Faith In Action: Congregational Timeline
Activity time: 0 minutes
Materials for Activity
- Roll of large paper or pad of newsprint
- Markers and tape
Preparation for Activity
- Cut a piece of large paper several feet long and post it horizontally (or post five sheets of newsprint). Draw a horizontal line across the center. On the far left write the year the congregation was founded and on the far right write the current year. At the top of the timeline write "Tolerance and Social Justice" and on the bottom write "Intolerance and Oppression".
- Consult with your congregation's archivist or historian to provide participants with resources for research.
Description of Activity
This Faith in Action activity builds on Activity 2, Unitarian Universalist Racial Justice Timeline to construct a congregation-specific social justice timeline. It can be done just with the youth or with the whole congregation and is meant to be a learning experience for all involved about the role of tolerance and intolerance throughout the history of the congregation. A large part of the time required for this workshop involves research, but the actual timeline creation activity will take about 45 minutes.
Introduce the project to the group, explaining that they will have an opportunity to reconstruct a timeline of the history of tolerance/social justice and intolerance in their congregation. The first part of the project is research, and the second involves putting together the timeline and discussing it.
Suggest the following sources of information-the congregation's historian or archivist, archives and written records, the congregation's website, the minister and religious educator, elders in the congregation, members of the justice committee, and the participants' own experiences. Encourage them to reflect on their own experiences of tolerance and intolerance in the congregation, and to research the years before they were born.
Lead the group in a brainstorm of topics they might research and include in the timeline. If they do not suggest these topics, add:
- the story of the congregation's formation or any relocations,
- the history of the land they are located on (its connection to Native American communities, history as a sundown town),
- slavery and the larger economy of the slave trade,
- involvement in the local community,
- participation in the Underground Railroad,
- implementation of the Welcoming Congregations Program, Building the World We Dream About, or other anti-oppressive UU programs.
Give the group an opportunity to do research. This could be built into the time allotted to the activity, with prior arrangements to have access to archival and people resources, or it could happen between meetings.
Once the group has gathered historical facts, events, people, and movements of significance within the congregation, have them write these on the timeline. Remind them to write items that represent tolerance and social justice on the top half of the timeline, and items that represent intolerance or oppression on the bottom half. Emphasize that there is no need to repeat items, so make sure to read what is already there before writing what you have in mind. Give them about 15 minutes to do this. Tell them that if they finish writing their items before the time is up, to read what others wrote. After 15 minutes, go through the timeline from left to right, and ask each participant to share what they wrote.
Lead a discussion using the following questions:
- Is there anything on the timeline that is surprising to you?
- How was the research experience?
- Do you see any connections between items along the timeline?
- Given this timeline, how would you tell the story of your congregation's history of tolerance?
Including All Participants
Even though the timeline covers years before the participants were born, encourage them to use all of the sources available to them, including their own experiences in the congregation.