Lay Leader of Color Avatar

Widening the Circle of Concern: Lay Leader of Color Avatar Audio Recording

  • Mallory Ramesh
  • Board member of congregation
  • age 35
  • Indian
  • queer
  • social activist

I joined my local UU church after meeting some UUs at a Black Lives Matter rally after a local unarmed Black man was killed.

The UUs I met were members of a church in a nearby city, so I did some online research and picked my home church because they had information about becoming a Welcoming Congregation on their website.

After a couple of months of attending service and a book club, the minister asked me to join the Board. I thought this was kind of rushed. At the book club, I’d noticed that whenever any question about people of color came up, I was the one everybody turned to look at. I’m Indian. It was funny considering that my suggestion that we add pronouns to our nametags was dismissed by the woman heading the LGBTQ Council, even though I am also queer. I thought I could do some good as a Board member so I agreed. Despite reluctance by some established church leaders, we participated in the White Supremacy Teach-In, though even then, our involvement was limited to a single service and reflection.

At the following Board meeting, I inquired about how we planned to implement the recommendations from the Teach-in, adopting the eighth Principle and doing a church-wide racism audit. Our outgoing settled minister shut down the conversation and suggested it would be more appropriate to bring up the issue with our interim minister. When I did so at the following meeting, the interim minister said she wanted to wait until she’d gotten to know the congregation.

The next month, our interim said again that she wanted more time.

At the following meeting, the issue was pushed to the end of the agenda, and when another issue turned into a long discussion, the majority of the Board members decided it was too late to discuss anything else and voted to table the meeting.

Leading up to the next meeting, I wrote two emails to our Board secretary asking for the issue to be placed on the meeting agenda. Both emails were ignored before they finally responded to the third.

At the meeting, I decided to bring up my concerns with how the recommendations had been handled, especially considering that the adoption of a practice regarding environmental justice had passed easily and with no similar delays.

The Board secretary, a white woman, immediately centered herself and her own discomfort, framing the situation as an attack on herself by me. The issue was left unresolved at the end of the meeting. It was extremely uncomfortable for me.

During this period, my relationship with the Board members in question soured, and several church members engaged in a whisper campaign against me, seemingly targeting my social justice views, with one member joking that I had “issued a fatwa” against mentioning US presidents in sermons after I’d related complaints about an Independence Day reection.

Unwilling to encounter this on Sunday mornings, I stopped attending. Though I finished my Board term,

I missed meetings. I dropped out of the book club and no longer attend anything at the congregation.