Debbie Cushman, Clover Earl, and Merrill Aldrich for the Beloved Community Communications Team
In the fall of 2019, twelve Unity Church members joined Revs. KP Hong and Lisa Friedman as the inaugural cohort of Teaching Associates. The group set off to pursue the somewhat daunting journey of becoming “resident theologians” in a new, repeating three-year program initially imagined by Revs. Rob and Janne Eller-Isaacs. Part of the impetus for this new ministry was the desire for lay leaders to support adult faith formation across the congregation. How could we best show up for the faith journey of others and our own, and be truly present within, among and beyond? This was an especially salient question back in 2019, given all the transitions anticipated over the next few years! Little did we know.
As church staffing shifted, the Teaching Associates have also gratefully received support from Revs. Karen Hering, Kathy Hurt and Shay MacKay. The longer-term vision is to continue to expand and enrich our Teaching Associate cohorts such that we have a reach that can continuously supplement adult faith formation and the overall spiritual health of the congregation.
Our study has focused on: foundations of UU theology, honing our interpersonal theological skills with case studies, and developing personal statements of theology. We accomplished this course of study through regular monthly meetings and small group and individual assignments. We wrestled with topics like prayer, liberalism, race, spirituality, conflict and so much more. Integration of the Double-Helix Model and ensuring that we are really digging into the intersection of faith formation and antiracist multiculturalism has also been central to our work.
Here are a few examples of how we are applying ourselves right now:
Clover Earl: When I first heard KP say that we were being trained as “resident theologians” I thought about heading for the door! I am so grateful I stayed because I can apply the learning of the last three years in my interactions with different groups with whom I am involved. The Hey White People, We Have Work to Do! pilgrimage came out of my work with this cohort. And the recent introduction of the Double Helix Model has deepened my understanding of how important grounding myself in personal spiritual practice is to engaging in the uncomfortable and oftentimes messy work of building beloved community.
Debbie Cushman: My engagement with various small groups at Unity is so enriched by the work I’m doing as a Teaching Associate. I’m grateful to be developing a greater breadth of knowledge about our faith’s underpinnings. This supports me in providing more context for all the other curious minds and hearts around me. I have a strong interest in adult faith formation at Unity and this deeper theological grounding is key. In addition, going deep quickly and listening with compassion are necessary skills as a Chalice Circles facilitator, when welcoming participants at Finding Yourself at Unity, and in my work as a trustee.
Merrill Aldrich: I have heard from many Teaching Associates how wonderful it is to get this deep dive into our complicated UU theology and history, especially with the guidance of the ministers. As I engage with other activities at the church like Worship Associates, Chalice Circles, and the Welcome Team, this grounding has become invaluable. I also love this notion of the Teaching Associates “fanning out” into the congregation, which feels right in the spirit of the way Rob and Janne Eller-Isaacs engaged with the congregation, and the larger democratic and inclusive traditions of our faith.
In the 2021-22 church year, a second cohort has formed for the coming three years, and the first class is preparing to wrap up with a celebration in June.
Want to learn more from an actual Teaching Associate? You can find us around the building, online, and in lots of places as our individual involvements span the work of our church community. Look for the Teaching Associate descriptor on our Unity name tags or find us by name: Merrill Aldrich, Mary Baremore, Debbie Cushman, Clover Earl, Michael Funck, Mike Huber, Susan Huehn, Mary Kerres, Barney Kujawski, Angela Wilcox, Tom Zell, Ray Hommeyer, Anna Newton, Marjorie Otto, Mary Pickard, Laura Schlatter, Michael Schwab, Valerie Tremelat, Katrina Nichols, and Laura Park.
We’re ready to go deep quickly with you.
Top row: Michael Funck, Susan Huehn, Debbie Cushman, Merrill Aldrich, KP Hong. Bottom row: Mike Huber, Mary Baremore, Angela Wilcox
Beloved Community Resources
Next Right Actions
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.