|From the Executive Director|
I have been fortunate throughout my life to have excellent mentors. One of them was a boss I had when I was working at Pacific Bell in my late 20s. I was relatively new to management in the corporate world and Jerry took me under his wing to help show me the ropes. One of the things he told me that I have held onto for more than 30 years was that he was a gardener. I was a bit surprised to hear that from a type A high-achieving General Manager in a Fortune 50 company so when I asked him why he shared wisdom that I have never forgotten.
“Don, he told me, 'since our work is leading and teaching people, we never really know when we are successful. When I garden I plant something, water and nurture it and see the results of my labor. Things aren’t so easy or so visible with people.” While I have never become a gardener, I have never stopped leading and teaching people (both in the corporate world and as a minister) so I have had to find ways to see the tangible results of my labor.
This weekend I received one of the proudest results of our (mine and many others’) UUMA labors in my mail box. I received a copy of our UUMA Committee for Antiracism, Anti-oppression and Multiculturalism’s new book, Centering: Navigating, Race, Authenticity and Power in Ministry. The book is described as “the first book to center the stories, analysis, and insight of Unitarian Universalists of color who are offering their religious leadership….Centering explores how racial identity is made both visible and invisible in Unitarian Universalist ministries.”
This joint project between the UUMA and Skinner House Books began, officially, in 2013. Thanks to the steadfast leadership of Josh Pawelek and Mitra Rahnema, who also edited the book, this seed of an idea grew into a beautiful tree that, I believe, will be producing fruit for years to come. I didn’t write a single essay in the book — they were all written by religious professionals of color — so the nurturing I did was behind the scenes raising money, organizing the conference when the essayists gathered and working with the rest of the staff and ARAOM committee members on supporting Josh and Mitra the best way we could.
I learned a lot as I watched this book grow from an idea to a resource for everyone in our faith and, I suspect, many outside of it. I heard stories of success and heart-break and I have deepened my awareness and curiosity on what it means, and how it can be possible, to move people who have been marginalized by society and White culture, including our UUMA and larger faith community toward the center.
When we began this project in 2013 we — or at least I - had no idea what the future would hold in 2017. While it was easy to know that issues of racial, gender and cultural identity would continue to be front and center in our ministries and our culture, the events of the past year both inside and outside Unitarian Universalism have made those issues even more present. I don’t know much about gardening but I do know that the long days, months and sometimes years of watering, tilling, pruning and praying aren't visible to me when I walk around my neighborhood during a southern spring. I just see the beauty and am grateful that it is before me now. The same is true for this new book. Just as I need the hope that comes with a flowing dogwood tree or a vibrantly colored azalea bush each spring, I, we need the hope and the lessons so many of our colleagues have shared with us in this book. I hope you take the time to read it, savor it and let it work on your heart and mind so we may be the change we hope to be.