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Theological Wings: A People So Bold DVD Discussion Guide
This segment begins by exploring the too-frequent disconnect between our professed religious values and our actions, and continues with discussion of the relationship between beliefs, inclusion, and justice. Highlighting the ways language, storytelling, and beliefs affect our work in the world, this provocative segment is designed to engage participants in thinking beyond boundaries.
Materials and Preparation
- A People So Bold DVD
- DVD player, TV/screen, and speakers
- Chalice, candle, and matches
- Singing the Living Tradition (1)
- Copies of a UU World article about Unitarian Universalist (UU) voting rights work in Selma, AB, in 1965: view and print "So nobly started" (facilitators should read this article as background whether or not they choose to distribute it)
- Copies of a UU World article about the “Black Empowerment Controversy” within Unitarian Universalism: view and print "The UUA Meets Black Power: BAC vs. BAWA, 1967-1971" (facilitators should read this article as background whether or not they choose to distribute it)
Time: 100-150 minutes (may be spread over two or more meetings)
A. Chalice Lighting
Welcome participants. Recruit a volunteer to light the chalice.
Offer opening words 453 from Singing the Living Tradition as the volunteer kindles the flame.
B. Stories Matter
Introduce the video segment:
The segment begins with a compelling presentation by Rev. Bill Sinkford, the Unitarian Universalist Association’s immediate past president. Bill describes our Unitarian Universalist history of social justice with a different lens than many Unitarian Universalists would use to view that same history.
Introduce the speaker, William Sinkford (see Appendix A for his biography).
Play the first part of "Theological Wings." Pause when Bill finishes speaking (3:14).
President Sinkford named a number of historical events and occurrences. Were you hearing about some of them for the first time? If so, which ones?
Sinkford claims that understanding not only our “feel good” stories of social justice but also our “feel bad” stories of conflict and failure can help us in our quest for social justice. What are some ways that claiming both kinds of stories can help our religious movement? How might such a claiming help you?
What in our history of justice (and injustice) are you interested in learning more about?
Distribute articles about Selma and the Black Empowerment Controversy.
C. Racial Justice at the Center
Introduce the next segment of the video by introducing the next speaker, Paula Cole Jones (see Appendix A for biography.)
Continue showing the video, and pause at 8:30 to consider the on-screen questions.
- How do we find support from each other in our areas of privilege, so we’ll dare to take risks and make mistakes?
- Where does the power of transformation live in your congregation most vitally?
Note that each of these is a deep question, which requires thoughtful reflection. You may lead the group in reflection and discussion with this process:
- Offer a time of silence for individual reflection and writing.
- Form the group into pairs or triads in which participants take turns sharing their responses and ideas.
- Bring the whole group back for a summary discussion, asking for highlights of the small group discussions.
D. It Matters What We Believe
Introduce the speakers in the next piece of the video, Kate Lore and Kat Liu. (See biographies in Appendix A.)
Continue showing the video, and pause at 12:42 for discussion of the on-screen questions:
- How does your congregation shape beliefs about who is welcome, who is relevant, and who belongs?
- What is the next step you are called to take in this work?
Again, each of these is a deep question, difficult for all but the most extroverted “think out loud” types to dive into. Further, the first question might generate some critical responses as well as some defensiveness. You will likely find it helpful to remind participants to own their own perspectives, respect others’ perspectives, and speak for themselves.
Before moving into group discussion, you can set aside a time for individual reflection and journaling, or offer a process of reflection and small groups as outlined above.
E. Good & Evil
The next part of "Theological Wings" features Unitarian Universalist theologian Sharon Welch, Taquiena Boston, as well as Meg Riley and former President Sinkford.
When the video segment concludes, invite participants into reflection and discussion:
At the beginning of “Theological Wings,” Meg Riley invited us to tune into our bodies and notice sensations: noticing support for what we are hearing, noticing resistance. How are your bodies doing? Calmer? More tense?
What in “Theological Wings” was easy to hear? What was harder to hear?
What are you still chewing on; still trying to make meaning of?
Meg Riley asks two questions about stories, which you may invite the group to consider:
What stories help us to move forward with our own institutional history around racism? To accept that we’re a movement of both abolitionists and slave ship captains, liberators and oppressors?
How will you find the words to tell the next chapter of your story?
Invite participants to reflect and share with these or similar words:
Take a few moments to think about something you’re taking away from today’s program. I invite you to share it in a few words, and of course you may pass if you wish.
Go around the room with each willing participant sharing a few words.