February 2017: Beloved Conversations - Eileen Wiviott, Intern, Countryside UU Church
This October, five Chicago-area congregations partnered to offer their members a transformative program addressing race and ethnicity to build multicultural congregations. Beloved Conversations is a curriculum developed by the Fahs Collaborative of Meadville Lombard Theological School. The DuPage, Evanston, Hinsdale, Oak Park and Palatine Unitarian Universalist congregations had small groups, totaling more than 70 people, at Countryside Church to participate in the opening weekend workshop. Beloved Conversations helps congregations do the deep, spiritual exploration needed to become more multi-culturally competent and sustain meaningful racial justice work.
The workshop began with an examination of our own assumptions to determine how we want to move beyond them. We created a container that encourages growth – a brave space rather than a safe space. The approach is gentle and loving, while holding each other, as well as ourselves, accountable. Engaging in this relationship building work, we agree that creating a more just world begins by challenging our own biases through compassionate, honest conversation. Our understanding and commitment deepens through reflection and story sharing. We participated in one-on-one, small group and whole group conversations and activities that helped us to understand different perspectives. One of my conversation partners and I talked about how we struggle to balance a commitment to justice with family and self-care.
Each of the 12-person groups began meeting in their own congregations for a total of eight sessions where we will discuss race, ethnicity, identity, micro-aggressions and plans for the future. The goal is for each small group to expand the conversation throughout their congregations and empower the work of racial justice in their own communities. The workshop and first small group gathering were challenging and engaging. We have already formed powerful bonds that will enable us to identify our values, what prevents us from living them, and how to more bravely live into them. Beloved Conversations forges a bold path toward spiritual growth and dedication to building a more just world.