Call and Response: Journeys in UU Lifespan Faith Development

Reading for Solidarity: A Common Read for GA 2017

By Gail Forsyth-Vail

The 2017 UUA General Assembly (GA) will affirm solidarity with movements for racial, economic, and environmental justice. When we gather, June 21 through 25, we will invite the people, culture, geography, and history of New Orleans to be our teachers. Whether we will be an in-person or virtual participant at GA, we have many months to prepare ourselves to learn and to be inspired to action.

A place to begin is this year’s Common Read, The Third Reconstruction: How a Moral Movement is Overcoming the Politics of Division and Fear, by The Reverend Dr. William J Barber II with Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove.

Three UU adults in a group, having an animated discussion

The UUA's Common Read was born to help Unitarian Universalists prepare for Justice General Assembly 2012 in Phoenix. The program has continued, inviting congregations, groups, and individuals to read a book each year that speaks to the challenges of our time. Every Common Read provides a discussion guide to help participants connect the book's messages to our own lives, our own lived faith. While a new book is offered each year, the Common Read is always an invitation to read, to grow in faith and understanding, and to act to bring more love and justice into the world.

The Common Read selection committee chose The Third Reconstruction after Rev. Barber electrified attendees at the 2016 General Assembly. He spoke to this moment, saying that we are in the middle of our nation’s third reconstruction, with the same moral goals of equality and justice as the first reconstruction, after the Civil War, and the second, during the 20th century Civil Rights movement. He challenged us to work in coalitions, to put a moral argument at the center of movements for justice, and make common cause with both religious people and secular organizations.

Because Rev. Barber works with fusion coalitions of people committed to different aspects of justice in our time—racial, environmental, economic, gender, gender-identity and other justice movements—the book is pertinent to a General Assembly focused on the ways in which oppressions and injustices intersect one with another and compound their harm. The book offers both inspiration and practical guidance, in a relatively short format, and is also available as an audio book. The paperback edition is at inSpirit: UU Book and Gift Shop with bulk discounts available.

We are pleased to announce that the discussion guide (Word) for The Third Reconstruction is now available for download at It includes plans for a single session or three, more in-depth sessions, and helps us connect wisdom from the book with the call to work for justice in our own places. The discussion guide points you toward video clips from Barber’s address to the 2016 UUA General Assembly and explores the perspective of Wilson-Hargrove, the white, Christian pastor who co-authored the book. Follow-up actions are suggested for individuals, groups, and congregations.

New this year! Congregations doing a Common Read can put yourselves on the map using a “sharing page” on We hope this will inspire you to connect with others as you engage with this year’s Common Read (and prepare for actual or virtual participation in GA 2017 in New Orleans).

Next Steps!

Purchase The Third Reconstruction or find it in a library.

Arrange for a one-session or three-session discussion at your congregation using the discussion guide (Word).

Put your congregation’s program or event on the Common Read sharing page.

Watch Rev. Barber’s address to the 2016 General Assembly in Columbus, Ohio.

About the Author

Gail Forsyth-Vail

Gail Forsyth-Vail, a credentialed religious educator, master level, is the author or developmental editor of several UU history curricula and resources. Before retiring, she served as interim director of the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Lifespan Faith Engagement Office.


For more information contact .

The Third Reconstruction

By William J. Barber II, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove

From Beacon Press

The 2016-17 UUA Common Read A modern-day civil rights champion tells the stirring story of how he helped start a movement to bridge America’s racial divide.

Buy This Book