Erika Sanders, Beloved Community Communications Team
A few months ago, Pauline Eichten brought an opening reading to a meeting of the Beloved Community Communications Team. Although written by Bishop Ken Untener in 1979, it’s often called the Oscar Romero prayer because it summarizes the ministry of Archbishop Romero.
This is what we are about:
We plant seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything
and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something,
and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
an opportunity for God's grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results,
but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders,
ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.
The members of our group were energized by the prayer, and by the reminder that we commit to the unknown potential of our work every time we take action to build Beloved Community.
We decided to share it with other Unity Church members and ask about their ability to continue their own antiracism work. How do they embrace the fact that it is work full of ambiguities with no set end-point?
Molly Flattum, a Welcome Team member and Spirit Play teacher, and Linda Kjerland, a member of the Congregational Care Team, weighed in.
Erika: When you read Romero’s prayer, how did its words resonate with you, and with your activities at Unity Church?
Linda: The prayer says it all about keeping at it. I need to continue to prime the pump. As a younger child, I visited my grandparent's farm. Prominent in the yard was a tall rusting hand pump — it produced the first trickles of water only after some effort.
I need to continually put yeast in my own dough. I need to listen and to befriend books that provoke, inform, and challenge me. Without repeated infusions, I can tuck in, miss calls for disturbance or misread my own emotions.
Molly: The prayer reminds me of how, on the Welcome Team, we give great attention to how we have little snippets of conversation with congregants and visitors on Sundays, and how we try to infuse those small moments with meaning. How do those quick interactions create a space that is welcoming for everyone? What does that space look and feel like when it is engaging in antiracism, or welcoming people with disabilities or other marginalized identities?
Erika: How do you grapple with the fact that this work has no point of completion or outcome?
Molly: That really resonated with me as a Spirit Play teacher and a parent. As a parent, not having an end-point isn’t so scary, because we know that the work of growth is never-ending. Raising good humans is not about an end point, it is about ongoing action. It’s about raising kids to never be silent. My daughter is a preschooler, and is noticing differences like who has glasses and who doesn’t, and who uses a wheelchair and how they’ll enter a building. We’re normalizing conversations about difference and justice. Children hold me accountable. There’s always more work and learning to do. The idea of having an end goal would almost be limiting, because it might limit what you’re willing to do for the effort.
Erika: In your Unity activities, do you find yourself employing the antidotes to white supremacy culture?
Linda: I’d like to take time with each characteristic, putting them into intentional discussions within the Congregational Care team as we endeavor to reflect, rethink, and expand for whom and how we show up. My reading on antiracism, including at Unity, has pushed my willingness to see, feel, and heed the indicators of white supremacy culture.
Erika: What does the use of the word “prophets” in the final line of the prayer mean to you? Do you see your work as prophetic?
Molly: Prophet is a word that lands awkwardly for me. For me, it is more a question of: we are here so temporarily, how do we create a lasting impact? The work we do has to be the hard work, and it has to be part of our daily lives. As a parent, the fact that I’m doing advocacy and justice work–not just for my own sake, but for my children and the whole community — is what makes this holy work. Children help me stay anchored in the moment and keep asking the question, “What’s right in front of me?” It’s about Romero’s seed in the moment and the future.
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.