A Look Back and Forth: BUUF and the Greater UU Community
by Lisa Marie Fuller
Visually and symbolically, “Sankofa” is expressed as a mythic bird that flies forward while looking backward with an egg (symbolizing the future) in its mouth. This ties with the (Black Student Union of UIS) motto:
“In order to understand our present and ensure our future, we must know our past.”
I have been a member of BUUF since 1997. I joined this fellowship 22 yrs ago to provide community for my young family. Immediately I felt a connection to the people here and was inspired by the messages I heard from the pulpit. One day after a bit of an absence, I walked into this building and found myself moved beyond measure by the connection I felt to IT, too. As much as they resisted it, this is where I raised by two sons, Walter and Ian, now 25 and 23.
I recently came across the African proverb ‘I am because we are.’ Reading that in a waiting room brought up so much emotion for me that I immediately began to cry. If I had been in the privacy of home I might have even sobbed.
I am because we are.
I can’t imagine a more apt personal motto because BUUF and its people have shaped so much of who I am today. Maybe you feel that way too, or feel it might be possible based on what you’ve experienced so far.
As we look BACK and FORTH today I want to remind you of two key BUUF milestones, and call your attention to a few important UU initiatives and resources that we can be part of as individuals and as a congregation.
First let’s take a quick look BACK at BUUF’s year.
2019 saw BUUF celebrating two important milestones: the 60th anniversary of the founding of our Fellowship, and the 10th anniversary of Rev. Jim M’s ministry to and with us.
We hailed BUUF’s 60th with new art, a look back at historic newsletters and Orders of Service, a pilgrimage to BUUF’s former locations, and finally a multi generational gathering of old and new members, friends, and ministers for dinner and entertainment.
The 10 year celebration of Rev Jim had many of creating quilt squares highlighting Jim’s importance to us, and recognizing his many talents. The children, lead by DRE Katharine Lion, created their own original artwork for Jim. And some of his family joined us for a special service celebrating Jim’s life in BUUF.
As much as I deeply love the community of BUUF, however, I am grateful that the boundaries of our UU community do not end where BUUF’s driveway meets the local road.
So let’s take a look now at some UU resources we might individually or collectively consider and/or utilize in the new year.
But before we go FORTH, we need to look BACK-briefly-to provide context for a couple of the UU resources I want to share with you today.
Looking back to 2017 a great schism was identified in UUA leadership. Layers of white supremacy and privilege became apparent when a region level hiring appeared to reward straight white maleness over experience and variations of sexuality, color and gender.
When the hiring was announced reaction of UU professionals was swift and strong. They shared other examples of bias in UUA hiring.
The UUA board of trustees called for inquiry into hiring bias. They found widespread support for examination of white supremacy within UUA.
I followed this story in real time online and came across DRUUMM.
DRUUMM stands for Diverse and Revolutionary UU Multicultural Ministries. It is a UU People of Color Ministry that brings lay and religious professionals together to overcome racism. DRUUMM serves as a hub for other UU inclusivity initiatives.
A spoke of the DRUUM hub is BLUU. Black Lives of UU. BLUU formed in 2015 to expand the power & capacity of Black UUs within our faith. BLUU provides support, information & resources for Black Unitarian Universalists. And BLUU hopes to lead Justice-making and liberation through our faith.
Familiarity with these groups is important for individual UUs and UU congregations because despite how ‘woke’ we might feel compared to ‘others’, racism and gender exclusion remain common social issues.
Recently at a BUUF Community Conversation meeting on the topic of gender inclusivity, Katharine Lion lead participants through a survey intended to help us assess our work toward wholeness. Discussion in our small group was largely positive. But our discussion group struggled to provide examples of how we AFFIRM inclusivity.
- End looking BACK. Now, looking FORTH.
One way to AFFIRM inclusivity, particularly of POC and LGBT+ community, is to familiarize ourselves with DRUUMM, BLUU, and a new project, UU Rainbow History. Utilize the resources these groups provide can assist our individual and collective work toward wholeness.
UU Rainbow History is focused on the history and stories of LGBTQIA ministers, their partners, and allies. This project seeks to share stories such as what was it like when ministerial fellowship was withheld from LGBTQIA UU’s or during the AIDS years of constant mourning.
The important thing to know about DRUUMM is that UU ministers and professionals who are POC ARE WORKING TO ACHIEVE a transformation in UU through their multicultural experiences.
Among other resources, BLUU publishes a monthly kit containing—- a prayer addressing challenging times, a reflection on contemporary issues from a Black UU faith perspective, and guidelines for a BLUU curated social justice action you can take.
ARE, Allies for Racial Equity, is an organization to disrupt oppression, uproot white supremacy and plant seeds of justice. You know that today it isn’t enough to just not be racist. ARE is building an ANTI-racist movement of white UUs to dismantle white supremacy in ourselves, our congregations and our communities.
In the ‘Doing Your Own Work’ section of their website, ARE offers all kinds of anti-racist and anti-oppression resources. Plus ARE members may participate in monthly healing circles–a space to mourn the gap between how the world is and how we want it to be.
Social justice and activism are important aspects of UU, but if right now you are feeling more need for inspiration than activism, then check out UUA’s Worship Web or Braver Wiser. There is inspirational nourishment in these resources.
Worship Web, available online and as an app for mobile devices, is a collection of meaningful, inspiring resources for UU worship services and personal spiritual practice.
Braver/Wiser gives you a short weekly message of courage and compassion for life as it is. Sign up for the email and you’ll get a weekly reflection by a contemporary religious leader, and a brief prayer grounded in Unitarian Universalism
Going forth seek out resources to help you better connect with our UUA, its sub groups, and with our own hometown congregation, BUUF.
On the local level, subscribe to and read our weekly BUUF Announce, join the BUUF Facebook group or follow BUUF’s Facebook page to be informed and reminded of upcoming services and events, review our BerrienUU.org website for historical information. Read UU World—in print or online. Follow DRUUM< BLUU<ARE by joining a mailing list to stay in touch with their concerns and initiatives. Learn about the resources they offer and perhaps bring them to the attention of our BUUF BOT. This is after all a community of ourselves, and inspired individuals can lead our congregation toward important work.
Being part of a progressive liberal religion and Congregation that isn’t afraid to do the work necessary for achieving wholeness fills me with pride, and inspires me to keep learning and growing.
Thankfully I have all of you to accompany me on that path.
Other resources for UU information: