Who Tells Your Story

By Renee Ruchotzke

Mel Hoover lights the chalice at General Assembly

Mel Hoover lights the chalice at General Assembly. Image from UU World.

Storytelling is an ancient art form. My favorite non-fiction books read like fiction because their authors tell stories rather than just share information.

When I read a memoir, a biography, a history, or when someone shares their story with me, I learn about their experiences. What I learn becomes part of my memory and helps me to understand the experiences of others, especially when those experiences were different than my own. I make it a practice to seek out books by American BIPoC authors so that I can better understand how different communities have experienced our wider community. Both non-fiction books like Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns , and works of fiction by authors like Louise Erdrich or Honoree Fanonne Jeffers have enriched my understanding of the American experience from different lives.

Our Unitarian Universalist history is also enriched by the sharing of perspectives that differ from the white male narrative. Some stories have authors who have written books, such as Cynthia Grant Tucker's Prophetic Sisterhood,and the many books and memoirs of Rev. Mark Morrison Reed. Some stories show up in collections, such as Soul Work , Centering , and The Arc of the Universe Is Long .

Back in early 2020 (just as the pandemic was beginning to spread in China), I had the blessing of sitting down with several UUs who were involved in groups, events, and movements that have been instrumental in anti-racism efforts at the UUA. One was Leon Spencer, a Jubilee III trainer, who has been a member of the UUA board, who co-authored The Arc of the Universe is Long (along with Leslie Takahashi and Chip Roush), and who was one of the three interim co-presidents who served the UUA after the sudden resignation of Peter Morales in the Spring of 2017. Another was the UUA’s 2013 Distinguished Service Awardee, the Rev. Mel Hoover, who served on the UUA’s Black Concerns Working Group as a volunteer, then joined the UUA staff in 1987 in early efforts to dismantle racism in the Association. A third was the Rev. Dr. Hope Johnson, who served on our Central East Regional staff until her death in 2020.

The video recordings of the stories have been gathered into an on-demand online course ($15) called The Journey to Jubilee: Stories of Anti-Racism Efforts at the UUA. The course includes readings from The Arc of the Universe is Long and discussion questions for journalling or group discussion.

About the Author

Renee Ruchotzke

Rev. Renee Ruchotzke (ruh-HUT-skee) is a Congregational Life Consultant and program manager for Leadership Development.

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