Religious educator Aisha Hauser ‘has not just brought dignity—she has redefined dignity,’ says award presenter Jessica York.
Aisha Hauser receives the Angus H. MacLean Award for Excellence in Religious Education at the 2018 General Assembly from Jessica York, the UUA’s co-director of Ministries and Faith Development and director of Faith Development. (© Christopher L. Walton)
On Friday morning, Aisha Khadr Hauser was presented with the 2018 Angus H. MacLean Award for Excellence in Religious Education at the UUA General Assembly in Kansas City, Missouri. The award is given annually to a Unitarian Universalist who has made outstanding contributions to religious education.
“Bringing people together to create something more than what exists right now is ministry Aisha has been doing for a long time,” said Jessica York, the UUA’s co-director of MInistries and Faith Development and director of Faith Development, while presenting the award.
A credentialed religious educator at the associate level, Hauser has been a UU religious educator for more than fourteen years, serving congregations in New York, New Jersey, and Washington. She is currently director of Lifelong Learning at East Shore Unitarian Church in Bellevue, Washington. Hauser also worked as Children and Families Programs director for the UUA during the launch of Tapestry of Faith, the Association’s comprehensive, online lifespan religious education curricula.
Hauser has served on the Liberal Religious Educators Association’s board, chaired its integrity team, and provides professional peer support as a good officer. She co-authored a chapter in the book Centering: Navigating Race, Authenticity, and Power in Ministry (Skinner House, 2017). She also created a bystander training to empower people to intercede in bullying situations and created a webinar to show others how to hold their own trainings. A leader in the community of UU religious professionals of color, in 2017 she served on the small team of religious educators that created the White Supremacy Teach-Ins to help UU congregations and UUA staff dismantle white supremacy culture, and she is on the team creating a White Supremacy Accountability Assessment Tool for religious education programs.
“The UU White Supremacy Teach-In movement was unprecedented in its scope,” Hauser said during her acceptance speech, “and it was just the beginning of a crucial conversation. This conversation has angered some and empowered others. It is for the first time an honest conversation. What is at stake is the heart and soul of Unitarian Universalism. We are a people of faith, a faith that demands of us reflection, determination, and yes, a commitment to justice. Centering the voices of the marginalized will be part of becoming whole as a faith and as a people.”
During the award presentation, York addressed an uncomfortable reality of Hauser’s outspoken leadership: “Asking the hard questions can make you a target for others’ fear. Aisha has been attacked on social media, has lost friends, has been labeled as hysterical and a troublemaker. No one ever said our ministry would be easy, but one of the qualifications for this award is someone who has ‘Brought dignity to the profession of religious education.’ I believe that Aisha has not just brought dignity—she has redefined dignity.”
Quoting her friend and colleague Kenny Wiley in her acceptance, Hauser said, “We have to show up, be willing to follow others, and be willing to change ourselves. The next call to action for racial justice has arrived. My people: Will we answer?"
Hauser ended by expressing gratitude for the award, an honor she said she shares with her teach-in co-creators Wiley and Christina Rivera, Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism, and “all the religious educators who collaborated together to help move this faith we love forward together.”
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Sonja L. Cohen is deputy managing editor of UU World and a lifelong Unitarian Universalist.
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