Ministerial Search Update October 17, 2018
Oh Hey Westside!
I’m going to do something out of character for me, and keep things brief. But that is only because my fingers and brain are so tired from answering Congregational Record questions! In truth all of me are tired. But in a funny way I get a sense of relief as I feel all of us at MST letting go of the hands of the congregation (for now) and putting our heads down as we tilt forward to fly into winter. The most important thing I have to share with you from all of us is, THANK YOU. Thank you for showing up, Westside. You really, really did and it was invaluable. We are lovingly combing through the mountain of information, stories, and feelings you provided us, and we’re not intimidated, we’re inspired!
Vanessa is hard at work organizing all that we each contributed to the Congregational Record/Web Packet (which we couldn’t have done without you), and we have been getting some beautiful photos from Jonathan Rawle of West Seattle and of us! How enticing to prospective ministers! You made our crucial info gathering time this fall fruitful and now we can go into the hard work of winter knowing we know our church and can share its face, its landscape, its hopes and dreams and reality faithfully with all ministerial applicants.
But enough about us! This holiday season has so much goodness in it coming to Westside. I’m so excited for all this work the Racial Justice Team is doing. I’m looking forward to the Beloved Conversations. My friend J Mase III, a prophetic and prolific poet will be preaching in the coming weeks. I can feel us growing new roots as a congregation. It’s that kinda time.
Happy Halloween, All Hallows’ Eve, Dias de los Muertos, and Feast of Baron Samedi, everyone, may you suck all the marrow (spooky!) out of my favorite time of year.
Minister Search Team Update September 26, 2018
Happy Belated Fall Equinox, Westside!
As much as I am disappointed by the briefness of summer, I do feel ready for fall. It’s my favorite season, and it does suit the Scorpionic and Halloween loving tendencies of many Seattleites well. Bring on the saffron colored leaves and ancestor honoring ceremonies and frightening front lawn decorations and comfy sweaters! Fall is also your Ministerial Search Team 2019’s busiest season thus far. As we begin to munch on the rich results of the Congregational Survey, we would like to take a moment to thank the many of you turned out to answer our questions. We had an excellent response rate this year! Our next task to be completed is the Congregational Record and Web Packet, which will be read directly by ministerial applicants.
The survey was one major part of how we could begin to characterize our congregation for ministerial hopefuls, and the cottage meetings are the glue which will hold it all together. There is really nothing better than talking face to face with folks! One meeting is down and we now have three to go: On September 30th, October 3rd, and October 7th. If you are a person of color, this means you have three more opportunities to meet and discuss our facilitated questions about the ideal minister and their relationship with Westside, and if you are a white person, you have two more opportunities! Why, you ask, and some of you literally have. Rather than answering these questions individually, although of course if you have more questions feel free to email all of us at firstname.lastname@example.org, I thought it best to address the question of caucusing in one of our monthly newsletters.
To my Westside Congregants of Color, I love you. It’s not that I do not love our white counterparts with whom we join together in fellowship, but as a fellow person of color, as an African American queer disabled person, I have a great deal of respect for folks who choose to love and make their own a space in which they are knowingly a minority, because that space, that community, that religion, that political affiliation, that covenant group, suits them in a deep and special way. I love Unitarian Universalism too. I am a lifelong UU, growing up in my Fellowship in New Jersey, and becoming very involved as a youth leader in my Metro New York District. Despite my love, despite my at home feeling, the only UU space in which I was able to discuss my experience as a Black teenager explicitly, was at Unitarian Universalist youth conferences. At cons, youth and adults alike would take part in an activity known as caucusing, in which people of color meet with one another in a temporary space exclusive of white folks, and discuss any issue we want. Sometimes it was the weather. Sometimes it was food. Or current events. Sometimes it was our childhood favorite games, and more often than not, it was about how our experience of race intersected with every aspect of our lives. Including our other identities!
As an adult who had spent eight years away from Unitarian Universalist congregations, I was curious if this open discussion of race/racism vs. avoidance of race as a topic dichotomy between youth conferences and intergenerational congregational spaces during services was something that I had imagined, or better yet, whether it was something that had changed by 2016 when I found a new UU home as an adult in Seattle. The answer is this: I did not imagine the difference. And yes, it has changed, and no, it hasn’t. There is a Black Lives Matter banner on the outside of our church. I love that. It’s presence impacts me positively every Sunday, and every time I come to Westside for choir rehearsal or meetings of our MST. I have observed various members of this congregation start up conversations about race and racism, and know that there are members of color working hard to educate those around them. I am one of them. There is also the difficulty I and others face when trying to bring the subtle and no less impactful (than explicit violence or discrimination) ways that racism manifests within Unitarian Universalism to the fore. Sometimes when a person of color brings up race or racism it is considered divisive, confusing, hurtful, or even irrelevant in comparison to other issues.
But the fact is this. Everyone has a relationality to race. Since its construction, everyone has a race. White people too! And finding out and getting to talk about how your life experience and perspectives has been impacted and partially defined by your race or your race’s socially ingrained sense of self and place, is critical to addressing racism and ending it. To white people, if you think that you can wake up one day racism-free, and that anyone, especially a person of color telling you you still have internal and reflective work to do is an attack on your sense of self and therefore an act of violence, you’re mistaken, and you have work to do. Anti-oppression work can never only be outside of ourselves. We are useless social justice warriors if we haven’t examined how our internal hang ups, trauma, entitlement, warped sense of reality might spring out and sabotage our mission or betray our cause when we least expect it.
Adults, in case you were wondering whether or not youth still caucus for a couple hours a day at youth conferences in groups particular to people of color and white people, they do! And they even let us adults attend. I have never felt more seen and heard than when at the last youth conference I chaperoned, I brought an experience I had of racism from a white youth at the con to my caucusing group of POC youth and adults. I didn’t know what to do. Should I pursue a right relations process? Should I let it go? Should I let someone else handle it? As an adult role model I felt a responsibility to this youth who had been racist, to aid his growth by helping him to understand what he had said and done. And as a human being who has experienced racism my whole life, I felt hurt, scared, re-traumatized, and helpless. The youth of color voted, and decided to encourage me to pursue the Right Relations Process. I am so so glad I did. Not only did it go better than could be expected, at the end of his Commencement Ceremony later that night, the youth who had harmed me came up to me and asked for a hug, while we were hugging he, “Thank you for teaching me.”
Teaching is a gift, and we are not always thanked for it. In fact, sometimes we are punished for it. The purpose of caucuses is not to segregate and divide, but rather to call attention to the fact that we as a congregation are not made up of people with identical experiences. One way that our experiences diverge is on the matter of race. When I am meeting in a mixed race group, I have experienced defensiveness from white people when I bring up my racial experience. This is because in a society which privileges whiteness, white people have the privilege of not experiencing their own race, they often take their race as a given, and therefore, not a race at all. As people of color, we are reminded of our race every day. In a caucus of people of color, there is one assumption on the table: That we are not white, and that this reality shapes our lives. From there, whether or not we choose to talk about racism and race is entirely up to us, but no one will be shocked in our caucus if someone brings up how say being Black affects how they interact or are interacted with socially, how they think about their own safety, or even what jokes make them laugh. Caucusing is a container for potentially less hindered growth. When we are not using up our energy explaining or justifying our experiences, marginalized people can speak more freely, and dig deeper. This is true of caucuses for white people as well (when the time spent there is addressing racism and privilege and complexity of experience), however Roseanne and I opted to create a space for people of color to caucus only. Given that people who are white are an overwhelming majority of our congregation, there are often unintentional white caucuses happening every time a group of Westside members meet.
There was an edit made to my last Westside News announcement which impacted its meaning. I wanted to make it completely clear that anyone has the option of attending any cottage meeting except for the meeting on October 7th, which is only for people of color. People of color who don’t want to be in a POC only setting, should sign up for a different cottage meeting! But Roseanne and I found it important to make this meeting an option, since I know that the safety, growth, and comfort of our congregants of color is a desire and priority of everyone at Westside!
You can sign up for a cottage meeting here: https://tinyurl.com/wsuucottagemeetings
And for the Beyond Categorical Thinking Workshop with Mr. Barb Greve: https://tinyurl.com/beyondcategoricalthinking
Thank you for your loving attention,
xoxo Neve and the MST19
Minister Search Update August 14, 2018
Summer is both hot and not hot. How innovative! Tonight the moon was saffron and the sky was a deep periwinkle. Very pleasing and complimentary colors but caused by smog and haze from fires in the north and south I know. I send so many prayers to those dealing with the hungry entity that fires are. These past six weeks I have been in and out of touch with the world. Rather, underneath the skin of the world. Wrapped in an immersive six week theatre intensive with Intiman Theatre focusing on theatre for social change, which wraps this weekend with a showcase at the Cornish Playhouse! I am very fortunate.
Your MST19 has been keeping it fierce and keeping it real. Liz and the survey team have been hard at work and the fruits of our many discussions have paid off! We have a survey for you! It will be launching next week, and you will have about a month to take part in it. Please please do! This isn’t just any survey you know- the information you provide us will help vitally with our painstaking process playing matchmaker for Westside and our Minister to Be. Don’t worry, I’ll let you know the moment it’s here.
August has been all about finding air to breathe, squeezing in vacations, getting your survey ready, securing neutral pulpit sites (we have them!), scheduling our post-survey cottage meetings (stay tuned!) and challenging our internalized racism and white supremacy through engaging with anti-racism trainings from scholars in the world and creating spaces within our group for truth telling and building understanding.
In addition to launching the survey next week, we will be having a potentially difficult yet vibrant and important discussion about two videos Roseanne and I shared with the group: Robin DiAngelo’s recent talk at the Seattle Public Library on white fragility (you can find it on the Seattle Channel), and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “The danger of a single story” on TED. These videos were brought to my attention during one of many diversity, equity, and inclusion trainings I received at Intiman. We recommend you watch them and discuss them too! We can’t wait to see all of you come In Gathering time, and of course also, witness your essences represented abstractly and anonymously on the pages of our fun and engaging survey!
Ministerial Search Team Update July 17, 2018
Greetings Westside! And Happy Seattle Summer!
If you’re spending your summer at home, or in the area at least, you already know that Seattle finally hit its summer stride in the past two weeks. The other day Tony said, “How is it already my birthday this week?!” (July 20th) It has felt like time has flown, but if you haven’t gotten to the beach yet, don’t fret, there’s still a couple juicy summer months left on the Pacific Northwest calendar.
In my last and first newsletter to you, I accidentally referred to our Ministerial Search Team as the MST 18, but we’re the MST 19! A testament to our commitment to one another, and to our congregational community- it will be literally a different year from when we started when we successfully (wink) call a new minister to Westside next spring. Something I am deeply enjoying about my work with Roseanne, Jill, Eileen, Vanessa, Liz, and Alan, is how they are each a unique balance of sensitive and direct. Thus far in our work, we have strived not to shy away from disagreement or debate, and I feel confident that by the time January rolls around, we will have been flexing our difficult discussion engaging and decision making muscles with one another for a healthy seven months!
Since we last spoke, members of MST 19 have opened a bank account, begun contacting and weighing neutral pulpit site options, discussed ways we would like to conduct our congregational survey, thought deeply about and discussed enthusiastically the past, present, and possible futures of Westside, submitted our Beyond Categorical Thinking Workshop application to the UUA (make sure you mark your calendars for a Saturday in the middle of October!), and generally all been great and insightful sports through video chat meeting snafus and scheduling minutiae. We have also finalized our covenant (which I love if I do say so myself) and decided on how we’re going to make decisions and address conflict as a group. I daresay I am coming to call the six other members of the MST 19 my friends, and I don’t think it would be going out on a limb to guess they might say the same about me.
Keep enjoying your summer! As a kid I always thought Unitarian Universalists don’t practice or meet during the summer, because I always returned to service for the In-Gathering in the fall, but as an adult I can testify that Westside UU most certainly does have a worshipful summer life!
Until next time,
Minister Search Update June 20, 2018
It’s your fearless Ministerial Search Team 2019’s delightful representative, Neve Mazique-Bianco, Secretary and Sagittarius. Thus far in our journey together we have met with Nancy Bowen, our advisor and liaison at the UUA, and we began to learn about one another’s strengths and talents: for instance, Eileen Duffy and I are here to bring the party. Luckily, we have our Chair/Captain Jill Jackson to steer this boat home. In addition to learning about one another and the process before us, and entrusting each other with our search team roles, we met with MST 17 and got their advice about what they found important practice and they lovingly passed the torch to us.
One of our first self-assigned tasks was to draft a covenant as a living document and a reminder of our intentions and faith. With Eileen’s assistance, I spearheaded this task, using our congregational covenant as a foundation upon which to build our MST '19 covenant. We’re already feeling pretty inspired by it. Now we’re embarking on planning our Beyond Categorical Thinking workshop, which we are doing everything in our power to ensure is tailored to the shape and capacity of our congregation. We need and desire everyone at Westside to attend (date tba)! Already as a group we have interacted with and begun to address issues of ability, age, race, gender (pronouns!) among ourselves, so we are positive that we still have much to explore as a congregation.
Throughout the summer we will be sacrificing several opportunities for family time, sports games, picking up a new hobby, or turning off our brains, in order to fill out doodle polls with the intention to meet every week in June, and then every other week in July and August. By the time members and visitors of Westside are pouring waters from diverse places into the same singing bowl at the In Gathering service, our congregational survey will be underway. You will have the opportunity to tell us exactly what we need to know about your history with and hopes for this beautiful church.
Minister Search Team Update – March 28, 2018
We are once again on the path to call our settled Minister. Our Interim Minister, Rev. Alex Holt, will be here until July 2019 and during that time our new Ministerial Search Team (MST) will be surveying the congregation, holding workshops, and interviewing candidates, hoping to find the right Minister for Westside.
This new search began in early January 2018 when the Discernment Team was put into place. Facilitated by John Britt, the Discernment Team comprised Betsy Lowry, Laura White, Tracy Burrows, Simon Knaphus, Marco Deppe, Thomas Terrence, and Rose Sheppard. The team spent many thoughtful hours going through the completed questionnaires of the congregational members who were nominated to be on the MST. On March 28, 2018 the Discernment Team announced the members of the new Ministerial Search Team: Jill Jackson, Liz Bucklew, Alan Mendel, Neve Bianco, Roseanne Lorenzana, Vanessa Shaughnessy, and Eileen Duffy. This team beautifully reflects the diversity and interests of our congregation and I am so grateful for their service.
Rev. Nancy Bowen, our Regional Transitions Coach, will be visiting WSUU from her home in Albuquerque during the first weekend in May, when she will hold a retreat for the new MST, as well as be in the pulpit on Sunday, May 6th. If you haven’t had a chance to listen to the video she prepared detailing the search process (see below), I would highly recommend that you do so.
During this summer, the new MST will be organizing and preparing for the hard work ahead for both them and the congregation. It is imperative that all members of our congregation take part in the workshops and surveys that will be held this fall determining the strengths, values, and characteristics we are looking for in our new minister. Please read your Westside Week every week and check back to this page to learn about your role in this process.
In loving community,
Patti McCall, Board President