LREDA Fall Conference 2018
The theme of this year’s LREDA (Liberal Religious Educators Association) Fall Con was Changing the Narrative. The focus was continuing on with dismantling white supremacy, acknowledging the work that has been done since Peter Morales stepped down, racist behaviors that continue to occur (such as the hate mail Christina Riviera continues to receive that threatens her family), and recommended best practices moving forward.
The format of this year’s Fall Con was different than previous years. There were workshop options throughout each day that we were invited to choose from. The lists of offerings were:
Analysis of Power and Relationships
Opening night lecture by Julica Hermann de la Fuentes
Community Building with Restorative Circles by Rev. Paul Langston-Daley
Creating Space for Families of Color by Aisha Hauser
How to Have Difficult Conversations by Aisha Hauser
Dismantling Institutional Racism by Leslie Mac
Employment and Professional Matters
Building a Framework for UU Employer Excellence by Jan Gartner, Pat Infante
Discovering Your Immunity to Change, Part 1 by Amy Huntereece
Are You Serving as a Minister of Religious Education? Rev. Dr. Natalie Fenimore
Self-Audit Your Position by Jan Gartner
Discovering Your Immunity to Change, Part 2 by Amy Huntereece
Maximize Your GA Delegate Power by Mr. Barb Greve
Your Employment Relationship Status: It’s Complicated by Jan Gartner
Shared Ministry as Faith Formation by Joy Berry
Faith Development as Spiritual Practice by Rev. Kathleen Ellis
Wrought Faith: Minding the Gap in Faith Formation by Joy Berry
The Theology of Love by Susan Freudenthal
Wrought Faith Pt 2 by Joy Berry
Emergent Strategies for Ministering to Millennials by Jennica Davis-Hockett
UU Family Circle Training by Sheila Schuh
Pushing the Boundaries of Family Worship by Susan Freudenthal
Understanding Generational Differences by Paula Dribble
Parents and Caregivers as Sexuality Educators by Robin Slaw
Embracing Family Ministry by Laura Beth Brown
Saying Yes and Saying No by Rev. Kathleen McTigue
Safety Squads, Care Teams and Transformative Justice by India Harris
Innovation in Social Justice Work with Youth by India Harris
Speaking Our Faith in the Public Sphere by Rev. Kathleen McTigue
Love Resists: Faithful Action in a Dangerous Time by Rev. Kathleen McTigue
I attended Julica Hermann de la Fuentes’ opening night lecture, which was fabulous. She spoke about the discomfort in talking about racism and the barriers that we face in trying to change institutional systems. I included an image I took of her. She drew a circle and divided it into sections. The large section represents the knowledge we don’t know that we don’t know. The second largest space represents the knowledge that we know that we don’t know. The smallest space represents the knowledge we know that we know. In difficult conversations about race, we should aim to move the needle inch by inch to make the Don’t Know We Don’t Know pie piece smaller. We know that we can’t move the needle quickly because it will cause too much disruption. It’s OK to move it slowly but surely.
On Friday I attended Rev. Kathleen McTigue’s lecture on Saying Yes to Saying No for social justice. She stressed the importance of flipping our thinking of social justice to “inch-wide and mile-deep”. We have to focus on one passion and go deep with it, and trust that we have other folks that are working on different issues. All of the things we care about *will* get tended to.
I then attended Aisha Hauser’s workshop on Creating Space for Families of Color. This was an incredible workshop. Aisha and Sheila Schuh stressed that congregations need to stop hand-wringing about “why don’t we have people of color in our congregation?” and restructure our congregations as if we already have them. Families of color aren’t going to go to a church that has worship and music that centers whiteness and doesn’t represent their own people or culture.
I have a lot of thoughts about this workshop that I’d like to hand over to the Board:
- I’d like express how important I feel that the search committee for our next Minister has a person of color, a youth if possible, and a member of a young family on it.
- When I spoke to Aisha about the makeup of our congregation and if she had any recommendations for what the process would look like for our church to start coming from a place where we had multiple families of color, she said start with The Promise and the Practice. We can contact a Congregational Life Staff person (ours is a woman named Dawn with who I had lunch) to discuss what this transformation would like.
- A few other tidbits I am taking with me from this workshop
o Letting go of the Golden Rule and adopting the Platinum Rule
o Looking at intention vs impact in a new light. To quote Aisha, “white folks have a death grip on their intentions.” What you intended doesn’t necessarily matter. The impact of what was said or done is what matters.
o Adopting a new way of apologizing: “I hear I hurt you. I apologize. I am sorry. How can I restore this?”
o As congregations move away from the “old way” of doing things and move toward radical inclusion, there will be hurt feelings and there will be conflict. Practicing these items listed above will be useful.
The last workshop I attended on the Friday was Emergent Strategies for Ministering to
Millennials. I did not find this workshop very helpful. The attendees spent a large chunk of time arguing over what exactly “Millennial” looked like in their congregation. Ministering to 18-25 year olds is much different than ministering to 30-somethings. Also, our expanded Sunday model is different than the massive majority of other churches. Other churches are still having discussions about whether or not to do Lifespan Religious Education. I felt that with our two Adult RE classes, Youth Group, and our Families Group that we are doing fairly well in engaging Millennials. I am considering doing a survey and simply asking if there are needs that we are not aware of or not meeting.
On Saturday the first workshop I attended was How to Have Difficult Conversations with Aisha Hauser. I really enjoyed this workshop and felt I had quite a bit to take away from it. I am naturally conflict-averse, and this workshop helped me to understand why that is. This workshop was adapted from a book titled, Honest Direct and Respectful by Dennis Adams. The recommended steps to take in having difficult conversations are:
1.) Identify the persons behavior
2.) Identify my feeling
3.) Identify what I want, wish, or wonder.
4.) Let go of attachment to the outcome
A few other tidbits that I am carrying with me:
- People can take disagreements as a personal attack
- *You cannot avoid conflict* When you delay it, it’s much more unhealthy
- Conflict can be an opportunity for growth
- You do not grow through comfort
- You WILL be uncomfortable, but you will be OK
The second workshop I attended on Saturday was Speaking Justice in the Language of our Faith by Rev. Kathleen McTigue. This workshop challenged us to live our faith out loud in the issues of social justice. I enjoyed this workshop and left more empowered to talk proudly about how our faith calls us to be a Holy Disruptor in the face of oppression and injustice.
The last workshop I attended Saturday was Parents and Caregivers as Primary Educators: Sexuality by Robin Slaw. This was the workshop I was most excited for, considering all the work we have been doing with OWL. Unfortunately, It did not go as I had hoped. The facilitator had some issues going on as the workshop began, and there were some hurtful moments throughout the workshop.
However, I am excited to learn that this will be a free small group ministry curriculum that is slated for release in early 2019. There will be 12 sessions and will be intended for use for caregivers while their youth are participating in OWL.
I was hoping id be able to meet with Robin to talk about our OWL expansion and Capstone project, but that did not happen.
On Sunday, the special guest speaker for the Odyssey dinner was Dr. Takiyah Nur Amin. She spoke about the history of BLUU (Black Lives of UU) and what their plans are for the future. Ill quote from the Conference packet:
“This year our annual Odyssey presentation will take a break from the tradition of an individual telling the story of their professional life. As part of our rethinking of everything that IS the LREDA Fall Conference, we have invited Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism (BLUU) to share their Odyssey, or journey. How did BLUU come to be? What are the joyful moments in the life of BLUU? What growing pains has it experienced? What lessons have been learned and what wisdom does BLUU have now that might surprise its leaders? How is BLUU Changing the Narrative within Unitarian Universalism? Joining us to share this sacred story is one of the members of the BLUU Organizing Collective, Dr. Takiyah Nur Amin.
Dr. Takiyah Nur Amin is a native of Buffalo, NY and the daughter of Karima and the late Abdul Jalil Amin. She is an alumna of the UUA's Multicultural Leadership School for Youth and Young Adults of Color (known today as THRIVE) and a former RE Assistant. An intellectual by training and tradition, Takiyah earned a PhD in Dance and Cultural Studies (with certificates in Women's Studies and Teaching in Higher Education) from Temple University in 2011. She is an active member of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, an advocacy organization on behalf of Black women and girls. A lover of reading, podcasts, shopping and travel, Takiyah currently serves as the Black Lives of UU Content Director.”
I feel so fortunate to have been able to attend this conference for a second year. Last year I was able to do our first summer camp and 6 White Supremacy Teach-Ins from my experience at the Fall Con. This year I would like to express my desire to keep pushing the needle on radical inclusion in our congregation. I would like to do that by asking us to consider calling our Congregational Life Staff member to consult about our church system and if we have some dismantling to do. I also would like the ministerial search team to be considered through the lens of anti-racism and anti-oppression.
With much gratitude,