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Singing, 'Open Space,' and reconciliation

Questions for spiritual reflection and adult group discussions.
By Jane Greer
Fall 2007 8.18.07

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Now is the time.

UUA President William G. Sinkford cites W.E.B. Du Bois in his column: “Now is the accepted time, not tomorrow, not some more convenient time . . . that we fit ourselves for the greater usefulness of tomorrow.” (“We Are Better Together,” page 7)

Looking at the Du Bois quote in a personal way, what do you feel is your most important cause? What are your justice priorities?

Religious exposure.

Roberta Nelson writes about the importance of exposing children to a broad range of religions so that they can better understand the diversity around them. “If you do not provide the answers, someone else will,” she cautions. (“Even Secular Parents Are Religious Educators,” page 14)

What religious experiences have you exposed your children to? When you were a child how did you find out about other religions?

Volunteer burnout.

Elizabeth Weber writes about burning out as a UU volunteer in “Confessions of a Prodigal Volunteer” (page 24). “Weary and protective of my fragmented free time, I avoided the very groups and gatherings that might have nourished my spirit and balanced my involvement.”

Have you ever felt tempted to take on too much? How did you find the right balance between commitment and self care?

Songs of experience.

In Kimberly French’s profile of songwriter Carolyn McDade, McDade talks about how the context in which a song is sung can bring it new meaning. She describes how powerful one of her songs became when sung by women prisoners. “It went from sweet to profound,” she said. (“Carolyn McDade’s Spirit of Life,” page 29)

What songs do you associate with powerful experiences in your life? Which songs have acquired new meaning as you’ve grown and changed?

Joy of singing.

McDade’s songs are intimately connected with community, usually women’s community, where the experience of singing together can be transformative. Said Susanne Norman about the first time she sang with McDade: “All these feelings were coming up from the bottom of my toes . . . pain, anger, sadness about injustice on a personal level, and also a global level. I had a feeling of wanting to take action, and also of hope and joy.” (“Carolyn McDade’s Spirit of Life,” page 32)

How do you feel when singing in a group? When have you felt most bound to community through singing?

Luxury of choice?

In his essay “Not My Father’s Religion” (page 36), Doug Muder describes the process of discernment, or being able to make a choice, as one of the advantages of the middle class. His working-class father, he writes, did not have this option. “Dad didn’t need help discerning what to do. He just needed to make himself do it.”

What does Unitarian Universalism offer to the person without social or capital options?

Class and education.

Doug Muder talks about visiting his sister who had also gotten a college education “and joined the professional class.” (“Not My Father’s Religion,” page 36)

What role does education play in the class divide? Is a bachelor’s degree a ticket out of the working class?

Open space.

A new decision-making process was introduced at this year’s General Assembly, called “Open Space Technology.” Groups were tasked with creating a list of issues they thought the Association should be focusing on. (“Open Space Process Informs UU Goals,” page 42)

What are your top three goals for the denomination? How do these differ from the goals your congregation might have?

Reconciliation.

In his annual report, Sinkford referred to the UUA’s own history of racism, asking, “Should we collectively acknowledge that some of the beautiful white clapboard Unitarian churches on the New England coast were built with profits from the slave trade?” (“Envi­ronment and Diversity Themes of 2007 GA, page 39)

How can the UUA reconcile its past complicity with the slave trade with its current antiracism and antioppression goals? How can this debt on our “moral balance sheet” be fulfilled?


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