True Solidarity – Enduring Fire
“A few weeks ago after a particularly long and hectic day, I sat down at a Mutual Aid Carrboro gathering. As we checked in with one another, I realized that this felt like home.” This is the report from Kyle Reeves, a graduate student at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill who was “craving connections with folks outside the chemistry community” and was drawn to Mutual Aid Carrboro, once he heard of it, after prior experience with a Unitarian Universalist congregation in Massachusetts and a desire to seek justice. He describes Mutual Aid Carrboro, which is part of the larger organization Sacred Fire UU, as “an intentional group based in Carrboro, NC who commit to building community through interdependence and solidarity work.”
What does interdependence look like for this group of all ages that leans heavily toward young adults? It looks like small group ministry, potlucks, community projects and a constant eye toward mutual support. Kyle asks, “How can we provide childcare for one another? How can I share my tools with others so they don’t need to buy their own?” Rev. Nathan Hollister, or “Nato,” who leads the community, noted that helping each other in tangible ways motivates young adults to join community. He talked about how much easier it is to say, “Hey, we’re going to a community member’s house to make a garden!”, than it is to invite a young adult to a committee or a Sunday morning worship.
The mutual support extends to the emotional and spiritual realm as well. Nato tells the story of how this group changed from being an informal meet up of young adult restaurant workers, musicians and activists to becoming a deliberate community. “It wasn’t until one of the participants in that proto-community ended her own life that we responded as a community to say, ‘We need this. We need to formalize what we’re doing because people need it.’” Joining this intentional group means spending four months in a small group working with the Sacred Fire curriculum which explores liberation theology and anti-oppression, providing space for people to tell stories and share passions with one another, going deeper spiritually in their relationships.
And the solidarity piece? As Chuck Williford, who self describes as bringing an “older” perspective, puts it, “While most other people are content to ‘talk the talk’ they [the young adults of the group] are organizing to actually ‘walk the walk.’ They minister by doing, much as the early Christian church did, in my opinion.” He comments that as part of Mutual Aid Carrboro, “I am receiving instruction on how to reach others by living in Community with them, not by ‘serving’ them.” Nato explains that community partnerships with local change making organizations are the crucial piece of this solidarity work. Kyle calls this grouping a “Solidarity Network” and states, “When we recognize injustice in our community, we view it as a threat to our vision of the Beloved Community.”
When asked about the challenges of doing good young adult ministry in their context, both Nato and Kyle talked about financial challenges. This group just received a grant from the UU Funding Program that will help them significantly, as they keep an eye on long term sustainability. Kyle gave specific examples of the generosity and resources they have and what they still need. He mentioned the monthly potlucks and how people come together and provide for one another, but noted that for community food sourcing – a project they are working toward – they need to buy scales and food safe containers. He concludes, “We seek to create self-sustaining systems that bring in funds to support these regular costs, as well as generating funds to help launch new projects and community initiatives.”
Nato confirmed that, perhaps to the surprise of society, many of the “unchurched” folks who have come to be part of this community have become members and do pledge. Still, with a smaller and mostly young community, getting pledges to meet the total community need can be challenging. Yet, Chuck is optimistic. He acknowledges that Sacred Fire does need support, both from local churches and from our larger movement. And he claims, as he speaks of the young adults in the community, “Their energy is contagious, their souls bare for the world to see, and their hearts are overflowing. How could a community lose?” Indeed, with spiritual depth, deliberate community building, interdependence and solidarity, it does not seem that Sacred Fire UU will be losing anytime soon.