What Are Beloved Conversations?

Hello UUSM Folks,

Would you consider prioritizing your schedule to partake in Beloved Conversations, the excellent anti-racism classes offered by the UU seminary Meadville Lombard for congregations around the country? The next class starts September 12th (register by August 26th), and another class will be offered in the Spring of 2023. For those who haven’t yet taken any classes in this series, we want to encourage as many people as possible to make it a crucial priority so that we can grow and diversify our faith and our own congregation. 

Culturally, Unitarian Universalism has traditionally been very white and has struggled to diversify. If we believe in our 7 Principles and liberal values as a faith tradition, we have to train ourselves into diverse ways of thinking and operating. Nothing will change if we don’t do the work to extract ourselves from the way we think and behave. If we imagine ourselves as fish, we don’t see the water we’re swimming in. We have to make our faith relevant to the many people who would find refuge and comfort here. This is critical work for Racial Justice. 

From the Beloved Conversations website about this first phase of the program, labeled Within

Within, our program’s first phase, focuses on the internal work that each of us needs to do as we engage in deeper personal understanding, explorations of race and racism, extracting our souls and spirits from white supremacy culture, and work for racial justice. This work is different for white folks and for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC+) and is done entirely in different courses: Gathering Our Selves for BIPOC+ and Un/Learning for Liberation for white people.

The Within program includes individual Lessons, using videos, music, and readings, accompanied by personal reflection prompts and suggested conversations with a Critical Friend chosen by the participant; bi-weekly small group conversations in a Learning Pod; and larger, monthly, facilitated Meaning Making Sessions on Zoom.

One of the objections we’ve heard relates to the amount of time required to take part in Beloved Conversations. Having taken two semesters of Within, I’d like to quell any reservations or fears.

  • Beloved Conversations classes are geared towards a multitude of learning styles. It’s one of its strengths as a program. We are offered readings, poems, music, art ideas, journaling prompts, and YouTube videos — as well as participation with a small group of people (called a pod) who meet biweekly to go over the lessons.
  • This class also provides an outline for the pods, including chalice-lighting and reflection questions. It is very organized. 
  • There will be some teachings that appeal to you and some that won’t. You don’t have to do them all. I didn’t do the parts that didn’t speak to me. However, any lessons I participated in made a difference in how I expanded my thinking to extract myself from white supremacy culture.
  • The lessons are accessible online for 9 months after completion of the class, so there is time to go back and pick up what you missed. 

Looking ahead: After enough of our congregation participates in Within, the next step for UUSM is to hire a coach (perhaps in 2023-24) to help us come together as a congregation and do the “work” as a community to diversify our congregation. Over the last two years, more than 30 people from our congregation have participated in at least one of the sessions with UUs from across the country! I hope you’ll join us.

Right now: We want you to participate! Register by August 26th. There are scholarships available; for inquires, please contact our church office. For more information about joining in this important program and how to register, please click here.

Lastly, for those who have already taken the program “Un/Learning For Liberation for white people” for at least one semester, we invite you to join a monthly pod to further our understanding and to support one another on this truly human journey. Currently, we meet on Zoom the first Tuesday of the month from 10:00 to 11:30 am. Please contact me for details.

Amy Brunell


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