How can we make our congregation more racially and culturally diverse?
In an increasingly multicultural world, more and more Unitarian Universalist congregations are asking some version of that question. When Unitarian Universalists address that question, they often begin by focusing on how our congregations welcome and include those we consider racially and culturally "other." However, experience has shown that the transformational work necessary to become the "antiracist/multicultural faith community" Unitarian Universalists seek to be begins with ourselves—as individuals, congregations, and members of diverse communities.
Building the World We Dream About is an adult faith development program designed to help Unitarian Universalist congregations welcome, include, and build community with people of diverse ethnicities, races, and cultures, both in congregational life and when working in interfaith and community coalitions. Originally envisioned as "a welcoming congregation curriculum on race and ethnicity," Building the World We Dream About was developed by Dr. Mark Hicks, Angus McLean Professor of Religious Education at Meadville Lombard. It was developed with the guidance of Unitarian Universalists who represent a diversity of races, cultures, and ages, and with religious professionals and lay leaders in our faith communities. The curriculum was field-tested by more than 30 Unitarian Universalist congregations all over the United States.
I hope that all who experience Building the World We Dream About will understand that transforming Unitarian Universalism to be more racially and culturally welcoming and inclusive is lifelong spiritual work for those who love, nurture, and lead our faith. The possibility of achieving this understanding is what makes this program so appropriate for the Tapestry of Faith series of programs and resources for Lifespan Faith Development. And while this program does not promise that congregations will become multicultural, it is a proven tool for helping Unitarian Universalists develop greater understanding about racial/cultural identity and how racism operates as a barrier to building the Unitarian Universalism we dream about.
All Tapestry of Faith programs are based on stories, and this one is no exception. This program explores how the story of race in our personal lives, our culture, and our national history intersects with the personal, institutional, and community stories of our faith. The program helps individual Unitarian Universalists and congregations identify ways the broader cultural narrative about race intersects with personal and congregational stories. Participants will understand more deeply the barriers racism poses to our goal of being a truly welcoming and inclusive faith, and practice together the skills of living into multicultural Beloved Community.
Through experiential learning, reflection, and community building, Building the World We Dream About provides opportunities to share stories about how race shapes our identities and interactions with those we may consider "other." Participants will be able to define race and racism and how these operate in our individual, congregational, and community contexts; and identify how race and racism give privilege and power to people identified as "White," while oppressing People of Color and other people marginalized by race and ethnicity. The program stimulates dialogue rather than debate about the complexity of racial identity—including multiracial identity—and the various ways people experience race.
Because it is a faith development program, Building the World We Dream About engages participants in spiritual reflection about how Unitarian Universalist Principles and values support and undergird the work of becoming more racially and culturally welcoming, inclusive, and justice-centered. The program provides opportunities for worship, for sharing what has been learned with the congregation, for building multiracial/multicultural relationships in the larger community, and for developing action plans for helping a congregation become more welcoming to people of all races and cultures.
Before ending, I want to express my gratitude to all those who have worked so diligently to bring Building the World We Dream About to fruition. These include the individuals who gathered on a snowy February weekend in Boston to envision the program; the many UUA staff who worked on the Request for Proposals, the field test selection, and the final revisions for the Tapestry of Faith online program, especially Gail Forsyth-Vail; author Mark Hicks, who brought tremendous creativity and enthusiasm from his transformational education background to this program; and all the Unitarian Universalist congregations that participated in the field test. May we all keep faith with the dream of a Unitarian Universalism that truly welcomes all people as blessings and where the human family lives whole and reconciled.
— Taquiena Boston, Director, Multicultural Growth and Witness, Unitarian Universalist Association