Author sought for multicultural practices book

Skinner House Books and the UUA’s Multicultural Ministries Team is seeking proposals for a book that will “inspire and give practical guidance” on the subject of making Unitarian Universalist communities authentically multicultural.

Writers are encouraged to address one or more of the following topics in such a book: leadership, justice, worship, and community. Mary Benard, Editorial Director for Skinner House, adds, “We are intentionally leaving the specifics about the form of the book open-ended. In fact,  we’re hopeful that we’ll publish more than one book as a result of this request for proposals. In the interest of timeliness, we will give preference to proposals that do not rely on more than three individuals to submit writing.”

Proposals should be grounded in personal experience, UU values and theology, and reflect a deep knowledge of the benefits and challenges of multicultural faith communities.

A complete proposal description is on the Skinner House website. Deadline for submissions is February 4. A complete list of other prospective books for which Skinner House is seeking authors is also on the website. Questions may be directed to mbenard @

‘Acts of Faith’ discussion guide ready

The discussion guide for Acts of Faith, the 2011-12 “Common Read” of the Unitarian Universalist Association, is available now from the Ministries and Faith Development Staff Group as part of its online Tapestry of Faith resources.

In Acts of Faith, author Eboo Patel shares his faith journey as an American Muslim. He discusses how he was called to found the Interfaith Youth Core. Acts of Faith explores the appeal of religious fundamentalism to young people, noting that their spiritual hunger is tied to their desire to make a mark on the world. He encourages support of young people, helping them ground themselves in a faith that fuels their passions and inspires them to work across faiths to create a better world.

The discussion guide, available free online, is suitable for youth, young adult, campus, adult, and cross-generational Common Read groups. It offers materials for a single ninety-minute session or for three ninety-minute sessions, each expandable to two hours. It also provides the option of splitting the single ninety-minute session into two shorter sessions for those congregations that want to use it in a regular Sunday morning forum or discussion group.

Contact Gail Forsyth-Vail, the UUA’s Adult Programs director, for more information. Acts of Faith, published by Beacon Press, is available through the UUA bookstore with discounts for multiple copies.

New ways to engage with multiculturalism

Looking for new ways to engage with multiculturalism? The UUA’s Multicultural Growth and Witness staff group has posted ideas, including the following:

• Holding multicultural trainings for Sunday morning greeters

• Creating a “Common Read” program on antiracism, antioppression, and multicultural topics.

• Holding yearly leadership development trainings around antiracism.

• Sending small groups to trainings such as the Living Legacy Pilgrimage through the UUA and UU Service Committee.

• Working with district staff to create a district-wide training on multiculturalism.

See the full list here.

Email the Multicultural Growth and Witness staff team for more information, or call them at 617-948-6461.

Indigenous Peoples Day resources

Looking for ways to mark Indigenous Peoples Day/Columbus Day on October 10? The UUA’s Multicultural Growth and Witness Staff Group has 10. They include the following:

• Find out whose land your congregation’s building was built on.

• Lobby your public officials to rename Columbus Day. South Dakota calls it “Native Americans Day.” Dane County, Wisconsin, calls it “Indigenous Peoples Day.” So do the cities of Berkeley, Sebastopol, and Santa Cruz, California.

• Connect with nearby Native communities

• Engage with “Immigration as a Moral Issue,” the 2010–2014 Congregational Study/Action Issue.

The whole list is here. There is also a section on Justice for Native Peoples about issues that face them and how to connect with them.

Alex Kapitan, Congregational Justice administrator, said his office is making a special effort this year to engage congregations with this annual day. “We want to be more intentional about encouraging congregations to celebrate this holiday and to make it more of a solid part of the liturgical calendar.”

He added, “Indigenous Peoples Day reimagines Columbus Day and changes a celebration of colonialism into an opportunity to reveal historical truths about the genocide and oppression of indigenous peoples in the Americas, to organize against current injustices, and to celebrate indigenous resistance.”

LGBT Ministries office ready to help

The UUA office formerly known as the Office of Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender Concerns has a new name and new staff members.

The office is now known as LGBT Ministries and is part of the UUA’s Multicultural Growth & Witness staff group. Delfin Bautista is LGBT Ministries program coordinator and Alex Kapitan is Congregational Justice administrator within that office.

Kapitan and Bautista noted that when the office last changed its name in 1996 (for the fifth time since its founding in 1973) there was no consensus in the larger world about the order of those identity labels. But now there is. “In recent years LGBT has become the dominant acronym, and so we have decided that the UUA should follow suit and speak the language that the most people will be able to identify with,” they reported.

Bautista said, “We welcome questions about the Welcoming Congregation and Living the Welcoming Congregation programs, including ways congregations can expand these efforts beyond the congregation and into the larger community.”

The office can also respond to questions about how to provide education around LGBT issues and how to engage communities of color and people of all ages with these issues—one topic of focus in particular for the office is ministering to LGBT youth. The office can also help with creating worship services and with ways to be involved with legislative efforts around issues such as marriage equality, transgender civil rights, and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Bautista and Kapitan can also offer help in creating lectures, workshops, and other presentations.

The Rev. Keith Kron, former director of the OBGLTC, is now transitions director in the UUA’s Ministries and Faith Development staff group.

Email LGBT Ministries or contact staff members directly at (202-393-2255 x15) or (617-948-6461.

Postville immigration raid video available

Congregations studying immigration issues now have another resource. An independent film has been made about the infamous U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement raid on a meat packing plant in Postville, Iowa, on May 12, 2008. The raid resulted in nearly 400 arrests of immigrant workers. Many served five months in prison before being deported. The 96-minute film, abUSed—the Postville Raid, was filmed at Postville and in Guatemala after the raid.

The Northeast Iowa Unitarian Universalist Fellowship at Decorah, Iowa, is the closest UU congregation to Postville. Sue Otte, program chair at the congregation, said the fellowship helped out in the raid’s aftermath:

We were closely involved in assisting the folks impacted by this raid, and along with our Decorah Faith Coalition, we assisted nine young men released from prison on ridiculous charges of identity theft. Our fellowship is very interested in seeing that UUs see this film, especially in light of our focus as an association on immigration as a moral issue, and at General Assembly 2012 in Phoenix.

The fellowship did a three-weeks series of programs on immigration this winter.

A DVD of the film for personal use is $23. The price for faith-based communities begins at $100 depending on the size of the community and ability to pay. Learn more on the Postville Raid blog or email abusethepostvilleraid.sales at

New book helps in talking about class

We don’t talk much about class in UU circles, says the Rev. Mark W. Harris.

Is that because the stereotypes are true––that we are only educated suburbanites? Or intellectual urbanites? When we look around on Sunday morning, do we see people who are “not like us”?

Not often, says Harris, who has written a book, Elite: Uncovering Classism in Unitarian Universalist History, that will be useful in creating discussions of classism in lifespan religious education classes, small group ministry sessions, book groups, and sermons. The book is available for $10 at the UUA Bookstore.

Harris, minister of the First Parish of Watertown, Mass., takes us on a historical tour of classist behavior by Unitarians and Universalists. One of his first stops is around the time of the American Revolution when Unitarians preached that God had given everyone the gift of reason––but given it in differing amounts. Then there was the “Boston Brahmin” period of the late 1870s when Unitarian “elites” controlled pretty much everything and didn’t consider the “lower classes” qualified to help make the rules or sit beside them in church.

Harris also devotes much of a chapter to eugenics, the belief, supported by many Unitarians in the early 1900s, that some people’s genetics were superior to others and should be managed accordingly. Universalists, says Harris, have generally been more welcoming throughout history, consisting as they did of a broader range of classes, including tradespeople, textile and mill workers, and farmers, as well as ship captains and merchants.

We carry assumptions, says Harris, “that a liberal thinking person’s faith will not appeal to those who are not college-educated, work with their hands, drive pick-up trucks, or live more than twenty miles from an art museum.” He notes that many of us seem more comfortable with gender, race, and sexual differences than with “working class” people. Perhaps, he says, “we are too quick to dismiss the truth that all classes have folks who are smart inquisitive people with inquiring minds and hearts open to all kinds of people. We should not sell our faith short when it comes to what we have to offer and why we want others to join us.”

Common Read of ‘Josseline’ continues

“How far would you go to feed your children?” That’s one of the questions raised in the book The Death of Josseline: Immigration Stories from the Arizona Borderlands, about the struggles that face Mexicans and people from Central America as they try to cross the border between the United States and Mexico in an effort to survive.

Several hundred die each year, including 14-year-old Josseline, whose body was found in the desert in 2008. The Death of Josseline is a UUA “Common Read” this year, meaning that all congregations are encouraged to read the book, discuss it, and use it in sermons and in other ways.

The book is available in paperback for $15, with discounts for buying five or more copies, from the UUA Bookstore. Bookstore Manager Rose Hanig says they have sold more than 1,100 copies. Gail Forsyth-Vail, the UUA’s Adult Programs director, adds, “Winter is a great time for congregations to join the many other congregations where this book is being read. This is a book that begs for processing and conversation in a trusted community.”

Linda Laskowski, a member of the UUA Board of Trustees and the UU Church of Berkeley, Calif., has written about the book on her blog. Forsyth-Vail says the author of the book, Margaret Regan, will be at General Assembly next June to discuss the book and talk with those who took part in the Common Read.

Encounters: poetry about race and identity

Looking for a book that will launch discussions about race and ethnicity and provide insights into how we regard ourselves and how we react to others who are not like us?

Skinner House has just published Encounters, a book of poems “about race, ethnicity and identity.” Around 80 poems, mostly by contemporary poets, have been compiled by Paula Cole Jones. Jones is the founder of ADORE (A Dialogue on Race and Ethnicity), a former president of DRUUMM (Diverse and Revolutionary Unitarian Universalist Multicultural Ministries), a consultant in multicultural competencies and institutional change, and Racial and Social Justice director for the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Joseph Priestley District.

The book, published by Skinner House, is $14 and is available from the UUA Bookstore. Jones says poems from Encounters will be useful for Sunday morning readings, discussion topics for religious educators, and as springboards for small group ministry and youth group discussions, as well as being helpful to individuals seeking to further their own knowledge around identity and understand more about people who may not be like them.

Encounters is full of stories about, well, encounters––the black man puzzled by a friendly greeting from a white teen with dreadlocks and a Confederate flag tattoo––the Japanese girl who wanted to look Caucasian––the white woman and black man eyeing each other on the subway.

“Encounters can help people become aware of stories beyond their own,” says Jones. “We tend not to know the intimate experiences of other people. These poets help us know what no one person can know. We encounter people, and sometimes we have very little knowledge of the depth and the kind of searing wounding that racialized society has done since its beginning. It helps us see what we’re up against if we’re going to heal ourselves. And heal the world.”

‘Building the World’ curriculum about transformation

Building the World We Dream About is a new UUA curriculum that supports the creation of multicultural congregations. The program seeks to transform how we relate to one another across racial and ethnic differences in our congregations and beyond.

Adult congregants engage in either 13 or 24 two-hour workshops. There are also take-home activities between sessions. The curriculum is available online at no charge as part of the UUA’s Tapestry of Faith curricula. For more information email Janice Marie Johnson, director of the Office of Racial and Ethnic Concerns.