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

Activity 3: The Empowerment Controversy

Activity time: 35 minutes

Materials for Activity

Preparation for Activity

  • Copy Handout 1, Empowerment Controversy Time Line.
  • Write on newsprint:
    • Were you present for any of the events of the Empowerment Controversy? If so, what do you remember? How did you feel then? Have your feelings changed over time?
    • How does it feel to hear this story?
    • As the story unfolded, did your feelings or the stance you held change?
    • Is there anything from your responses to the handout that you would like to share?
    • Given that not all details of the many conversations that took place at that time are known or included here, whose voices are present? Whose voices are absent?
    • Which voices had an impact on you? How?

Description of Activity

Introduce the activity with these words, which have been carefully prepared to present the Empowerment Controversy in a way that honors the diverse, sometimes contradictory memories and perspectives of its participants and recorders:

The handout represents some of the events, actions and tensions about race in Unitarian Universalist Association during the 1960s and 1970s, a period that has come to be known as the Empowerment Controversy. After more than 40 years and multiple attempts at healing and reconciliation, feelings about this episode in our denominational past still run high. As part of the 2001 "Conversation with Participants in the Black Empowerment Movement Within the Unitarian Universalist Association" published by Starr King School for the Ministry as In Their Own Words, Julie Kain compiled a time line that bears this note, "This time line is based on interviews provided by various sources, and may not reflect the perspectives of some participants in the events outlined." This small note is an indication of the strong feelings that have shaped perceptions and memories.

Distribute Handout 1, Empowerment Controversy Time Line and pens/pencils. Read the handout aloud, pausing where indicated to invite participants to complete the statements on their handout silently. Allow one minute for each response period.

Then, post the prepared questions and invite participants to discuss them.