Session 2: Let's Talk About Power


  • Chalice or candle and lighter, or LED battery-operated candle
  • Computer with Internet connection
  • Covenant, from Session 1
  • Optional: Timer
  • Optional (in-person): Newsprint, markers, and tape; paper and pens or pencils


  • Send an email to participants a week ahead of time. Include the date, time, and location/link for the upcoming meeting. Share these questions that you will pose at the start of the session:
    • What thought or question has come to you since we last met, about your faith community’s road to Beloved Community?
    • How do you see yourself expressing power in your life? Who else (individuals or groups) has power in your life?
    • Who in our congregation has some power to begin to make change?
  • Prepare these Session 3 questions to share during the Closing and in your next reminder email.
    • [Include only in the reminder email.] What thought or question has come to you since we last met, about your faith community’s road to Beloved Community?
    • What stories from our congregation’s past do we know that show who we have been and who we are?
  • Prepare the group’s covenant from Session 1 to post in the Chat.
  • Set out the chalice.
  • Open your Zoom meeting 10 minutes before your group’s start time. Enable Live Captioning.

Chalice Lighting (5 minutes)

Read these words from podcaster Prentis Hemphill:


Notice what you feel when I just say the word.

Some of us recoil at it or rail against the idea. Many of us have been on the blunt end of unjust or abusive, or at the very least, unskillful exercises of power. But what if we could see power as something not external to us that we resist or relinquish, but as a force that lives in all of our actions? Could we learn to use it well? Could we be honest about where we have it? Could we grow it, share it, risk it? Could we learn to wield it well?

Light the chalice.

Check-In/Covenant review (10 minutes)

Invite the group to re-introduce themselves and briefly check in. Remind them that you will invite someone to begin and from there they will use Mutual Invitation to ensure everyone has a chance to speak. Suggest they check in with a one-sentence response to this prompt:

  • What thought or question has come to you since we last met, about your faith community’s road to Beloved Community?

Share the group covenant in the Chat. Read it aloud or ask participants to do so.

Power on the Road to Beloved Community (30 minutes)

Read these words from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King:

Power, properly understood, is the ability to achieve a purpose. It is the strength required to bring about social, political, or economic changes. In this sense power is not only desirable but necessary in order to implement the demands of love and justice.

Then say:

So, one simple definition of power is: Power is the ability to create change that achieves a purpose.

In our discussions we've been talking about this “purpose” in terms of “intention.” With the intention or purpose to create antiracist, multicultural, and anti-oppressive Beloved Community, all of our congregations—no matter where they are on the road—must change and continue to change.

But change is not easy and it does not “just happen.” Mistakes and Miracles has many instances where that purpose, or intention, met barriers. As change-seekers in the congregations began to move through barriers, questions of who has power in their congregational systems rose to the surface.

This means we have to look at power—who has it, what’s it for, how is it expressed. To bring change, does power need to shift? How does a shift happen? Power is a fact. It can be used for good or for ill.

Ask participants to recall where they see power at work in a plot point in one of the congregational stories from the book. Offer the following example:

In Annapolis, in 2015, the Executive Committee—consisting of the ministers and other key staff members—accepts two members’ proposal to put up a Black Lives Matter banner. They base the decision on a congregation bylaw which states, “UUCA is committed to becoming and sustaining an antiracist, antioppressive, and multicultural religious community.” The Board agrees.

Some members raise questions: What is the congregation endorsing? Why wasn’t there a congregational meeting about this? What was the process for deciding?

In telling this story, Karin and Nancy note, “The issues of who is making the decisions and how people respond to them grow more complicated when the decisions relate to race.”

In 2022, a member of color who serves on the Building Beloved Community Committee and the 8th Principle Implementation Task Force at Annapolis observed, “Our church is still fighting racism at a very surface and ‘safe’ level, avoiding the deeper issues. A contentious issue that still haunts our church is our Black Lives Matter banner. From the hanging of the banner to its theft a few years ago, admitting these conflicts are deeply rooted in racism and power is still very difficult for many white members as well as for the leadership of our church.”

Ask participants what else they remember about the Black Lives Matter banner. What do participants notice about how power played out in this part of the story? Who were the decision makers? Are there folx who want to block the decision makers? What kind of power do those people have?

Then ask:

  • What other examples from this or another chapter come to mind? Who has power when? Does power shift, and how?

Use Mutual Invitation, but keep this discussion brief so you will have enough time for pairs or triads to reflect and share in breakout rooms.

Send participants in twos or threes into the breakout rooms to reflect and share:

  • When you think about these examples from the book, how do you see yourself expressing power in your life? Who else (individuals or groups) has power in your life?

Optional Break

You may wish to offer a break. Be mindful that any break will extend the 90-minute session.

Discussion II on Power (30 minutes)

Invite the group to consider how a congregation might fulfill an intention to move toward creating Beloved Community. Say:

When a congregation, or some of its leaders, know they have intention to build Beloved Community, they need to assert power to move into that intention. How they use the power is important.

Invite the group to consider the example of All Souls in Tulsa as they wrestled with their new identity after the merger. Explain that a consultant suggested developing a new, shared vision to affirm a common direction.


Multiple groups of 20 to 30 congregants at a time met, over the course of a year, to talk about what kind of community they wanted to create together. Rev. Marlin and other All Souls leaders crafted the vision statement based on the wishes and aspirations that diverse members shared.

The vision statement affirmed All Souls’ diversities of theology, ethnicity, culture, color, class, abilities, political persuasions, and more. It set a course toward “all dwelling together in peace, seeking the truth in love, and helping one another."

The transparent, inclusive process that shaped the vision statement empowered All Souls’ members. The vision statement represented the community’s buy-in. As Marlin told Nancy and Karin for this book, “Any steps that we take, as long as I can show that this is following the vision, no one can say, ‘This isn’t UU, this isn’t All Souls.’ No, we all agreed.”

Ask the participants to think about their own congregation and where people are using their power to fulfill an intention for change: Who has the intention? What is the change?

Say the example can be of any size. Small-seeming changes can have a large impact. Offer some examples:

  • Leaders introducing the use of Mutual Invitation in governance and other meetings
  • A religious educator bringing new kinds of stories that change norms
  • Members or staff setting up study groups or connecting congregants with antiracism learning experiences, such as Jubilee or Beloved Conversations

Give the participants a minute to consider. Then gather responses using Mutual Invitation. Once all have had a chance to give an example, continue discussion using these questions:

  • Who in our congregation has some power to begin to make change?
  • What are specific ways people are using power to move along the road to Beloved Community in our congregation?
  • How can these efforts be synthesized, become a collective power?

Closing (10 minutes)

Offer these closing words, from community activist Grace Lee Boggs:

You cannot change any society unless you take responsibility for it, unless you see yourself as belonging to it and responsible for changing it.

Confirm the day, date, time, and place to reconvene for Session 3. Invite participants to pay attention to thoughts and questions about the journey toward Beloved Community that arise for them, as the next session’s check-in question will ask about these. Offer all the discussion questions for the next session and invite participants to give these some thought in advance. Make sure to set aside the covenant that the participants affirmed so you can post and quickly review it at the start of the next meeting.

Thank participants. Extinguish the chalice.