The hope that is alive in me this holiday season is that we, together as a congregation, can become a stronger multicultural community.- and I’m not just saying that to get brownie points as a Director of Faith Formation! This is a hope renewed in me from the privilege I had of attending two intense UU Conferences in November that gave me a stronger vision of the possibilities that lie in truly embracing and celebrating the differences among every person in our congregation.
There are many facets of culture, including race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, physical and mental ability, socio economic status, age or stage in life, family structure, geographic location, national origin and so forth. All these things go into making someone who they are. Because of this, a multicultural church cannot be defined by the proportions of a single facet such as ethnicity (as we tend to want to do). A multicultural education embraces all attributes of identity and culture in all people. The aim of multicultural education is to eradicate racial, cultural, and religious stereotypes. Take a moment to watch this Ted Talk. I thought it was very powerful and encompasses the goal of what it is to be a multicultural society. The Danger of A Single Story
In the end, multicultural education is primarily a way of thinking. It is about establishing a culture that makes space for all different perspectives. If we focus on preparing our hearts and minds to embrace differences when people come to our church who are different from us, they will feel welcome and accepted from day one. Multicultural education welcomes everyone’s stories. It acknowledges that as humans sharing this small planet, there is always much more that unites us than divides us. Our teachers and leaders don’t necessarily have to be representatives of all varieties of cultural groups in order for us to understand that some groups have historically been marginalized. At my workshop we talked about privilege and oppression, sources of power, silences and cultural appropriation.
Just like our churches should have safety policies in place before anyone walks through the door, we need to build a stronger multicultural community to ensure that everyone who visits our church feels welcome and can share in the liberation (and hard work) of being a Unitarian Universalist. If we want to invite diversity this needs to be a strong part of who we are. One thing that stood out to me from this workshop as a place to start is how children of color almost always struggle with a positive self image in our white supremacy culture and need to see images on the wall of kids that look like them, hear tales of wisdom from global majorities and play with games and toys that honor diversity every time they come to church. Of course we do some of this but we can do more and do it more effectively.
To really be a multicultural community is an ongoing, never-ending process. But isn’t it wonderful that as a church we can embody the message that that there is always room for everyone– even if we have to enlarge our circle or find some other configuration. We can remember that same is boring and celebrate that people come in a dazzling assortment of sizes, colors and shapes. When people are hurting we can take time to notice and use a Universal language of words that build and hugs that heal! Justin (who attended the conference with me) and I look forward to sharing with you all some of what we learned and together finding ways to ensure that everyone who would join our faith feels like they have found a home in Unitarian Universalism.
Janen Wright, Director of Faith Formation