Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Faith Like a River: A Program on Unitarian Universalist History for Adults

Activity 4: Litany of Allies

Activity time: 30 minutes

Materials for Activity

  • Newsprint, markers, and tape
  • Paper, pens, and markers
  • Copies of Singing the Living Tradition, the UUA hymnbook
  • Optional: Percussion instruments

Preparation for Activity

  • Write on newsprint:

We would remember those in bonds as bound with them. - Russell Lant Carpenter, English Unitarian minister

Description of Activity

Introduce the activity with these or similar words:

As we have seen in the stories in this workshop, striving for freedom from oppression is rarely a solo enterprise. Unitarian Universalist minister David Pettee writes: "the work of justice making is never an individual passion. I've discovered that if our commitments are only on an individual basis and we fail to engage our religious communities in this work, we are unlikely to change the realities of systematic racism ... I believe it is only through the communal work of building the Beloved Community that we will find liberation."

The work of liberation is rooted in the lives of those who have experienced oppression, and also in the lives of those who serve as their allies. An ally is someone who takes on another's struggle as their own, and manifests that stance through both deeds and words. Every one of us needs allies at times, and every one of us can choose to be an ally for someone else. In this context, we will consider the choice to be an ally for people who are oppressed or marginalized by social, legal, or cultural structures and practices.

A litany is a set of readings that has a repeating response. We will create and read a Litany of Allies.

Distribute hymnbooks. Invite participants to read Reading 637, "A Litany of Atonement," in Singing the Living Tradition responsively with you-that is, you read the standard text, and the group responds by reading aloud the italicized text. Point out the structure of the reading: Not only does the refrain repeat, but the opening of each new phrase begins with the word, "for." The reading also includes action phrases such as "remaining silent," "struck out in anger," "falling short," and "losing sight" which help the reader embody or inhabit the words. Ask participants for any other observations they have about the reading, its structure, and its impact.

Invite participants to form groups of two or three. Distribute paper, pens and markers and invite them to focus on one way in which people experience oppression today-for example, oppression based on race, gender, social class, religion, physical or mental ability, sexual orientation, or age. When each small group has identified a focus, invite them to brainstorm words that relate to that oppression, as well as words that relate to liberation and freedom. If useful, suggest examples from this workshop such as freedom, commitment, harmony, order, self-interest, conflict, power, privilege, and reconciliation.

Once they have brainstormed some words, invite each pair or triad to write a short litany, using as a refrain the Russell Carpenter words you have posted. Allow 15 minutes for groups to work. If you have provided percussion instruments, point them out, telling participants they are welcome to accompany their words with rhythm if they so choose.

Re-gather the large group and invite each small group, in turn, to present their litany, with the whole group responding with the common refrain.