Racism is as old as history itself, and as such, needs intentional spaces to reverse its damaging impact. Commissioned by a congregation in need of resources to hold its members in covenant as they learned how race and ethnicity shape their spiritual and social lives, Beloved Conversations: Meditations on Race and Ethnicity is now serving more than 140 Unitarian Universalist, Jewish, and Quaker congregations across the United States.
Using a small-group ministry format, the curriculum creates a supportive space for congregants to talk about their own experiences, while identifying places where growth is necessary. As an instrument of faith formation, it offers participants a chance to rediscover the sacred and important presence of compassion, grace, risk-taking, vulnerability, and the healing joy when cross-racial relationships are reconciled. In addition, the curriculum’s third edition (2017) offers real-time faith formation resources explicitly for people of color, as well as organizational support for making institutional change.
Beloved Conversations recognizes how centuries of racially informed social, emotional and spiritual practices wound every person, no matter their racial and/or ethnic identity. Nested in the healing and deep work of faith formation, the curriculum calls each participant to reckon with how both their personal and group experiences matter and, when less-than-desirable outcomes are named, how to live and act in a spirit of reconciliation that brings growth and spiritual healing.
The program begins with a 1.5-day Opening Retreat that launches the curriculum, followed by eight weeks of guided experiential exercises. Participants must attend the retreat plus the following eight sessions. Each of those sessions takes two hours to complete and is highly structured in order to push and support the learning of the assembled community. The retreat is facilitated by a Fahs Collaborative staff person and the following eight sessions are facilitated by a two-person facilitation team chosen by the congregation. The work is done in small groups of 10-12 participants. Strategies are available for congregations that want to host larger groups or multiple small-groups at the same time.
The teaching and learning materials are based on the best practices of multicultural and arts-infused education, using a variety of teaching strategies that promote leaning across style, demographics, preferences, and dispositions. Each session poses evocative questions that help learners reconcile their experiences with race/ethnicity in their lives alongside the larger cultural systems that shape their perspective. The final three sessions of the curriculum lead participants in re-tuning their heads and hearts for the ongoing challenge of being accountable, responsive, and resilient learners in multicultural contexts.
Congregations that purchase the curriculum are granted exclusive rights to use the curriculum’s resources, which include coaching for facilitators and digital training videos for facilitators and congregational leadership.
The third edition of the curriculum includes cutting-edge materials that support the different learning needs of people of color and white congregants. As part of the intake process, Fahs Collaborative staff will help you explore how to respond to such dynamics before, during, and after the sessions.
To schedule an information session, contact our Congregational Coordinator at BelovedConversations@meadville.edu, who will be able to discuss congregational readiness for this particular curriculum, staffing, sliding-scale pricing, and possible retreat dates. Our experiences suggest that planning should begin at least four months prior to the Opening Retreat.