I have just returned from the annual Fall Conference of the Liberal Religious Educators Association in Houston TX. The theme was “Changing the Narrative” and issues of white supremacy culture within our denomination and the urgency of empowering and sustaining leaders of color were central. What a remarkable conversation we had over the course of 5 days! Denominational leaders including Julica Hermann de la Fuente, Christina Rivera, Greg Boyd, Rev Dr Natalie Fenimore, Aisha Houser and many others led discussions, workshops and informal conversations that were at once humbling, riveting and inspiring. Brave learning and growing “caucus” spaces were carved out for both white participants and participants of color. As has been the case so often in our Unitarian Universalist history, religious educators, both non-ordained and ordained are leading us into new ways of thinking and being with one another.
As you may recall, it was mostly religious educators who spoke up eighteen months ago, changing the narrative of who we are as Unitarian Universalists, what we “look” like, and how we bring forward voices and leaders from the margins in ways that honor and respect their unique contributions to our wholeness as a people of faith. The actions of a few courageous religious educators would ultimately contribute to big changes in our association around hiring and other institutional practices at our UUA headquarters and deep, rich conversations in congregations about what it means to be complicit in a system that continues to harm and erase people within our beloved community.
The good news is – they are still at it! Religious educators from across the continent participated in workshops on restorative circles, creating space for families of color, the theology of love and shared ministry as faith formation, just to name a few. Innovations are underway to bring JUUbilee training to children and youth, to offer congregations more study materials to continue the conversations begun with the Teach-In on White Supremacy, as well as new engaging resources from BLUU via a monthly “BLUU Box.” These are just a few of the many ways you can be a part of changing the narrative within your own congregation
We have work to do as a religious people, things to learn, deep conversations to share, and curiosity to be satisfied – in other words, faith development work. If you are lucky enough to have a professional religious educator, please look to them for a pathway into and through this brave work. You can begin by asking them what gems they carried home from the conference and what they are really excited about! Your religious educator has access to many tools and resources, whether they attended the latest LREDA Fall Conference or not. If they weren’t able to be in Houston this year, make it a priority to send them to Baltimore in November 2019 (yes, Baltimore! Hurrah, the LREDA Fall Conference is coming back to the Central East Region!). Religious educators, ministers, lay leaders – all are invited into the bold work of writing the next chapter of Unitarian Universalism!
Patricia Hall Infante, Congregational Life Staff holding the Faith Development portfolio and Credentialed Religious Educator