Three things are essential: Spiritual vitality, partnership, and organizing for impact.
The Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray, lead minister of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Phoenix, is a candidate for UUA president. (Courtesy Susan Frederick-Gray)
Over a year ago, when the UUA presidential campaign began, the conversation focused on growing congregations. By January, we were asking how to defend democracy and protect one another and our neighbors. Today, we are talking about how to transform the culture of our institutions into a deeply counter-oppressive, multicultural way of being.
From the beginning, I’ve said three things are essential:
They are even more true now.
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Spiritual vitality: The challenges we face today require a deeper spiritual presence than the protections of privilege have allowed in the past. This is not about any particular belief; it’s about mission and vitality in our communities. People and families are looking for spiritual communities that speak truth to the realities of this time and prepare us for greater resiliency and love, greater resistance and moral courage.
Partnership: Unitarian Universalism has to move past a culture of individualism and exceptionalism that leads us to think we always know best, for the challenges we face require deeper collaboration at the intersections for justice. It is time to practice partnership, humility, and collaboration in how we lead, in how we work across congregations, and in how we partner beyond our faith.
In 2010, as outrage erupted over Arizona’s SB 1070, the most punitive anti-immigrant law in a generation, I called Unitarian Universalists to come to Phoenix to fortify a movement led by young, undocumented leaders of color. Over two years, including the first Justice General Assembly, thousands of Unitarian Universalists came to Arizona. We showed up like no other faith group. And today, Sheriff Arpaio is out of office, Tent City Jail is closing, and workplace raids by local police have stopped. Unitarian Universalists were not the leaders of this movement, nor did we have the most to risk. We followed leaders of color as allies and accomplices. This was faithful, spiritual witness grounded in partnership and organized for impact, and it holds lessons for today.
Organizing for impact: What the UUA most needs is a clear, compelling vision for who we are called to be, and the willingness to put this vision at the heart of all we do. This is an invitation to be more mission focused and accountable to clear and measurable outcomes. The more specific we can be in articulating the change we hope to make in our institutions and the greater world, the more effective we will be at directing our resources to achieve the mission. At the UU Congregation of Phoenix, this clarity has led to measurable change within and beyond the congregation and fostered dramatic membership and financial growth. We need this same strategic clarity at the UUA.
This is a defining time for the country, the planet, and our faith. It is calling more from us—more love, more courage, more leadership. Spiritual vitality, partnership, and mission clarity are what we need to answer this call. I invite you to visit me at susanfrederickgray.com, and I ask for your vote.
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The Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray is the ninth president of the Unitarian Universalist Association. She was elected in June 2017 to a six-year term after serving congregations in Phoenix, Arizona; Youngstown, Ohio; and Nashville, Tennessee. She lives with her husband, the Rev. Brian Frederick-Gray, and their son.
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