I write this month’s column from our General Assembly in New Orleans. We are listening to a diverse panel of people — various ages and racial identities — who all serve on the UUA Board, using their personal stories and experience to explore where we are as an association of congregations at this point in time.
I am surprised, and appreciative of what I am learning. I can’t share all of it here. I will be talking about lessons from GA in worship on August 6.
For now, let me tell you what surprised me. We seem to be shifting to a different kind and quality of conversation. Conversation with depth and honesty. Not posturing. Not arguing. Not reports. Instead, listening deeply to one another. There seems agreement that we are at a moment that could truly transform us — our movement, our congregations, and ourselves, maybe even our world.
And central to success in this transformation is a shift in how we are together — trusting that others, especially those different from ourselves, have truths that we do not know, knowing you know things I do not know. And that we respond to that difference with curiosity. We are replacing single voices — that have most often been of people who are white — with diverse voices.
For instance, the UU Ministers Association held a worship service that instead of a single sermon had 8 different people, each responding to an event within our association this year. Each spoke for two minutes about observations and feelings, then for a minute about needs and requests. The model used was Marshall Rosenberg’s nonviolent communication. Then, we broke into small groups to do the same thing. Multiple, diverse voices instead of a single voice. Deep listening without interruption.
And, now, today, I am seeing the same approach in our General Assembly. Debates are not the best way to discern our true mission and purpose. We are changing. We are learning from the people of color in our midst. We are learning from women and from queer people. I don’t know how this will evolve. No one does. I am excited about the possibilities.
In faith and freedom,