Yesterday UUMA President Linda Olson Peebles, UUMA Trustee at Large/ARAOM chair Josh Pawelek and UUMA Executive Director Don Southworth, sent a letter to the 81 UUMA members who have identified as ministers of color on their UUMA profile. The letter is below.
UUMA Colleague of Color,
We hope this letter finds you well.
We’re writing to express our support in relation to recent high-profile police murders of unarmed African American men and boys and all the events that have unfolded across the nation in response. We recognize that many white Unitarian Universalist clergy have been deeply moved by these events and have become newly committed to working as allies to colleagues and communities of color in the struggle to confront and dismantle racist oppression. Yet, despite these newly articulated commitments, we also recognize that Unitarian Universalist colleagues of color may be experiencing events differently from white colleagues.
We recognize that, because of longstanding patterns of white racial and cultural dominance, clergy of color face unique challenges in white institutional settings. These challenges can become all the more pronounced in moments when the nation’s attention is focused on race and racism as it is today. And we are keenly aware that in this particular moment African American colleagues may be experiencing greater-than-normal levels of stress and anxiety in their ministries.
We also recognize that while all of us have the capacity and the obligation to name and challenge racism in our ministry settings, colleagues of color who do so may be put at greater emotional, psychological, spiritual and professional risk than white colleagues. Denial and pushback from those to whom we minister is common, as is resistance to the work of changing racist cultures and systems. While it may be difficult for any of us to experience such resistance, we know that colleagues of color may feel particularly alone in their ministry settings at this time.
Finally, we recognize that events in Ferguson, MO and Staten Island, NY and elsewhere have catalyzed a resurgence of the movement for racial justice in the United States. Unitarian Universalist clergy are and will be part of that movement for years to come. Of course, this means that the dynamics we’ve named in this letter (and certainly others) will likely continue. As members of the UUMA Board and the UUMA Committee for Antiracism, Anti-Oppression and Multiculturalism (CARM), we are committed not only to supporting colleagues of color, but also seeking your wisdom and advice regarding the most effective ways to minister in these challenging times. To that end, we are proposing a series of continental video conferences to discuss the experience of “Ministry After Ferguson” and to name the ways the UUMA and CARM can offer meaningful leadership as the movement evolves.
We would like to begin with a video conference designed specifically for African American colleagues to discuss “Ministry After Ferguson.” This video conference will take place on Wednesday, January 21st at noon, eastern time. CARM member, the Rev. Walter LeFlore, will facilitate. We invite African American colleagues to contact Rev. Josh Pawelek at firstname.lastname@example.org or (860) 652-8961 if you plan to participate or if you have any clarifying questions.
Following this initial video conference, we anticipate further conferences with other colleagues of color and white colleagues.
Rev. Linda Olson Peebles Rev. Josh Pawelek Rev. Don Southworth
UUMA President UUMA ARAOM Chair UUMA Executive Director
This email has been sent to all active UUMA Members have identified as a person of color and who have an email address on file with the UUMA.
Don Southworth, Executive Director
Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association