Session 3: History and Hope


  • 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:
    • Where did you recognize yourself, our faith community, or our Unitarian Universalist movement in the book?
    • What in the book made you curious to learn more?
    • What felt challenging? Affirming?
  • Prepare the group’s covenant from Session 1 to post in the Chat.
  • Set out the chalice.
  • Open the Jamboard you created for this group.
  • Open your Zoom meeting 10 minutes before your group’s start time. Enable Live Captioning.

Chalice Lighting (5 minutes)

Tell the group this reading from the Rev. Theresa Ninán Soto comes from their book, Spilling the Light: Meditations on Hope and Resilience. Read these words:

In this community, we hold hope close. We don’t always know what comes next, but that cannot dissuade us.

We don't always know just what to do, but that will not mean

that we are lost in the wilderness. We rely on the certainty

beneath, the foundation of our values and ethics. We are the people who return to love like a North Star and to

the truth that we are greater together than we are alone.

Our hope does not live in some glimmer of an indistinct future.

Rather, we know the way to the world of which we dream,

and by covenant and the movement forward of one right action

And the next, we know that one day we will arrive at home.

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 the story of your faith community’s road to Beloved Community?

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

Discussion: How Does Our History Give Us Hope? (40 minutes)

Remind the group that in the first session, they talked about congregations in terms of their stories. Suggest that the stories in the book provide context and history. The co-authors believe that in a congregation’s history we can find times and places where a faith community has gone astray from the road to Beloved Community and times where strength and courage have led. Karin and Nancy use the question, “What’s in the congregation’s DNA?”


Let’s look at the UU Congregation of Phoenix’s story. In the 1960s, during the Black Civil Rights Movement, the congregation had had a learning moment about how to partner with a community organization. They had to become better listeners and not come in thinking of themselves as saviors. This was their first experience of living into accountable relationship. As the congregation’s historian, Frances Bishop, recorded at the time, “We are not going in to help people but rather to work with people.”

As the co-authors observe, “The experience of the predominantly white congregation honoring the needs of the African American community, instead of imposing its own vision, gets rooted in the congregation’s DNA. It re-emerges decades later in UUCP’s work with immigrants’ rights groups.”

Say that the Tulsa congregation provides a really challenging example of what might be in the congregational DNA. Invite a volunteer to read aloud these words from page 224.

On the evening of May 31, 1921, hundreds of white people from South Tulsa rage through the prosperous Greenwood district in North Tulsa, an area that Booker T. Washington dubbed the “Black Wall Street.” Over the course of a night and a day the mob kills as many as 300 Black citizens, burning some of them alive. They loot and burn to the ground the neighborhood’s businesses and homes, leaving some 10,000 people homeless. When the National Guard arrives, they imprison thousands of Black citizens while the white rioters escape arrest. The rampage is the worst race riot in the history of the United States. It is, in fact, a massacre.

What sparks the conflagration that day? Local news sources including the Tulsa Tribune, owned by Unitarian Richard Lloyd Jones, report that a young African American man has assaulted a 17-year-old white elevator operator in a downtown office building. “Nab Negro for Attacking Girl in Elevator” the Tribune’s headline trumpets. The charges are later proved false, but the rumor is enough to ignite the racial hatred simmering under the surface.

More than a year before the riot, Jones, son of prominent Unitarian minister Jenkin Lloyd Jones, has gathered likeminded liberal religious folks in his home. In March 1921, just weeks before the massacre, he signs the charter for All Souls Unitarian Church and begins fundraising for its first building.

Now, ask:

  • Thinking about our own faith community, what’s in our DNA?
  • What stories from our congregation’s past do we know that show who we have been and who we are?

Give participants a minute to reflect. Then use Mutual Invitation to offer each person a chance to share a story without interruption or cross-talk, simply hearing one another’s stories. Remind participants to limit their shared story to two or three minutes so everyone has a chance to share. You may wish to use a timer and offer a hand or voice signal you can use shortly before someone’s time is up.

Once all who wish to have spoken, offer the following questions. Lead participants to comment using Mutual Invitation.

  • Where in our stories can we find hope?
  • Where can we find sources of strength?
  • Where can we find cautionary tales?

Optional Break

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

Reflection (25 minute)

Invite the group to deeply consider: How can we be change agents? How can we activate the hope we need, and marry it with our intentions?

Paste the Jamboard link into the Chat and invite participants to open the Jamboard. Direct them to the Jamboard pages where, in Session 1, they brainstormed intentions.

Lead a discussion on these questions, using Mutual Invitation:

  • What do you think our community’s intentions are, at this moment?
  • How can we move forward mindful of the strength from our past as well as the cautionary tales?

Closing (5 minutes)

Share this quote from the African American writer James Baldwin, from his 1963 essay, “A Talk to Teachers:”

The obligation of anyone who thinks of himself as responsible is to examine society and try to change it and to fight it—at no matter what risk. This is the only hope society has. This is the only way societies change.

Confirm the day, date, time, and place to reconvene for Session 4. Say that the final session will invite the group to harvest all they have learned from the book and their discussions, as they talk about strategy and next moves. Ask participants to watch for the reminder email for Session 4, as it contains a list of helpful questions for creating a strategy which the group will unpack together when they meet. Remind the group that the check-in question next time will again ask what they’ve thought or wondered between sessions.

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.