By Lynn Heath/Kate Fraleigh
TJMC members attending General Assembly in June came home with new energy for racial justice work in Charlottesville. Consistent with the GA theme of interfaith action, we heard from representatives of the United Church of Christ, the Union for Reform Judaism, and the Disciples of Christ, along with speakers from the NAACP and the Black Lives Matter movement. Despite differences in belief and language, all are committed to breaking down institutional structures that support and promote racial inequity.
The Reverend Dr. William J. Barber II, the president of the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP, pastor at Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, NC, and founder of Repairers of the Breach, rallied the crowd to work together in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
“Hate is not the first, loudest, or last word,” said Dr. Barber. “Love must be the first, loudest, and last word.” Discrimination and lack of will power are violence.
His memoir, The Third Reconstruction, describes the broad-based Moral Monday movement, which he started in North Carolina and has now spread to other states. Unlike the first Reconstruction (following Emancipation) or the second (the Civil Rights era), the Third Reconstruction is a moral awakening and call to justice.
Alicia Garza, one of the founders of Black Lives Matter, said simply, “If you love God and don’t love your neighbor, you are a liar.” John Crestwell, lead minister of the Annapolis UU church, urged us to listen for opportunities to pastor with people who are angry and hateful for they are hurt and in pain.
The International Women’s Convocation brings together women from Unitarian Universalism and other progressive faiths to improve the lives of women globally. Barbara Beach of TJMC is an active member of that group.
In Charlottesville, we are reaching out to work across the community with people of other faiths. Our work with PACEM, IMPACT, and AIM, and our partnership with Ebenezer Baptist Church are examples of work we are already doing. Members of our congregation also work individually with community organizations such as the Jefferson School and the NAACP, on issues concerning neighborhoods, peace, women’s health, and environmental issues. These initiatives bring together people from differing faith backgrounds.
As Unitarian Universalists, we strive to use language that is respectful of all religious paths, and this can hamper our ability to work with interfaith partners. Words like God and Jesus, heaven and hell can divide us. The message from General Assembly is: get used to them! We must look beyond words to the underlying message; “we are all children of God” and “we are all part of the interdependent web” carry the same call to action. If we focus on the differences in liturgy, songs, or dogma we lose the possibility of effective connections.
The civil rights movement of the 1960s brought together people of diverse faiths, and they are coming together again. In Charlottesville, white people are organizing for racial justice work, with members from Sojourners, All Souls, Trinity, Grace Church of Red Hill, Westminster, St Paul’s Ivy, and Intervarsity. Despite differences in belief, our goals are the same.
This moment in time is critical. It demands that we do something. Our work will be easier and more effective when we join other communities of faith. Together we are better.
Recently a group is organizing white people in Charlottesville for racial justice. Many of them are already active in their own churches for racial justice. Sojourners, All Souls, Trinity, Grace Church of Red Hill, Westminster, St Paul Ivy, Intervarsity are represented. Their faith calls them to work for racial justice just as ours does. As Unitarian Universalists we need to join people of other faiths to break down institutional structures that support and promote racial inequity.
This moment in time is critical. It’s demanding us to do something.
The work in our community will be easier and more effective when we join other communities of faith. Together we are better.