News – April 21, 2023

Dear Beloved Community,

This is National Volunteer Week, which is an opportunity to acknowledge the power of volunteers to “tackle society’s greatest challenges, to build stronger communities, and be a force that transforms the world.” We ask you to give of your time and talent to keep the church going and to build the Beloved Community, and you continue to do that in huge ways. Your involvement has strengthened our church, our outreach to the community, and our on-going fight for justice. There is no way to list all the groups or ways you have stepped up to work for the larger good. The list of those who have helped, are helping, or will help is essentially the church directory. The Board, ministers and staff sincerely thank each of you for all you do.

During the Annual membership meeting on June 4, 2023, the adoption of the 8th Principle will be on the agenda for your consideration. During the month of May our Transformation Committee will be providing opportunities to discuss this and on Saturday May 20 from 1pm to 5pm one of the main authors of the 8th Principle, Paula Cole Jones, will be doing a workshop on the 8th Principle. Look for details about this and other learning opportunities in future newsletters. I encourage everyone to take advantage of these opportunities to be ready to make your opinion known. Read the proposed 8th Principle HERE.

I hope you will not mind if I share with you an incident in my life related to this. After I had done all my course work at East Texas State University and was looking for a dissertation topic, I happened to overhear one of the Professors, Dr. David Talbot who happens to be black, talking to another Professor about his wish that one of the doctoral students would take on a project to explore interracial relations on college campuses. Being opportunistic if nothing else, I developed an idea to use a vacant residence hall to conduct a 6-week interracial living lab with an equal number of males and females and black, white, and latino students. Dr. Talbot liked the idea. To measure the result an Interracial Social Distance Scale was developed and was used pre and post the participation of the students. In addition to living together training sessions were provided in the evenings.

After the project was launched, it came to the notice of people who claimed to be associated with the Ku Klux Klan. They left very threatening notes on the windshield of my car. They also made threats to the participants. Amazingly all of the students continued in the study and banded together. Whether it was the six weeks of living together, the learning sessions, or the bonding that developed due to the threats, the result was that a significant improvement on the Interracial Social Distance Scale was achieved.

A few days before the defense of my dissertation, I scheduled a final meeting with Dr. Talbot to prepare. I arrived 15 minutes early for the appointment and the receptionist notified him that I was waiting. Thirty minutes after the scheduled time for the appointment, Dr. Talbot stepped out with a black student who had obviously been meeting with him. Before he could bring me into his office, the building janitor who was black came in and asked to speak with Dr. Talbot. He asked me to wait and went back to his office with him. After 30 minutes or so the door opened, the janitor left but before I could get up from my seat a black female student came in and asked to speak to Dr. Talbot and he again asked me to wait while he spoke to her. By the time the door opened, and Dr. Talbot brought me into his office I was furious. After all, I executed the project he wanted. I felt that I deserved to be given priority. By the time I sat down across from him, my fury was obvious. He sat there and looked at me for some time allowing my anger to grow. Finally, he asked, “Now do you understand what if feels to be black?” His words struck me like cold water. After all my work to study the literature, the experience with the students, and surviving the threat from the Klan, my imbedded sense of white privilege had in fact not been changed at all.

As a Unitarian Universalist, I have adopted the Seven Principles that were created in 1985 as the guiding principles for my life. I believed they were enough. Recognizing, however, that after all these years our congregations have not become the multi-cultural force that confronts white privilege in ourselves and our communities, I have come to believe that the 8th Principle is needed. I hear the echo of Dr. Talbot’s words “Now do you understand” and realize that I do not. The call to action imbedded in the 8th Principle is needed so that perhaps in the future, I and members of our congregations can answer the question with a confident “yes”.

And Now for the News:

Due to the hard work of the Facilities Team headed by Michael Morrison and his team including Jon Naylor, Joe Lach, Warren Snipes, and Bill Miller with help from Tawanna Grice an issue of long standing on the Southmore Side of the Building has finally been resolved with the instillation of guttering and a drainage system. I look forward to being able to enter the Church on that side of the building on a rainy day without slipping and sliding away.

The first result of the PACE Project to Green the Campus is that the final four modern and cost-effective air-conditioning units have now been installed. Work will begin shortly on the sealing of the building and the installation of the solar panels. Just imagine a summer when we can be confident that the air conditioning will actually work while we also reduce our carbon footprint.

Every three months the Board receives reports from the Senior Minister, RE Director, Music Director, and various staff teams about their activities. It is not possible to provide details about all of the creative work that has been and will be occurring. I suspect all of you feel the energy that all of this effort is generating across the congregation. What is occurring is not just a group of staff and volunteers doing their jobs. We are building a legacy for the future together and there is a role for each of us in making that happen.

Your unanimous vote to establish the Vision, Mission, and Covenant for the Church which you can look at HERE is providing guidance for the Board, Senior Minister, and staff as we work to create the Ministry Plan for next year, develop a budget to implement it, and begin to focus on the big questions that well take us into the future. You will begin to hear more about this and have opportunities to provide your insights shortly.

I would be remiss if I brought this message to a close and failed to emphasize the pledge campaign, Widening Loves Circle, that is currently underway. The early results are very encouraging, and I want to thank those of you that have completed your pledge cards already and encourage those of you that have not to do that as soon as possible.

As always it is hard to find a way to conclude my effort to share information about First UU where the preachers are eloquent, the music is wonderful, the members are generous, and the children are all above average, but end I must.

Ron Cookston
Board President