In every worship service at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley, you’ll hear diverse voices, sources, and viewpoints. The congregation is committed to being a multicultural community, and honors that commitment in every service in a measurable, noticeable way: at least one worship component — a prayer, reading, chalice lighting, reflection, etc.— is something that was created by a person of color.
Initially, we [the congregation's senior co-ministers] set this standard for ourselves. We're gradually expanding: encouraging all of our worship leaders to do the same, whether they're clergy, program staff, guest preachers, or lay leaders.
Our music staff, when approached with this idea, was enthusiastic about taking on the challenge with us. Now the standard for our congregation is that every service includes at least one spoken and one musical element created by a person of color.
We love creating worship with this standard! We're delving into treasure troves of poetry, prose, and music we likely never would have discovered if we hadn’t begun searching beyond our familiar repertoire. Worship has taken on a new richness, broadened by an intentional commitment to having diversity in perspective, heritage, voice, style, and aesthetic preference. Since we project lyrics and pictures during worship rather than use a printed order of service, our slide-show volunteers usually include pictures of the authors and composers of most elements. And so, though we have yet to publicize our commitment broadly, some in the congregation have already noticed and thanked us for our work to broaden worship in this way.
We are still working on how to invite guest preachers to take up this challenge while in our pulpit, and how to include our gifted and adventurous lay worship associates into this collaboration with us. However, this is only the beginning of what we hope is a long journey of growth and transformation in our worship life together. We aren’t sure where that journey will take us or how our commitment to multiculturalism will change how worship at our church looks, sounds, and feels. Ultimately, we trust in our values to shape our worship, just as they shape the other aspects of our congregation’s ministry. And we look forward to creating and experiencing worship that more and more reflects the diversity of culture, ethnicity, class, and race both already and not yet present in our pews.