Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Resistance and Transformation: An Adult Program on Unitarian Universalist Social Justice History


Activity time: 10 minutes

Materials for Activity

  • Worship or centering table
  • Chalice, candle, and lighter or LED battery-operated candle
  • Timepiece (minutes)
  • Chime or bell
  • Copies of Singing the Living Tradition, the UUA hymnbook, for all participants
  • Optional: Cloth for worship/centering table
  • Optional: Microphone
  • Optional: Keyboard or piano

Preparation for Activity

  • Arrange the worship or centering table, including the chalice, so all participants can see it when they are seated.
  • Choose a social justice hymn from Singing the Living Tradition that is familiar to participants. Possibilities include Hymn 119, "Once to Every Soul and Nation;" Hymn 121, "We'll Build a Land;" Hymn 140, "Hail the Glorious Golden City;" Hymn 146, "Soon the Day Will Arrive;" Hymn 157, "Step By Step;" Hymn 162, "Gonna Lay Down My Sword and Shield;" Hymn 168, "One More Step;" and Hymn 170," We are a Gentle, Angry People."
  • Optional: Invite a musician to teach and/or accompany the hymn.

Description of Activity

Invite a participant to light the chalice while you lead a unison reading of Reading 449 from Singing the Living Tradition, "We hallow this time together by kindling the lamp of our heritage."

Lead the group in singing the hymn you have chosen.

Introduce this workshop using these or similar words:

This workshop explores the history of work for integration and civil rights in Southern Unitarian Universalist congregations, particularly in New Orleans, Louisiana (and Jackson, Mississippi, if the group will do Alternate Activity 1.). No matter where they lived during the 1960s, people had many reasons for participating or not participating in civil rights work. This can be a very emotional subject, especially for those who lived through it. Remember, we are all on a journey of learning about ourselves and our shared history. It can be difficult to let go of judgments about what we personally, or others, should or should not have done responding to the cry for integration and civil rights, but we ask that you do just that as we begin this workshop today.

Invite participants to close their eyes for a moment and consider the feelings and images that arise when they hear the term "desegregation." Ask participants to keep their eyes closed and share aloud one- or two-word responses. What feelings do participants associate with this era? What memories of places, names, or events arise?

Invite everyone to open their eyes. Then, read aloud this quote from the Rev. Gordon D. Gibson:

There were places where Unitarian Universalists folded their tents and silently stole away in the night. There were Unitarian Universalists who accommodated deeply to the dominant society, maintaining only a mild and intensely private religious deviation from the social norm. The most typical response, however, was for Unitarian Universalists to learn how to live in some degree of tension between their core beliefs on the one hand and, on the other hand, the beliefs and practices deemed acceptable by southern society. If the society was closed, we were a place of openness. This stance was not easy to maintain.