Reflections from Board of Trustees Vice President, Rebecca Reeder
As a 20-year member of this congregation, I can safely say that I have never stopped learning about our denomination, our congregation, and myself since I first walked through the doors. In the beginning the organization of the denomination did not matter much to me. What mattered was that this congregation was a place where I felt at home. As the years went on, I became more involved in the structure and polity of the larger UU community and details that seemed complicated began to fall into place. I have been intrigued by our annual gathering we call GA for some time. This year was the year I was to learn about it first hand. It was a game changer for me.
Our denomination is not a top down organization with a hierarchy that dictates philosophy, policy and practice, but a collective of congregations that covenant together to promote the agreed upon principles.
General Assembly, GA, is the annual meeting of our Unitarian Universalist Association. Attendees worship, learn, connect, and attend a wide array of non-policy break out sessions. Delegates make policy for the Association through the democratic process.
When I learned that GA was going to be held in New Orleans, I was pretty sure I needed to go. My husband, Jim, and I had visited NOLA previously and knew that the Crescent City is the embodiment of racial injustice, past and present. A recent anti-racism workshop presented at UUCFW had reignited a personal concern about discrimination and oppression. The topics for the week and the location for GA seemed to call to me.
Having never attended GA before, I didn’t know exactly what to expect. I had heard that it was moving. It was. I had heard it was exciting. It was. I had heard it was transformative. It definitely was.
As the week of GA unfolded, I became more and more aware of the painful truths about racism, white supremacy, white blindness, and white fragility. Here is what I learned, not only about myself, but about our congregation and our denomination- we still have a lot to learn, and we have difficult racial justice work to do. There is so much we haven’t paid enough attention to.
So, we have begun the work. We are preparing for our second anti-racist workshop. We have had two book discussion groups talking about difficult racial issues. We have formed the Racial Justice Study Group to learn, network, and participate in related community events. There is a new group forming that is concerned about infant mortality and the racial injustices inherent in that, and groups of people trying to understand intersectionality and how all of these “isms” connect to each other. We are struggling to understand that white privilege and white supremacy are real and must be addressed by white people.
During sessions at GA, I found myself jotting down those “quotable quotes” or snippets of wisdom that I might want to hang on to. When I looked back at my notes, I saw that I could link those pieces of wisdom together to make a poem of sorts with questions to ponder, statements to act upon.
I am in training to be an ally.
Put aside your UU exceptionalism.
Be aware that our way of doing business is in often the way of our faith.
Are we trying to make a change or make a name?
As a denomination, a congregation, an individual, are we willing to be changed by what we’ve started?
Maybe it’s not about who has a place at the table, but who owns the table.
What does it mean to be radically transparent?
How do we share our truth and hold each other in love?
I have been blinded by my whiteness.
Just because it isn’t my reality doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.
Movements are made of ordinary folks, sometimes moving at the speed of church.
I am in training to be an ally.
I invite you to join in the work. There is much to be done.