practice their consensus building, their focus on process and hearing all of the voices at the table – and not at the table – as they center the spiritual practice that is reflected in the 8th Principle.