There was a memorial service for someone I knew at a UU congregation last Sunday. I knew the officiant for the service, and had emailed them earlier to let them know I was going to be at the service and if they needed anything to let me know. As I had made the offer, I arrived at the building an hour or so beforehand. After coming out of the restroom, another person of color (somebody I’ve known for a long time) looked at me and started crying. She came over to me and said, “I’m so glad you’re here. You have no idea how hard it’s been coming to church these past two weeks.” When I asked her what she meant, she began to describe the conversations that had been going on in her congregation in the wake of the Sterling, Castile, and Dallas shootings and the Baton Rouge shooting that had happened just that morning. Being one of the few people of color in this congregation (it used to have more, but doesn’t now), she has been feeling as if she had to answer for the Dallas and Baton Rouge shootings, but nobody took time or seemed to care about how she might be feeling about the Sterling or Castile shootings. She’s now wondering how often she can go to her congregation.
Somebody who I admire greatly is a staff member at a UU congregation. Not long before GA, this person relayed a story of how they (and others involved in the congregation–lay and ordained) received a diatribe email that complained about the congregation being involved with anything related to BlackLivesMatter. The diatribe ended with the person who wrote it calling staff members “people of SOME color.” (emphasis mine)
I’ve been thinking about safety a lot for the past year, for many reasons. (some of you might have heard me talk about this at GA) These two situations bring those thoughts into much clearer focus.
In a denomination that is as white as Unitarian Universalism is, can people of color really be safe in our congregations?
What do we mean when we talk about “safe” congregations? [yes, I know that’s about sexual exploitation and abuse, but work with me here]