Participation and Inclusion: Feeding oUUr Future

As inspired by the reading of “Widening the Circle of Concern-Report of the UUA Commission on Institutional Change” (June 2020):

To me, participation has always been possible in a place where I feel some sense of belonging and where I feel included. Very soon in my adulthood I discovered I felt more engaged and positively challenged in communities that I felt part of and at the same time that made of diversity a purpose in their growth. Like-minded communities with a very definite dominant culture have always given me conflicting feelings of comfort and boredom, along with a strong impulse of restlessness and desire to run away as my participation in them continues.

Today in a country where fewer people, especially youngest generations, seem to participate in religious communities and where social issues (i.e. income inequality, systemic discrimination of minorities, increasing poverty) become more pressing, I do believe that in our denomination equity, inclusion and diversity might still be considered tangential issues. Sometimes in UU congregations we deal with limited cultural competency as an effect of our satisfaction in considering them our “social clubs,” where we can feel totally comfortable with like-minded people and enjoy traditional liturgies that repeat themselves unmuted for years

So as a natural consequence of this “cozy” atmosphere where everybody is welcome to participate, our work on conflict resolution seems very often an awkward process, where we forget boundaries between friendship and our governance or ministry roles in our organization. Sometimes our responsible research for truth and meaning becomes an individualistic quest instead of unfolding itself as a process to share with our beloved community. In these conditions where is the space and time for a deep spiritual work on our faith that could propel growth and change along with participation? As we seem very good at attracting a very wide diversity of religious explorers, can we admit that we are letting go too soon people that don’t match the demographics of our denomination?

Today progressive minded adults in working age appear to expect practices of equity, diversity and inclusion in communities they want to participate. Some congregations are not keeping pace with these expectations. New generations are interested to be part of organizations that make a difference in their communities and where they can make a difference. When we promote diversity of thought and exploration in our faith and as a community, how, where, when and why is room for creativity and innovation left?

The justice work for the future of our congregation needs to be based on the worth and dignity of all as much as on the work on diversity, equity and inclusion. A starting point of this work can be the admission of our white centered culture and of the impact of this condition on our future. Can its values of freedom and individualism coexist with deep, spiritual work on equity, diversity and inclusion? Are our faith and covenants reflecting an aspiration to this last work?

Today the commitment to an intentional and determined sense of purpose to support the progress of this work puts at stake the future of our denomination.

In faith,
Marco Messori