from the editor in chief
Contents: May/June 2002
A model of what is possible
"I have a question," the Rev. Mark Morrison-Reed, author of Black Pioneers in a White Denomination, says of this issue's cover story, in which he plays an important role. "Will other UUs be able to see themselves in it, or will they see it as unique to Cincinnati?"
Four years ago, Unitarian Universalists in the Ohio city were startled to learn that an earlier generation of Unitarians had turned their backs on the Church of the Unitarian Brotherhood, a storefront congregation founded in 1918 by an African American, the Rev. W.H.G. Carter. Soon members of the Northern Hills Fellowship and First Unitarian Church found themselves engulfed in soul searching about how to make amends with the Carter family and how to be authentic with themselves. David Whitford's cover story brings this extraordinary process to life beginning on page 24, and it is accompanied by a moving article by Starita Smith, Carter's great-granddaughter.
The Cincinnati process goes on, and while it has hardly healed the deep wounds in a city recently torn by police brutality and race riots and is just beginning to close the gap between a largely white Unitarian Universalism's words and deeds on issues of race Morrison-Reed calls the Cincinnati effort at racial reconciliation "a model of what is possible." But, he asks, "Will the people who read this see themselves and grasp the possibility of questioning, exploring, and changing their own congregations?"
Across the continent, many UU congregations are taking steps toward racial reconciliation. The UUA's Department for Faith in Action lists exemplary efforts by congregations in Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Massachusetts, North Dakota, and Wyoming, and there are others. The largely white congregations are reaching out not only to African Americans but also to Native Americans and Latinos and Latinas. And in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Unitarian Universalist congregations are just starting on a bold reconciliation journey, contributing to payments in lieu of government reparations to survivors of a 1921 race riot in which mobs of whites wrecked forty blocks of a prosperous African-American neighborhood, killing at least thirty-eight people. The story leads the UU News section, starting on page 45.
At the First Unitarian Congregation of Toronto, where Morrison-Reed is co-minister with his wife, the Rev. Donna K. Morrison-Reed, he reports that the history that needed to be unearthed was about the treatment of gays and lesbians. "What I'm saying is that the issue may not be race," he says, "but there are always ways in which we have kept people out of our congregation, and class is prominent among these."
The Rev. William G. Sinkford, UUA president and the first African American to head a historically white American denomination, found Unitarian Universalism at the First Church in Cincinnati, and applauds what happened there. But he also muses about what might have happened had the Cincinnati congregations not turned their back on W.H.G. Carter's little church all those decades ago "There are no guarantees in this life," he says, "but you have to wonder" and what might happen now if only more UU congregations would take authentic steps toward reconciliation.
Editor in Chief
Copyright © 2002 Unitarian Universalist Association