I got the call a few months ago, a request from Unity Church to share my experience working with Team Dynamics. They were being considered as a potential partner in intercultural development for Unity as an organization and as a congregation. I remember tripping over my words in the voicemail left in response, excited about what a great match this would be.
Team Dynamics, founded by Trina Olson and Alfonso Wenker, was indeed hired by Unity. They have been working with the Beloved Community Staff Team for the past few months on an ambitious initiative: to grow the effectiveness of Unity Church in achieving our Ends Statements by growing our individual and collective ability to recognize and bridge the “differences that make a difference.”
On Saturday, September 7, more than 150 people gathered from strategic ministry areas for a multicultural training event with Team Dynamics. Trina and Alfonso were joined by their colleagues Tyrai Bronson-Pruitt and Levi Weinhagen, and shared core concepts intended to spark new thinking and new ways of living our values and intentions (please see links below to handouts and resources). Together, the group got grounded in its understanding of diversity, equity, and inclusion, and how certain differences – race, gender, class, immigration status, sexual orientation, ability, and more – make a real difference in how we engage with one another and the life outcomes we experience.
The group applied its learnings and insights to their experience at Unity, recognizing that good intentions have not necessarily had the desired effect – whether that be, for example, in ensuring that longstanding members of color at Unity Church feel a sense of belonging, welcoming new visitors to the church, or maintaining authentic relationships with the broader community through our outreach efforts.
Already, new questions are being asked by those who participated – questions that will shape how the congregation pursues its Ends. The work done by the group to apply learnings to Unity’s education, worship, community outreach, board governance, and welcome team efforts will continue as long as participants rely on their new learnings as guiding touchpoints.
And I can tell you, from my own experience over the past few years working with Team Dynamics at the organization I lead (the American Institute of Architects – Minnesota), that success in bridging difference and achieving diversity, equity, and inclusion goals hinges on each of us being open to personal and organizational transformation.
It’s about more than new terms and skills; it’s about a new humility and a new curiosity about the effects of our thinking and our actions. The more we individually and collectively pursue a cycle of learn-try-fail, then learn and try anew, the closer we will get to creating the church community, and the world community, we seek to make real.
Handouts and resources from Team Dynamics are intended for use as part of ongoing work with TD, who encourage sharing materials with conversation partners.
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, Barbara Hubbard, Drew Danielson, Laura Park, Rev. Karen Gustafson, Angela Wilcox, Pauline Eichten, and Erika Sanders.