From Pauline Eichten, Past ARLT member and current member of the
Beloved Community Staff Team
In 2002, a few people thought that Unity Church, a worthy institution, could do better around the issue of racism. They presented a proposal to the Board of Trustees that resulted in the church commissioning the Anti-Racism Leadership Team in January 2003. Made up of church members, the team’s stated mission was to help lead the church into becoming an actively anti-racist institution. This meant organizing from the inside, looking at policies and practices that would need to change to realize that mission. With institutional endorsement and mandate, these “leaders without authority” worked in an uncharted area, reporting to both the Board and the Executive Team and relying on them to execute team recommendations.
The first significant piece of work of the team was to look at church history through an anti-racist lens. We asked, “Was Unity Church part of the resistance to racism in this country or was it complicit in supporting white supremacy and thus racism?” In spring 2005, after much research — going through archives, interviewing people, and reading and discussion — the team produced a 53-page document titled “The History of Race Relations and Unity Church-Unitarian, 1850-2005”. The team’s final assessment of Unity Church and its stance regarding racism was that we “engage[d] in charitable works instead of initiating a deeper exploration of racism and how we might be complicit in its continuing existence. That work would have forced us to feel a great deal of discomfort, and to be willing to be changed.”
Over the following years — and many programs, educational opportunities, sermons and workshops later — changes began. In summer 2005, the Board of Trustees developed a new definition for moral owners as those “who yearn for the Beloved Community and see Unity Church-Unitarian as an instrument for its realization. The Beloved Community … is community at the highest level of reality and possibility, where love and justice prevail.”
Then in 2009-2013 the Ends Statements, the guiding documents for the work of the church, spoke to a commitment to anti-racism and racial healing. It was noted that the multi-million dollar construction project, proposed in 2011, had no stated commitment to the use of minority businesses for goods and services. A group of concerned church members initiated policy language to spell out how the church could address that issue with this project and into the future. The Board of Trustees used that as the basis for Policy J, added to its governing policies in the fall of 2012.
The new Ends Statements, adopted in 2018, included the following commitments to:
Over the years the Anti-Racism Leadership Team has continued to work on influencing the progress of Unity Church toward becoming an actively anti-racist institution. Most recently, it had been serving in a strictly monitoring role. In its 2018 report, the team noted that it was the Board’s job to measure and evaluate the implementation of the church’s Ends. Given the new Ends Statements, and the strategy and implementation work envisioned with Team Dynamics, the team recommended bringing this monitoring task back to the Board. In February 2019, the Board passed such a motion and the Anti-Racism Leadership Team was dissolved.
This past June the Board and the Executive Team hosted a gathering, inviting anyone who ever served on the team. The event was both to thank everyone for their work and to solicit input to help guide the Board going forward. There are plans to have a congregational recognition sometime this fall of the Anti-Racism Leadership Team and the 60-some church members and staff who served on it over the past 17 years.
Leave a Reply.
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.