The Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry of California (UULMCA) is paying attention to training the next generation of UU Social Justice leaders. This fall, they launched a 10-month internship program for passionate, idealistic, and entrepreneurial young adult leaders. Under the direction of Rev. Sonya Sukalski, the program aims to build leaders who are healthy in spirit, mind, and body. They will engage with current campaigns and leaders while also discovering how to sustain a lifelong commitment to social justice via theological reflection, community building and personal spiritual practice. The SALT program flyer invites you to follow adventures of this year’s 16 SALT Fellows on the website of the UULMCA, and to look for them at Justice GA in Phoenix!
I love the Youth Caucus at General Assembly because of our community’s open-minded flexibility and fantastically positive energy. This is not to say that these qualities are exclusive to the Youth Caucus, but, as a youth chaplain to the Youth Caucus last year at GA, I had the privilege of observing my peers’ growth throughout the week, and I can assure you that their growth was astounding. Sure, we may be a bit rowdy at times, but our age also gives us a unique readiness to consider alternative opinions and perspectives.
A good example of this comes from an experience at last year’s GA. In addition to being a chaplain, I had the honor of being a member of the Right Relationship Team. Early in the week, another member of the Right Relationship Team pulled me aside and informed me of an issue with one of the games that was played at the Youth Caucus mixer the previous night. The game was called Ninja; to play, a group of people stand in a circle and take turns making swift movements to tap the hand of the person next to them. The last player to remain untapped is the winner. The game is a ton of fun, and very popular, but its name is also a serious cultural misappropriation.
Whatever the issue area, be it Occupy Wall Street, immigrant integration, or how we are together in religious community, whether we’re conscious of it or not, a paradigm is operative. A paradigm is a mindset or set of assumptions, often unexamined, about how things happen. It’s the way we shape and understand information; it reflects our perceptions and approach to problem-solving.
It is not uncommon when Unitarian Universalist congregations want to take on something important – to address a big issue or begin some new action – to turn to the worship service. “We should do a service on this!” someone will say. Sunday is, after all, the time when the greatest number of people is gathered together in one place. If you want to get a message out, or want people to feel the importance of something, the sanctuary on Sunday seems to be the place to do it.
Yet in recent years people from congregations of all kinds have offered the critique that worship that focuses on social justice is “too political;” that it’s not “spiritual enough.” By this, people mostly seem to mean that a lot of so-called “social justice” Sundays feel more like a fascinating presentation on the topic, or a rallying call to action, rather than a soul- and life-transforming experience of worship.