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


We would have every path laid open to Woman as freely as to Man. Were this done, and a slight temporary fermentation allowed to subside, we should see crystallizations more pure and of more various beauty. We believe the divine energy would pervade nature to a degree unknown in the history of former ages, and that no discordant collision, but a ravishing harmony of the spheres, would ensue. — Margaret Fuller, Women of the Nineteenth Century

This workshop introduces a framework for evaluating different strategies of leadership in times of resistance and transformation. Often, history is presented as a time line, highlighting the actions of extraordinary individuals and chronicling the events that shaped an era. However, not all change is effected in the same way. Even the most individualistic leader owes a debt to other people, communities, and ways of thinking. This program recognizes that there is more than one way to resist injustice, and more than one way to work for the transformation of our world.

This workshop introduces three strategies commonly found in social justice leadership and organization: the prophetic, parallel, and institutional voices that have shaped our history.

  • The prophetic voices speak out against the conventions of the era, and are often marginalized or considered ahead of their time, with a strong vision of a better future.
  • The parallel voices advocate for an alternative to the established structure, a new system to replace that which is deemed broken.
  • The institutional voices seek to work within established power structures to change them from within.

Each of the three approaches may be voiced by an individual, a group, or a movement, and individuals, groups, and movements may employ different approaches at different times. All three strategic approaches are grounded in the shared Unitarian and Universalist conviction that a free faith demands critical engagement with the world.

To ensure you can help adults of all ages, stages, and learning styles participate fully in this workshop, review these sections of the program Introduction: "Accessibility Guidelines for Workshop Presenters" in the Integrating All Participants section, and "Strategies for Effective Group Facilitation" and "Strategies for Brainstorming" in the Leader Guidelines section.


This workshop will:

  • Introduce three strategies for engaging in social justice work, offering them as a framework for exploring Unitarian Universalist social justice history
  • Provide examples from Unitarian Universalist history of these strategies at work
  • Encourage participants to connect these strategies with their own experience of social justice work.

Learning Objectives

Participants will:

  • Understand three strategies—prophetic, parallel, and institutional—as a basic framework for examining social justice work in this and future workshops
  • Explore a historical example of each of these three strategies of resistance and transformation
  • Consider how their own approach to social justice work might fit into this framework
  • View the three strategies as interconnected and complementary, rather than valuing one approach over all the rest.