Resources for Understanding the History of Anti-Racism in the UUA

Some of you have asked questions about the history of anti-racism in the UUA. There are three videos we highly recommend to help you understand the history and some of the context in which our current conversations are taking place.
For its spring 2017 Minns Lecture Series, the Minns Lectures Committee hosted a group of leading and insurgent Unitarian Universalist historians, ethicists, and activists who presented their research on the historical and future trajectories of Black Lives Matter and Unitarian Universalism. Who were the African American leaders in Unitarian, Universalist, and Unitarian Universalist congregations? Why don’t Unitarian Universalists today know about our black antecedents? What is the relationship between this “black hole” in white consciousness about African Americans and the contemporary Black Lives Matter movement?

Curated by the Rev. Mark Morrison-Reed, the series consisted of two lectures:

Friday, March 31 – The Rev. Mark Morrison-Reed, Affiliated Member, Meadville-Lombard Theological School, with respondent Rev. Mary Margaret Earl, Executive Director and Senior Minister at the Unitarian Universalist Urban Ministry (UUUM)

Saturday, April 1 – The Rev. Rosemary Bray McNatt, President, Professor of Unitarian Universalist Ministry and Heritage, Starr King School for the Ministry with respondent DiDi Delgado, writer, activist, organizer, and freelance journalist.

The struggle for black empowerment and racial justice within the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) came to a head in 1967-1970. The video, Wilderness Journey tells the story of what happened through the voices of those involved at the time. It is highly recommended viewing for those interested in understanding the history of the time. One of the speakers at General Assembly, Dr. Sanyika, was a participant in those events and referred to them in his speech to the delegates during plenary. We cannot embed the video in this blog, you will need to visit the link to watch it.
If you are interested in seeing the speech by Dr. Sanyika at GA, we have included it below:

You are also invited to attend the new monthly #UUWhiteSupremacyTeachin Curiosity Circles Webinar led by Rev. Renee Ruchotzke at 6 pm ET on Wednesday, July 6 and on the first Wednesday night of each month. This is an opportunity for our Central East congregational leaders to learn together so you can find their own theological center and voice in this important time. Wherever you stand or however you feel, we will meet and walk with you.
If you need additional resources in this time, please reach out to your primary contact.
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The Flowers of Turbulence

Rev. Megan Foley

I have not enjoyed spring this year in Washington D.C., where I live.

I usually love the mild days of April, May and June in the Mid-Atlantic, where we have long stretches of blue sky days in the 70s.  Rather than seeing how much heat or cold I’ll need to accommodate on any given day, I can leave my windows open and my socks off, eat meals outside, and rely on things being consistently peaceful and pleasant.

This year, it’s been either cold and rainy or hot and rainy. May had no days with highs in the 70s, but plenty in the 50s and some in the 90s. It’s been less physically uncomfortable than it’s been just unreliable and largely gloomy. No peace, no thoughtless pleasure this year, just the same old weather variation I manage all year long.

Unitarian Universalism has been like this for me this spring, too. Many days, it’s been gloomy to be a UU. We’ve been angry at each other, rude to each other, and unsure of what will be next for us. We’ve suffered losses and grief in the extreme at the headquarters level. For some of us, we’re awakened to a painful reality that others of us have been living with for far too long. Every day this spring brought something new and challenging in our faith.

At the same time, I experienced pockets of love and support this spring that have surprised and sustained me. Colleagues who reminded me of the importance of my work. The joy of regular churchy things like ordinations and worship. The gratification of the White Supremacy Teach In both in a congregation and among UUA staff. The dawning hope that change might be possible when I honestly had not thought it was.

It has not been a spring to relax with open windows and thoughtless inattention. But the flowers of spring bloomed just the same; the days have stretched longer behind the clouds; the world is still warming, in fits and starts. Summer comes no matter the rockiness of the approach.

Perhaps the task at hand isn’t so much to long for days of pleasure and peace when those are clearly not to be found. Maybe our work is to look for the flowers that are determined to bloom for us in the weather that we have.

Rev. Megan Foley
CER Regional Lead

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Is Your Congregation Participating in the #WhiteSupremacyTeachIn?

More than half of all Unitarian Universalist congregations are joining the #WhiteSupremacyTeachIn. Is your congregation one of them? If not, are you wondering what exactly this is?

Here is an overview from the Black Lives UU webpage for the Teach In:

On Sunday, April 30 or Sunday, May 7, or whatever date works for your congregation, a large, growing group of Unitarian Universalists will shift their regularly scheduled Sunday morning worship to participate in a teach-in on racism and white supremacy. On these two Sundays, you and your UU community will be participating with thousands of UUs around the country in this large-scale historic action.

This call to action and worship comes from a growing network of UUs–religious professionals and and lay leaders from both within and outside congregations–led by UUs of color and white UUs working together.

Over the past few weeks, many have been responding to calls by UUs of color to look critically *within* our faith communities–including hiring practices, power brokers, and cultural habits–for the ways racism, sexism, and white supremacy live.

Why change your worship plan? Many of us work in congregations, and know that such shifts require work and can challenge our comfort levels. That’s precisely why we feel it’s important. We believe that hundreds of UU churches signaling to their own members and to the larger community that “our faith takes racism seriously, especially within our own walls” will push our faith toward the beloved community we all seek.

Whether your UU community has dozens of members and children of color, or just about everyone is white, the commitment to combat white supremacy must be strong and urgent. Battling racism in its many forms is not easy. Everyone has to start somewhere, and it takes a commitment to disrupt business as usual.

It’s not too late to join in. Need help? the Black Lives UU website has a list of resources and has had webinars to assist folks with the planning – you can listen to the ones that have past. Worship resources are now available thanks to Kenny Wiley at

If your congregation is not participating, a map of those who are is on the Black Lives UU website. If your congregation is participating, please make sure you add your name to the list.

The UUA endorses the Teach In and other efforts to move us closer to truly inclusive community.  If you have questions, please get in touch with your CER Primary Contact.

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Are you ready to Show the Love this week?

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” MLK, Jr.

As I look at what is happening today, I return to lessons learned from a speech by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that is as appropriate now as it was some 50 years ago. Rev. Dr. King was way ahead of the curve when he warned us of the “deadly triplets” that Rabbi Arthur Waskow of the Shalom Center cites are alive and well today: racism, militarism, and materialism. The triplets live on while Rev. Dr. King was assassinated a year after that speech.

At this “Sankofa” moment, from the West African tradition, we must take the time to look back, so that we can be rooted in the task at hand, understand the present, and then re-shape the future. “Woe is me” is old. The “days of lamentation” better be over. Our perpetuation of ignorance coupled with good intentions is stale. It’s time to get real. We can better understand what got us to this “reality show” in which we find ourselves by doing our homework so that we will effectively shape that Beloved Community that we still long for, and dream of, despite the harsh realities of the day.

I urge you to read Dr. King’s stellar “Speech to Clergy and Laity Concerned About Vietnam” shared at Riverside Church, NY some 50 years ago. . I urge you to review the resources cited below from the UUA Program and Strategy Outreach Office that give insight to this critical Week of Action January 14-21, 2017. I urge you to study the “Show the Love” resources listed on the UUA website.

Unitarian Universalists embody the Living Tradition. Rev. Dr. King’s legacy lives on through each of us. Let’s find our voices. It’s time to GET BUSY!!!

Yours, HOPE

Rev. Dr. Hope Johnson
UUA Congregational Life Consultant
Central East Region

  • The UUA has gathered events that “Show the Love” and stand up for our values on their webpage, Show the Love. Congregations and groups are invited to add their events to the map and list.
  • If you are particularly interested in activities this week, check the Show the Love updates page created by our UUA staff to help individuals find events and activities they can participate in at home or in Washington or anyplace in between.
  • And if you are looking for resources to help you and your congregation learn more, the Show the Love resources page can help with that including how to prep your greeters for the increase in visitors we are currently seeing and ways to partner with other organizations.
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Perspectives from Standing Rock

Rev. Douglas TaylorAt the beginning of November, Jo VonRue (our Ministerial Intern here in Binghamton) and I traveled up to the Standing Rock camp in North Dakota to support the Sioux tribe. They are fighting to stop construction of the Dakota Access Pipe Line on sacred lands and which threatens their water supply.

Jo and I received unanimous support from our UU Binghamton Board of Trustees when we asked them about it on Saturday evening. On Sunday morning, during worship, the congregation demonstrated their support by responding to a Special Collection to defray the costs of the trip. We carried the members of our congregation in our hearts as we travelled the next few days to North Dakota. It took us 2 days to get there, we flew to Minneapolis and met up with other UU’s from all over the country. We arrived in Cannonball, ND Wednesday evening in time for some training ans inspiration before the Thursday event.

Over 500 clergy responded to the call to come support the Water Protectors, Unitarian Universalist clergy made up nearly 10% of that response. On Thursday morning we processed down to the water, to the bridge with its barricade. There were speeches, symbolic actions, and several of us were invited to cross the bridge and say prayers near the barricade.

I heard Rev. Peter Morales (UUA President) say “you can pretend to care, but you cannot pretend to show up.” I was proud in that moment to be part of this great act of solidarity. When Jo and I went out onto the bridge we saw the scorched concrete, the scars on the side of the road, the broken glass, and the burned out vehicles chained together to augment the cement barricade – it was disturbing. I was proud to be there in support of the water protectors, and I was ashamed of what has been done in my name as a citizen.

Back home, we hosted a multigenerational worship service to share with the congregation what we experienced. We connected with other clergy from Binghamton who had been at Standing Rock and co-hosted a prayer vigil on December 4 – right at the time the news came of the denial of the easement by the Army Corp of Engineers. (The fight continues, but that was a significant victory!)

Rev. Douglas Taylor
UU Congregation of Binghamton, NY

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Truce Day in a War Zone

by Jo VonRue

clergy at standing rockThe smell comes first
driving over the hill at Standing Rock to Oceti Sakowin
my breath catches
the voices around me go silent
as we drink in what lies before us
the rising sun begins to illuminate the camp
teepees, tents, and flags of many nations dot the landscape
of this refugee place
this war zone
helicopters, airplanes, and drones circle above
they create a noise
a buzz
UU Clergy at Standing Rocka constant sound
downing out my thoughts
524 interfaith clergy gather in a circle
together around the sacred fire
with the elders of the Sioux Nation
who have been praying for us to come
hoping they are not alone in the struggle
we repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery
and with a smudging by the elders
we are blessed on our sacred journey
a pilgrimage… to the bridge
processing down the hill
we can see police in riot gear
Clergy at Standing Rockadvancing towards us
we cause no threat
we are peaceful
we sing…
“wade in the water, wade in the water children…”
I am aware of the privilege my clerical collar
and white skin affords me
I am not scared, I know I will not be harmed
the overhead noise fades
it is quiet for the first time in months
like a truce day in a war zone
I cross the contested bridge
Clergy at Standing Rock a path over the mighty Missouri River
The air is filled with tension
sadness… anger.
I pray, Spirit of Life…
we are here to help protect this land, this water
guide my heart and hands
so that I may bear witness and offer strength
watch over these native people and the water protectors
as they fight the daily battle against the government forces
help them to know they are not alone, Mni Wiconi… Amen.

Reflections from our clergy who were in Standing Rock last week. For more reflections, please read the blog post by UUA COO, Harlan Limpert on Call and Repsonse.

Clergy at Standing RockClergy at Standing Rock


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After the Election, From Your Staff

Dear Congregations and Clergy of the Central East Region,

CER VerticalLast night’s election results are in, and we know that we are not alone in experiencing a wide range of emotions.  We know that many of you are rising to this new day with more questions than answers.  We do not yet know what this means for ourselves, for our congregations, for those we love, or for the vision of Beloved Community that our faith calls us to.

As you move into caring for yourself and each other, we wanted you to know that we of the Central East Regional staff awoke November 9th resolved to continue to follow the call to love, to fight bigotry and hatred wherever we find it, and to reach out to our fellow human siblings to seek connection and understanding even when that work is hard to do.

None of us can do this work alone, and we Regional staff are here to help you connect with others who make you strong.  We are here to provide you with the resources you need to do the holy work of loving other human beings, not because it is easy, but because it is the only path to justice and to peace.

Please do not hesitate to reach out to your Primary Contact for support, for resources, to help coordinate your great idea, or for a listening ear as you work out how your congregation will respond. We are here to support your efforts to change the world, and we all have a lot of work ahead of us. We are in this together.

Hope to hear from you soon.

Rev. Megan Foley, Regional Lead
Beth Casebolt
Rev. Evin Carvill-Ziemer
Jillian Conway
Shannon Harper
Pat Infante
Rev. Dr. Hope Johnson
Andrea Lerner
Rev. David Pyle
Rev. Renee Ruchotzke
Cristina Sanchis
Sue Tabone
Rev. Joan Van Becelaere

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Resources for Ministerial Transitions

One of the most significant changes in the life of a congregation is a change in professional ministry. It can be a time of grief, possibility, confusion, anxiety or some combination of emotions.

We on your UUA/OMD/SLD/CERG District and Regional staff are committed to assist congregations though these times of transition. We also encourage congregational leaders to educate themselves about best practices so that we can partner together to find the best fit for your congregation.

In the past couple of years, the UUA has developed some helpful resources to aid congregational leaders to educate themselves during a ministerial transition.

Overview and Ministerial Departure:

  • Ministerial Transition Introduction – VIEW
  • How Does the Minister Know When to Leave – VIEW
  • More Thoughts on When to Leave – VIEW
  • Ministers: When and How Do You Tell Them You’re Leaving? – VIEW
  • Saying Goodbye, Well – VIEW
  • Emotions Around Terminations – VIEW

Negotiated Terminations: When the Ministry Doesn’t End Well. Occasionally a ministry ends in conflict. If you think you’re headed this way, be in touch with your regional staff for more particulars.

  • What is a Good Officer? – VIEW
  • Severance – VIEW
  • Next Steps for the Congregation Following a Negotiated Resignation – VIEW
  • Negotiated Resignations: What’s Next for the Minister? – VIEW

Next Steps for the Congregation, and the Interim Process

  • Don’t Rush the Process of Search – VIEW
  • Making Yourself Attractive to an Interim Minister – VIEW
  • The Interim Process: What if No Minister Wants to Come – VIEW

The Search Committee: Creation and Process

  • When to Select the Search Committee – VIEW
  • How to Select the Search Committee – VIEW
  • The Search Committee Start Up Retreat – VIEW
  • Group Process in the Search Committee – VIEW
  • Conflict in the Search Committee – VIEW

Search Committee Tasks

  • How to Make Yourself Attractive to a Ministerial Candidate – VIEW
  • How to Sort the Ministerial List – VIEW
  • How to Decide on your Pre-Candidates and Candidate – VIEW
  • When the Search Committee Can’t Decide – VIEW
  • Crafting the Letter of Agreement – VIEW
  • Fair Compensation – VIEW
  • Offering the Position to Your Candidate – VIEW
  • Offer Day: What if No one Wants to be Your Minister? – VIEW


  • What Percentage is Needed for the Call? – VIEW
  • Candidating Week: When Things Go Badly – VIEW
  • What Happens if the Congregation Refuses the Candidate? – VIEW
  • What if Your Candidate Says No? – VIEW

Part-Time Ministerial Search

  • How to do a Part-Time Ministry Search – VIEW

These new resources are in addition to the resources on the UUA website:

  • UUA Ministerial Transitions Website This site includes links to information on Interim Ministry, the Settlement Handbook, benefits and compensation (including a compensation calculator), part-time ministry, recommendations concerning screening of ministers and all staff and other safety issues.
Renee Ruchotzke
Rev. Renee Ruchotzke

In faith and service,
Rev. Renee Ruchotzke

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View from the Penthouse

In adaptive leadership training we often talk about the “view from the balcony,” and the view from the “dance floor.”  The balcony view allows you to take a step back, observe the dance floor and the immediate things going on.  It also allows you to take the long view, absorbing the context of all that we do.  In times of tension or struggle, it’s extremely important to step back, allow the stress to fall away, and change our perception of things.

Penthouse ViewRecently I encountered a meeting with a very infectious virus, which landed me in the hospital for five days of intensive treatments.  I had to be in a private room with a special filter, and everyone who came in had to gown, mask, glove and protect their eyes.  I wasn’t allowed to leave the room.  I was quarantined.

But I had a fabulous room on the 7th floor, the “penthouse” of the hospital.  There were tall window on both sides.  I had the best view in Rochester.  Everyday I watched the sun rise and set.  It was like living in a snow globe.

While in my bubble, I had time to think about the regionalization work that we are doing.  Are we going too fast?  Is it the right time and the right thing to do?

Then I read an article about the closing of the Alban Institute, and it really hit me- we have got to change or we will die.  People have instant access to anything they want to learn about on the internet.  Alban couldn’t compete with that.

We need to stay competitive.  I look around me and see all the staff, ministers and parishioners,  all the dedicated people in our faith.  How strong their commitment to growing our faith, to reaching each person who could be served by a liberal religious, life affirming theology.  And I know that we are going to make this work.  We’ll make it work in our churches and out in the community and across the internet and in every corner.  Love is a growth industry.  There is room in all of our spaces and in our heart to send a message of hope and love, of interconnection and belonging.  At least that’s what I see.

Rev. Chris Neilson
Congregational Life Consultant SLD

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St. Patrick’s Green

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! I’m wearing green – how about you? And after a winter such as we have had, that green is a precious promise of spring. A promise of fresh green grass, new lettuce and peas in the pod. This is also the season of pledge campaigns, a plea and a hope for plentiful funds and healthy budgets. I don’t think the timing is coincidence.
Spring is a time of stirring and growth, of movement and hope. My church budget, my curriculum plan, my garden and indeed my life – all will do so much better with preparation, planning and inputs at just the right time. Yet I need to keep asking, is that budget, faith development program, garden or whatever looking at potential and not just maintenance?
I have a strong need for structure and planning, so this spring I will be mindful of mission as I plant my garden and budget my time and finances. Within that container of mission there is space for experimentation and risk-taking without abandoning all of what feeds my soul and body. Diversity and adaptation are the keys to thriving in the long run, so plant your UU church garden and program within that raised bed of mission and value. Hope and pray for adequate sun and rain, but sow with an eye to trying something new and different. How cool is it that every year we get another chance to grow!
Karen LoBracco
Lifespan Faith Development Consultant for Ohio Meadville and St. Lawrence Districts

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