Taking Justice Ministry to Heart

By Meck Groot

Banana-grams tiles spelling 'explore'

Last year, at their request, I met with Follen Responds to Racism (FRR), an anti-racism team at the Follen Community Church in Lexington, MA. We had an animated conversation. They told me about their work and the many ways they are addressing racism within and beyond their congregation. I was impressed by their strong sense of call and their dedication to their justice ministry.

When they asked how they might take the work deeper, I suggested they look at “Claiming our Spiritual Leadership,” a training the New England Region team had turned into an online learning experience through UU Institute. The course is an introduction to Spiritual Leadership and five Spiritual Leadership practices our team has identified for Unitarian Universalist congregations.

Why I suggested a course about Spiritual Leadership to an anti-racism group wasn't immediately apparent to them. Unitarian Universalist anti-racism work is more typically focused on the socio-economic impacts of systemic racism and what we can do politically to mitigate those. I wanted them to also consider practices that help liberate us from the white supremacy culture our congregations are often steeped in. The practices of Spiritual Leadership are a way to do that.

Whatever I said in that conversation resonated for them and the group signed up to take the course as a team. I heard back that they thoroughly enjoyed the course and their ministry is enriched by the experience.

So, Follen Responds to Racism came to mind as Joe and I were planning gatherings for Spiritual Leadership for Culture Change. One of our goals for this community of practice* is that congregations learn from each other about the ways they are embedding the practices of Spiritual Leadership into their congregations. We wondered what members of FRR might share with the community of practice about how the practices of Spiritual Leadership inform their culture change work at Follen.

They enthusiastically accepted our invitation into a conversation and even agreed to having it recorded. You can listen to an edited version of the recording (YouTube), but for our newsletter and blog readers, I want to share a few highlights of what I heard in response to our question, "How do you see the practices of Spiritual Leadership interrupting white supremacy culture?"

  • Tempe said the very concept of Spiritual Leadership flips leadership on its head. Spiritual Leadership isn't reserved for a few people with special skills but something everyone has the potential to tap within themselves.
  • Paula said the practice of centering in gifts showed her a tendency to associate "gifts" with perfection which can make it hard for us to claim and affirm our gifts. She also said when we pay attention to gifts, we are less likely to be trapped by a scarcity mindset.
  • Maggie named several ways the practices get us out of either/or binaries. She lifted up, for example, how the practice of covenant is neither about rules and policing behavior nor about doing whatever we want. Instead, the practice invites us to recognize the freedom we have to live our values for the wellbeing of the community.
  • More than one person shared how the practice of tending our tradition revealed historic harms caused by Unitarian Universalism they hadn't known about. They came to new understanding about why so many of our congregations are made up predominantly of people who are white. They then shared specific ways they feel called to address that history and its consequences through their leadership on the board and with an 8th Principle process.

Based on what I heard, this group is clear that the practices of Spiritual Leadership are not all that's required to uproot racism and dismantle white supremacy. What I did hear, however, was gratitude for ways to engage this work more from the heart as well as the head while grounded in Unitarian Universalist theology and practice.

Thank you Follen Responds to Racism for your willingness to engage the practices of Spiritual Leadership as a way into liberation and justice. And thank you for sharing so generously with all of us what you are learning and applying!

* Anyone, whether professional or lay, with an interest in embedding the practices of Spiritual Leadership into their congregation is welcome to join this community of practice. Sign up to join "Spiritual Leadership for Cultural Change"

About the Author

Meck Groot

Meck Groot’s lifework has largely been at the intersection of faith and social justice. She has delivered her gifts in administration, teaching, consulting and facilitation as a UUA employee on district and regional staff in New England. Her passion has been to inspire and support vital,...


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