Proposed Resolution on Racial Justice

Background

In July 2016, the Board of Trustees approved a request from Rev Susan to “create an ad-hoc committee to educate itself and the congregation about the best way to demonstrate and express our allegiance to racial justice work.”

The Board’s ad hoc Committee on Racial Justice was introduced to the congregation at the mid-year Congregational Meeting on 24 July 2016. The minutes of that meeting tell us that this committee was “charged to define and promote our work on racial justice”. The minutes go on to say that “The Committee will report to the Board steps the congregation should take regarding communicating our work on racial justice to the community”.

As is evident from this language there is an underlying assumption that the work of racial justice is indeed “our” work; that we are called to this work as a congregation of Unitarian Universalists. The charge to the ad hoc committee was not to determine “if” our congregation should affirm and act on behalf of racial justice, rather it was to determine “how” that affirmation should be expressed and acted on.

The assumption that racial justice work is our work as Unitarian Universalists is grounded in the history, beliefs, and practices of our denomination. This grounding is articulated most recently by The Declaration of Conscience, jointly issued by the Unitarian Universalist Association and The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee and endorsed unanimously by the Board of Trustees on behalf of the Unitarian Universalist Society of Rockport. The Declaration is a call to all UU’s to stand with the marginalized and most vulnerable as a lived expression of our religious principles and values.

The following are excerpts from the report of the ad hoc Committee on Racial Justice to the Board of Trustees, followed by the Resolution drafted by the Ad hoc Committee and accepted and approved by the Board. (On June 25th as well as on July 16th, the full report of the ad hoc committee will be available.)

Report

After meeting almost weekly for seven months (August through February) and conducting five congregational Listening Circles on Racial Justice, as well as preparing and participating in a very well attended worship service (on Racial justice), we can report now that:

We have assessed to the degree possible, the feelings and concerns regarding racial justice as expressed by a large segment of the congregation. (This is what we called taking the temperature of congregation.)

Attendance and participation in the Listening Circles increased over time and the participation was active, respectful, heartfelt, and revealing. (We did not take attendance or ask for attendees to sign in. We estimate that 20-25 congregants were in attendance at each of the Listening Circles; with a core of individuals attending most of the sessions and others attending one or more.)

We have learned that we come from diverse backgrounds, have a wide range of experiences, yet share a common ground in valuing the principle of equality and justice for all.

We believe that the concerns about racial injustice in American society are well understood by the congregation as intimately and inescapably tied to politics, the economy, inequality in many aspects of life with particular concern about the criminal justice system, increasing xenophobia, the failing state of our democratic processes and institutions, as well as the influence of an irresponsible corporate media.

As a result of this understanding, it was overwhelmingly felt and expressed that implicit and explicit bias and violence directed at racial, ethnic, religious, and class groups has taken place over the long history of our country and that it continues dangerously ‘on our watch’ and threatens to increase in the future.

Through our conversations with members of the congregation, the Listening Circles, and in other groups, including the Conversations on Race group and participants in the MLK Day March and Service, and the meetings of the Social Action Committee, we have heard what we believe is unanimous support for taking a stand as a congregation in solidarity with the UUA regarding the need for awareness, vigilance, clear speaking, and action, to protect and promote racial justice in our community and beyond.

We have also learned that the process we have undertaken, with the support of the Board and the congregation, is one that other UU congregations have taken and that some are now only beginning to take.

We believe that the UUSR has developed a process of congregational and community education that is an example of the best practices used by other congregations.

Resolution on Racial Justice:

We, the members of the Unitarian Universalist Society of Rockport, believe that racial justice work is our work because we are Unitarian Universalists as defined by our principles.

This belief is solidly grounded in the history and practice of our denomination.

This grounding is articulated, most recently, by The Declaration of Conscience jointly issued by the Unitarian Universalist Association and The Unitarian-Universalist Service Committee and endorsed unanimously by the Board of Trustees on behalf of the Unitarian Universalist Society of Rockport, The Declaration is a call to all UU’s to stand with the marginalized and the most vulnerable as a lived expression of our religious principles and values.

In joining in support of the Declaration of Conscience:

We affirm our commitment to the fundamental principles of justice, equity and compassion, to truth and the core values of liberty, autonomy, and justice for all people.

We affirm our belief in the inherent worth and dignity of every person.

We affirm our commitment to justice and compassion in all human relations.

We stand by these principles in opposition to threats to and actions against people of color.

We recognize, as well, that people of color are disproportionately affected by threats posed by failure to address climate change, reduction in access to quality health care, including reproductive choice,
and a failure to address economic inequality and educational inequality, and the effects of mass incarceration.

We declare, as people of conscience, our commitment to translate our values into action.

We hereby commit to work within our congregation and our community to make clear by our words and our actions, our support for the equal value of black lives and for the lives of all individuals who are threatened by injustice.