Beloved Conversations: Meditations on Race and Ethnicity
Program Developed by Dr. Mark A. Hicks
Beloved Conversations is an experiential curriculum that provides a space to re-form/fuse the brokenness of racism into new patterns of thought and behavior ushering in social and spiritual healing. New ways of being are learned through the actions of conversation and probing dialogue.
The program consists of a 1.5 day retreat that launches the curriculum, followed by 8 weeks of guided dialogue/experiential exercises. Each session in the 8 week curriculum is two hours, and highly structured. The retreat is facilitated by a trained Fahs Collaborative staffperson, the following eight sessions are facilitated by members of the congregation running the program. The work is done in small groups of 10-12 participants. If the retreat is larger than 25 participants, a second retreat facilitator is added (see costs below).
Each session poses questions that connect with both the sources of inspiration as well as the challenges of race/ethnicity that slow our human journey toward wholeness. As such, the curriculum differs from many approaches to anti-racism/multicultural work in that it frames the discussion not only in terms of demographic urgency or cultural critiques (both of which are useful to understand!), but how developing skills and the habits of an anti-racist mind helps everyone – those in dominant groups as well as those who are targets of oppression - heal from the wounds of racism.
After the Opening Retreat, Beloved Conversations should be facilitated by a two-person team. When possible, we strongly suggest that the team consist of racial/ethnic and gender diversity. Topics associated with racial/ethnic diversity often create emotional and cognitive dissonance among learners. As a learning experience of spiritual deepening, at least one of the facilitators should be adept providing spiritual leadership (i.e., spiritual counseling, deep listening, nurturing ambiguity, etc.) The curriculum includes readings and specific tips that support facilitating cross-cultural conversation.
The Beloved Conversations Network is a collection of all congregations that have participated in the weekend Retreat and the eight subsequent seminars. The goal of the Network is to gel congregations into a national “learning community” so each congregation - facilitators, lay people, congregational staff - are constantly engaging in discussions about how race/ethnicity shapes their lives. The Network signals that a life-long, ongoing, process of co-teaching and co-learning is necessary in order to combat incessant racism/social oppression. In such a learning community, participants share their successes and shortcomings, facilitators share their strategies and formats for success, and Retreat Leaders deepen their skills and commitment to the work of building multi-racial, multicultural and theologically diverse spiritual communities.
Beloved Conversations was piloted in two UU congregations in 2010 – First Unitarian, Portland, Oregon and our congregation in Cherry Hill, New Jersey.
Here’s what they experienced:
“One of the most beautiful aspects of Beloved Conversations was seeing its transformative potential come to bear.... I was moved to my core witnessing Unitarian Universalism come alive to members of my congregation.” Rev. Manish Mizra-Marzetti, Senior Minister, UU Congregation at Cherry Hill
"Many [participants] said that this was the first time, or the first time in a long time, when they had been part of a conversation about race that left them hopeful. ... Out of these conversations, we are beginning to shape a way forward to address and 'interrupt' racism is all its forms: institutional, cultural, and individual." Rev. Kate Lore, Minister for Social Justice, First Unitarian Church, Portland, OR
“I watched as people struggled with concepts of privilege, institutional racism and stereotyping in ways they hadn’t until that point. More importantly, I witnessed most staying fully engaged despite that struggle. Jennifer Kelleher, Intern Minister, UU Congregation at Cherry Hill
Healing Conversations About Race and Identity
Beloved Conversations Bearing Witness
Schedule Beloved Conversations in Your Congregation!
Beloved Conversations Network Resources