Racial Justice In Community: Don't Do It Alone!
Last summer when the clergy of Montgomery County, Maryland realized that each was working on racial justice and Black Lives Matter issues in their congregations and communities, and each was struggling with the tensions, hopes, challenges and opportunities that racial justice work presents, they decided to try something new. They formed a group where they could bring their work, their hopes, their plans, their struggles, their fatigue and worry, and gather strength from each other. Their hope was that their monthly meetings would provide support, inspiration, and joint action. So far, it has.
It might be easy to point to the shared activities of the recent Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend as a measure of success. The members of the group, which now includes clergy, religious education staff, and Congregational Life staff, decided to coordinate their Martin Luther King weekend activities and Sunday messages to align with racial justice work of the modern age. The weekend included:
- All five congregations invited to participate in the Friday night Black Lives Matter worship service and vigil at River Road UU Congregation;
- All five preachers connecting their Sunday morning comments to the 50 year anniversary of King’s Ware Lecture at the UUA General Assembly, which called UUs to stay awake during the revolution. The congregations shared a common chalice lighting and chalice extinguishing words.
- All five congregations invited to participate in the Sunday afternoon interfaith, multicultural worship service and celebration to celebrate King’s birthday, held at Cedar Lane UU Congregation. (See photo).
- All five congregations inviting their families to participate in Sunday evening dinner table discussions about racial justice, using a discussion guide for either young children or youth and adults created by the religious educators;
- All five congregations invited to participate in Monday’s County Wide MLK Day Celebration.
The weekend’s unprecedented coordinated action was a wonderful outgrowth of the group, but is not the primary product that the participants are hoping to achieve. Rather, the participants are hoping to continue to strengthen and support each other for the long haul of successful racial justice work, building relationships that will enable them to act promptly and effectively to ongoing situations.
As Rev. Lynn Strauss, Minister of the UU Congregation of Rockville, MD, remarks, “As our congregations began work on Black Lives Matter, and each of us were experiencing similar challenges separately (such as destruction of our banners and signs) it made sense to me to collaborate, to share our experiences, our hopes, our intentions...to support one another.” Her colleague, Rev. Rebekah Montgomery, Assistant Minister at the UU Congregation of Rockville, adds, "It is a true luxury for me to be able to drink deep of the shared wisdom of this group." And Rev. Liz Lerner Maclay adds, “[I]t’s a brilliant way to leverage our work towards far greater impact in our county and region; it makes us much more powerful, and it reinforces that we are not alone in our imperatives and values, that we have spiritual kin with us in our work and aspiration and that we can help each other - which gets us closer to making the difference we are all striving for. Better together.”
Racial justice work is hard, messy, rewarding, and couldn’t be more important. Do it right: don’t do it alone!