Sofia, Youth Representative on the RE Council and an active member of Youth Group, is helping me reorganize the REsource Room and the DLRE office. I am grateful for Sofia’s hard work over the past week. One of our tasks is to go through the Religious Education library, book by book. It is really interesting to see the array of books in the collection from the early 1900’s to the present. During our sorting endeavor, Sofia and I are seeing a snapshot of a cultural evolution.
Many books about those who are handicapped, people of other cultures, Native Americans, African-Americans, LGBTQQA persons, the elderly or speaking to family issues, do not meet current standards of cultural appropriateness and understanding. However, these books were often on the cutting edge of social ideological advancement at the time they were written. They illustrate that our understanding of what it means to respect the inherent worth and dignity of every person is affected by the culture at large and an ongoing evolution.
Reverend Mark Morrison-Reed gave the Sophia Lyon Fahs Lecture (religious education focused) at General Assembly (see video and transcript here ). Rev. Mark is an expert on Unitarian Universalist history and multiculturalism who inspires with his thorough knowledge, but also with his heartfelt investment in what he is saying. In the mission of the Fahs Lecture it states, “The speaker's role is to address some aspect of the sacred work of "leading out" learners of all ages.” Rev. Mark is moved by what he speaks about and you join him on the ride. He went through the history of early to mid-late twentieth century religious education curricula, UU hymnals, other denominational writings, and leadership assignments to illustrate that although we were advancing in our methods and philosophies of religious education, as well as voicing support for social causes, we were mostly stagnant when it came to including people of color in our publications and leadership positions.
Although Unitarian Universalists spoke about issues of equality, we were somewhat blind to our own omissions in the area. Even while we protested the social norms, we were slow to shift them in our own world. While we struggled with some of these advancements, however, Unitarian Universalists religious education instilled in children the values of equality, the dignity and worth of every person, the freedom of individual exploration, and the responsibility to change the world around you. It did this through a teaching method that emphasized wonder and experiential learning, as opposed to content, so children could empathize and see the picture through a relational lens. As a result, each generation evolved in its ability to turn ideals into action, leading to our involvement in the Civil Right movement and our continued growth in addressing equality issues within our denomination and the world around us.
You will be proud to know that when I spoke to Rev. Mark afterward, he remembered CUC having significant integration early on and making inclusion a part of congregational life. As Sofia articulated the cultural relevance and value-setting of each book in our sorting exercise, I was reminded of the evolution in cultural sensitivity and multicultural competency that we see as each new generation comes into adulthood. May we all keep the flame of inclusion burning bright at CUC through awareness and understanding.