To Our Congregations:
This year, for the first time, the Unitarian Universalist Association has two choices for its annual “Common Read,” a book selection designed to be read and then shared and discussed at the congregational level. One of those books is Centering: Navigating Race, Authenticity, and Power in Ministry, edited by Mitra Rahnema, which contains essays describing, in their own words, the lived experiences of religious professionals of color in Unitarian Universalism. We note that many congregations are not engaging with Centering and we strongly urge congregations to include Centering in their programming this year — this is an act of faithful engagement with religious professionals of color at a time of needed reflection and conversation.
We often hear that white Unitarian Universalists and Unitarian Universalists of Color have different experiences of our movement. We believe that reading Centering is critical to our developing a shared understanding of the current context in which religious professionals of color are called to navigate as they minister in our faith tradition. This book gives voice to the many gifts ministers of color bring to our faith — and the barriers to receiving these gifts. This book gives insight into barriers which limit the numbers of music directors of color, religious educators of color, administrators or UU chaplains of color or ministers of color. The gap between the lived experiences of religious professionals of color in our Association and the demands of predominantly white congregations are illustrated in this important collection of essays and responses.
Congregations who have read Centering might also benefit from reading the collection edited by Yuri Yamamoto entitled UUs of Color: Stories of Struggle, Courage, Love and Faith available through Lulu Press. This collection documents the experiences of people of color who are members and friends within our congregations.
They have shared stories which help illuminate why we continue to struggle over issues of race and why we remain white-centered in our approaches, often despite having religious professionals of color on board. The essays speak of experiences of pain, grief and trauma as well as offering visions of growth and change. The publication of these courageous words offers a chance to understand these stories without holding isolated people of color in individual congregations responsible for the learning of the white majority.
We urge Unitarian Universalist congregations to engage in discussions of Centering and UUs of Color as soon as possible. We hope that active discussion of these books can help develop a true culture of welcome for people of color and prevent the real harm done to religious professionals of color within our Association.
Rev. Leslie Takahashi
Chair, Commission on Institutional Change