Every Tuesday night over the course of seven weeks in September and October, some 200 people participated in at least one of a series of workshops led by Team Dynamics. This is part of Unity’s work toward realizing our Ends — to create a multicultural spiritual home and space for racial healing and dismantling dominant culture. In last month’s newsletter, we shared an overview of the first four workshops. Here we’ll offer a brief overview of the last three, as well as some reflections from participants.
The fifth workshop, Social Change + Social Movements, described social movements as a contest of values and ideas. Unity’s movement toward an antiracist multicultural spiritual community rises out of three values: intersectionality and complexity of identities; interconnection, not alienation; and interdependence, not extreme individuality. The workshop also introduced the need to lead with a positive vision, a “Wow” statement that expresses the desired outcome that motivates us — or as presenter Alfonso Wenker said, “gives us goose bumps.”
Workshop six, Organizing + Action, defined organizing as people casting a vision, building relationships, amassing resources and then using those to effect a transformation. It also identified a feedback loop as critical, asking, “Are we willing to be changed by what we learn? Who are our messages for? Is what we’re doing working?”
The final workshop reviewed the tools and content from previous sessions and included a call to accountability. Each participant was asked to consider one area of focus and examine what they might do differently given what they had learned. As in every workshop, there was an opportunity to share with others in a smaller breakout group.
We took the need for feedback to heart, wondering how participants felt about these workshops and what we might learn from them. We sent out a survey to everyone who had registered. Our return rate was about 11%. Using the format modeled by Team Dynamics, we asked people to identify one thing they were grateful for and one commitment they had made.
Expressions of gratitude included:
- the opportunity to learn with other church members,
- the quality of engagement by participants, and
- learning that mistakes are part of growth.
Among the stated commitments were to:
- continue learning about my culture and identities,
- improve my understanding of the complex issues related to racial justice, and
- move from learning to action.
One person wants to become “ever mindful of my white culture, the characteristics … I manifest in social situations, and to ‘tame’ the manifestations so they don’t interfere with relationship building.”
We asked workshop participants, did the series help you connect to Unity’s work toward racial justice?
Overall, survey respondents reported a greater appreciation and understanding of the work Unity has been doing. As one participant put it, “I knew that Unity’s investment in this work was a proper priority. This series helped illuminate ‘why’ and explain some of the internal work that we need to be doing.” Another respondent said framing the Ends as a social movement was “a whole different way to understand both what the goal is and how to get there as a congregation.” One participant wanted to hear more about how to apply the ideas presented within the church, building on what currently exists, and looks forward to ongoing conversations.
Next, we asked participants what might be your “next right action”? Responses to this question included:
- supporting leadership transition at Unity Church with multicultural and racial justice Ends in mind,
- doing volunteer work with organizations led by people of color, and
- building relationships across racial and cultural differences.
Participants were also asked, was there something you discovered about yourself during the series?
One participant discovered that, “I don’t know very much, but I can get through the discomfort and learn.” In the same vein, another person noted “how bereft all my formal education has been, and how, without even knowing it, I allowed my white privilege to protect me from knowing.”
Identifying one’s conflict style and mode of cultural expression was an “a-ha” moment for some. One direct and expressive communicator learned they were in the minority. Another recognized that their conflict style could be alienating to those with different styles.
These were rich sessions with much to learn and understand about ourselves and how white dominant culture affects our thinking and behavior. Please stay tuned as the Beloved Community Staff Team coordinates next steps in the ongoing work of becoming an antiracist multicultural spiritual community.
*Thanks to Shelley Butler for creating the survey form and the report of responses.