March 30, 2017
We write on behalf of the Unitarian Universalist Musicians Network. We want to articulate our continuing support and connection to our partners in shared ministry who are carefully and bravely articulating their concerns around current issues which reveal that we have fallen short of living up to our stated beliefs and the behaviors we articulate as being just.
We want our members and our colleagues in shared ministry, as well as the UUA Administration, Staff, Board, and the wider Unitarian Universalist community to be aware that we are carefully noting and learning from the articles and messages that have been shared through a variety of networks in recent days.
As an organization that strives to support and prepare our members for transformative congregational leadership, we know how important it is to acknowledge and support the skills, abilities and gifts of music ministry professionals and particularly, those called to our ministry who are people of color. Our Board member, DeReau K. Farrar, Director of Music at the First Unitarian Church (Portland, OR) recently wrote, “There is not any structural segregation in churches now, but there is clearly a craving among contemporary Unitarian Universalists to welcome the ethnic other that falls short of actual inclusion.” And our concern around what inclusion actually would look like reminds us that the long history of Unitarian Universalism’s struggle with living into a racially and culturally inclusive, anti-oppressive organization has been, and continues to be, a struggle of wanting to ‘do the right thing’ that is balanced against not wanting to give up the power and control that members of our largely-white faith also hold.
As leaders of the UUMN we recognize that these concerns resonate in our own organization - that we have failed, in much the same ways and in ways we cannot yet see, to recognize and support leadership potential in our own members of Color over the years. We need to be and do better. We urge not only members of UUMN but all who hold a place of leadership or membership in this faith community, to evaluate, once again, the ways in which we too-frequently articulate a path of justice and equity, yet in the end, move on a more familiar, oppressive path. And we urge all who are our leaders to continue to learn from the ways in which power and influence are used to carve paths of leadership and authority in our Association. A representative from UUMN will be present during April’s UUA board conversations to observe discussions and the ways in which our leaders avail themselves of the opportunities to learn, again and continually, from recent events and from the times we live in. We will remain in dialogue with leaders of our Association and our siblings in shared ministry as well, ready to act in ways that will be supportive, collegial, and that help us live our stated values.
Additionally, the UUMN Board will meet in April to discuss these issues and the ways in which we can maintain our role in supporting music ministry that is justice-seeking and serving, shaped with our commitment to anti-oppression.
In his piece “Spirit of the Pioneer” the Rev. Mel Hoover wrote, “We can’t change the past, but we can learn from it and build on it.” Over and over, we are faced with the opportunity to not only learn from but also live into our faith community’s aspirations. This is that time. We will continue to be in correspondence and dialogue as we carry forward the work to which we are called.
Shawn McCann, President Pro-Tem Deborah Weiner, Moderator