Greeter resource on multiculturalism

Multicultural Welcome: A Resource for Greeters in UU Congregations, is a 12-page document created by the UUA’s Multicultural Growth and Witness staff group to help congregational greeters respond well to every person who comes through the door on Sunday morning.

This greeter resource grew out of a workshop at General Assembly 2010 called Multicultural Membership Journey, which explored what it means to welcome people of various identities.

Alex Kapitan, the staff group’s Congregational Justice administrator, says, “This brand new, brief training resource for greeters builds awareness around how our congregations can be fully and truly welcoming, explores how to integrate membership with our lived faith and social justice work, and offers strategies for developing competencies of inclusion and practicing your welcome.”

The resource invites greeters to use role play to think about what it would be like to be welcoming to someone who is blind, uses a wheelchair, has a strong foreign accent, didn’t complete high school or go to college, wears a cross, or has an ambiguous gender identity.

General advice: Greet everyone, including people who are not new (demonstrating care for everyone). Ask open-ended questions. Listen without interrupting. Let people tell you about their theology rather than you anticipating it. Allow them to not answer your questions if they choose.

The resource was developed by Janice Marie Johnson, the Rev. Alicia Forde, Susanna Whitman, and India McKnight. It is available free online.

UUA’s 2011-12 Common Read is ‘Acts of Faith’

Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation, a memoir by Eboo Patel, is the 2011–2012 Unitarian Universalist Common Read. The Common Read project invites Unitarian Universalist youth and adults in all congregations to share a common reading experience, and to engage in reflection and action about that book.

In Acts of Faith, Patel shares his faith journey as an American Muslim who comes to believe in religious pluralism. Patel founded the Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC), a nonprofit focused on building an interfaith youth movement. Patel invites those who believe in religious pluralism to support young people, helping them ground themselves in a faith that can equip them to work across faiths to make the world a better place.

Gail Forsyth-Vail, the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Adult Programs director, said the book was chosen with an eye to both the tenth anniversary of September 11 and to the work of building coalitions as UUs prepare for General Assembly 2012, a “Justice GA” focused on immigration issues, in Phoenix.

The discussion guide will be published in October and will offer materials for a single 90-minute session or three 90-minute sessions, each expandable to two hours. The guide will provide the option of splitting the single 90-minute session into two shorter sessions. Download a flyer for Acts of Faith. The UUA Bookstore is offering the book for $14, plus a discount for multiple copies.

The UU Common Read last year was The Death of Josseline, stories about crossing the Mexico-Arizona border.

iMinister on growth, multiculturalism

The Rev. Christine Robinson, senior minister of First Unitarian Church of Albuquerque, N.Mex., has written a number of posts on her blog, “iMinister,” about growth, multiculturalism, and social media. Among her observations:

Growth – “When people who are ‘spiritual but not religious’ go looking for a religion, they go looking for spirituality; for heart, depth, warmth, spiritual practices, lessons in prayer, clues to a relationship to god. These things are not easy to get in UU churches. If we focused on them more, trained our ministers to provide them, helped lay people to tolerate, if not enjoy them…THEN we might attract some of this group of folks to our churches. But not before.” (April 26)

Theology – “Theologically liberal congregations tend to be even MORE institutionally conservative than theologically conservative ones.” Robinson notes that conservative ministers can find a basis in the Bible for, as an example, starting a contemporary music service to attract young adults. “That minister might meet some resistance, but he will have the congregation’s core beliefs (taking the Gospel to all nations) on his side. A UU minister…doesn’t have the same advantage.” (April 25)

• Multiculturalism – “If we achieve our goal of multiculturalism, it will be because we have attracted young people to our church and welcomed them—their music, their visual learning style, their multiculturalism, and most of all, their desire to explicitly address their spiritual lives.” (April 20)

Social Media – Robinson says she does not believe that the digital world will bring an end to brick and mortar churches. “What will have changed is how we attract people to church; that will be almost 100 percent digital (It is nearly that already.), and the fact that we will have the option to have online groups, trainings, and meetings, and that the resources we provide for spiritual development of our members (which will be the only reason people join churches in the future), will be available on our website as well as in sermons and classes.  A church doing its web ministry well will reach many more people, dispersed all over the globe, than any one church ever could before.” (April 19)

(Reader comments to these blog posts can be read on Robinson’s Facebook page.)