Erika Sanders, Beloved Community Staff Team
Unity’s engagement with the wider community happens, in large part, thanks to the work of nine dedicated Community Outreach Ministry Teams. Each team has a distinct focus, such as environmental sustainability, racial justice, or affordable housing, and each team partners with one or more organizations in the community to engage in education and advocacy.
At the beginning of 2021, our teams began a process of reflection and renewal. To learn more about this, I interviewed Rev. Shay Mackay, Coordinator of Community Outreach Ministries at Unity Church.
ES: Tell me how and why the Community Outreach Ministry Teams renewal process began.
SM: In the past, each team reapplied every two years to ensure that the team’s work remained relevant and connected to the congregation and its community partners. In this time of so much transition, as well as deepening antiracist multicultural work in the congregation, leaders decided to ask the teams to reapply and also to engage in a process of reflection. We hoped that the renewal process would expand the ways that team members experience and articulate how their activities connect to their spiritual growth. This renewal process began in early 2021, and I joined the effort in July 2021. We hope it will be completed by June of this year.
ES: What types of reflection are part of the renewal process?
SM: Each team engages in the process a little differently, based on their focus, but in general, they reflect on questions such as:
ES: What are the most joyous things that you’ve seen come out of the renewal process?
SM: The process has generated a lot of wonderful dialogue within teams, and excitement for continuing to grow in this work. For instance, as a result of working with the Double Helix Model, most team members have taken the Intercultural Development Inventory and are working on their individual Intercultural Development Plans.
Each team is looking more closely at its relations with community organizations. They’re asking important questions about how those partnerships are or are not mutually beneficial, what each member wants from the relationship, and what team members’ aspirations are for the partnerships. We all want these partnerships to be authentic relationships of mutuality, and to avoid anything that feels like “white saviorism.” We also believe that these reflections and partnerships will help teams grow in their understanding of whiteness, of their own cultural framework. By interrogating our work we can transform how we engage with others, and it takes our understanding of how we are accountable to ourselves and to others in a much more nuanced, sophisticated direction.
Ultimately, I think that this process is making Unity’s Ends more real and present in our day-to-day work. Being able to articulate who we are and why we do what we do is very powerful.
Watch for Part II of “Renewal and Commitment,” about how one team has been transformed by this process.
Beloved Community Resources
Unity Justice Database
Team Dynamics House of Intersectionality
Anti-Racism Resources in the Unity Libraries Collection
Creative Writers of Color in Unity Libraries
The History of Race Relations and Unity Church, 1850-2005
Beloved Community Staff Team
The Beloved Community Staff Team (BCST) strengthens and coordinates Unity’s antiracism and multicultural work, and provides opportunities for congregants and the church to grow into greater intercultural competency. We help the congregation ground itself in the understanding of antiracism and multiculturalism as a core part of faith formation. We support Unity’s efforts to expand our collective capacity to imagine and build the Beloved Community. Here, we share the stories of this journey — the struggles, the questions, and the collaborations — both at Unity and in the wider world.
The current members of the Beloved Community Staff Team include Rev. Kathleen Rolenz, Rev. KP Hong, Rev. Lara Cowtan, Barbara Hubbard, Drew Danielson, Laura Park, Lia Rivamonte and Angela Wilcox.