Racial justice at UCUCC has entered a new phase. Accordingly, this seemed a good moment to describe the phase and how we got here. As I worked on that description my efforts were grabbed by a metaphor that refused to let go. Resistance was futile but be warned: metaphor may occasionally trump chronology.
A number of years ago, Pastor Peter Ilgenfritz felt a compelling need for UCUCC to address the issue of racial justice. He saw an opening when the Church Council of Greater Seattle offered a workshop to be attended by teams from local congregations. Three of us joined Pastor Peter for “Racial Justice as a Spiritual Imperative,” presented by Heather Hackman.
That invitation planted the seed for all that followed. The four of us met repeatedly to figure how to grow that seed. We came up with two major actions:.
- We called an open meeting for folks interested in working on the issue.
- We scheduled a workshop of our own, at which Diane Schmitz and Cynthia Macleod helped us begin to start finding our way. We were much encouraged both by the number of people interested and how wonderful they were. From Diane and Cynthia we learned a huge amount.
One particularly strong message from Cynthia and Diane: “Don’t try to move too fast.” In other words, grow a good, strong set of roots before you try for the more spectacular and visible growth. We did that by staying pretty low key and working mostly within the community that presented itself spontaneously. Eventually, though, we began to feel ready to grow up and out. We put out a survey to determine where the congregation as a whole stood on racial justice activism and were encouraged.
About this time the downside of our choice to be low key emerged: the Youth Group decided we were doing nothing at all and turned their splendid energy on an effort to get the church to display a Black Lives Matter banner. The church leadership explained that such a demonstration was appropriate only if it genuinely represented the congregation. The survey made that probable, but to make it solid and official we formulated and presented a congregational resolution to be a Racial Justice Church, which passed with flying colors at a congregational meeting on August 4, 2019.
With that, the needs were clearer and more visible, though still of course (as they always will be) infinite. The racial justice activist group set itself to supporting branches growing in a bunch of directions, some old, some new, from book groups small and large to justice outreach via the Northwest Community Bail Fund. It still felt, though, as if the mandate of the steering committee were to find ways to branch and things to encourage people to do.
Most recently our perceptions have been opened out and broadened, and with it our inspiration. With the recent alteration of the leadership structure our racial justice steering committee has welcomed into our midst, with great joy, Pastor Amy Roon. With her much wider vision of what’s going on in the church she made us conscious that there are many branches growing beyond the ones that we have been particularly responsible for, and that all of them should be nurtured.
So our new mission (and here any arborist will cringe) is to make sure that all those branches grow through each other (entwine their twigs?!), strengthen the growth of the whole tree and keep it green and growing.
This new mission has also changed our perspective on our monthly meetings. Hitherto the major focus has been on projects launched from within the group — how they are going and how to improve them and extend them. The ideas and the conversations have been excellent, but they could be, and should be, even wider and richer. So our next goal is to entice in more people and listen and share and grow in all sorts of directions. We are looking forward to that!
– Submitted by Ginger Warfield