As Unitarian Universalists, our faith calls us to be agents for change. However, sometimes this work can feel lonely, draining, daunting, or disconnected from our spirituality. Reflecting on our work can address both the yearning to tie our work to Unitarian Universalism and the call to transform ourselves and the world. Below is a model you can use with your tam to reflect, recharge, and renew your commitments to environmental justice.
Here’s an sample agenda:
Spiritual practice (each group member can take turns bringing one to share)
Share your recent actions
Pair or small group sharing on the Reflection Questions (20 minutes)
Full group reflection (10 minutes)
Celebration of the successes and good news
- Get to know myself better
- Challenge myself
- Ask questions
- Listen actively – no fixing, saving or advising
- Take space; make space
- Pass if I want to
- Express different views
- Different views are expected and honored
- Strong emotion and rigorous challenge are ok
- Be open to be changing my mind
- Examine and call for change in myself and the way I work for justice
- Center healing and wholeness
- Maintain confidentiality- stories stay here, learnings can leave here
- Know that we will all make mistakes, and when we do, I will create a soft space where each of us can fall and get back up again
Sample Reflection Questions
- How did I accompany communities or people most impacted by climate injustice? (see Tenets of Accompanying below)?
- How was I challenged in this work, activity and/or event to move beyond the edges of my comfort?
- Did I experience stress, pain, secondary trauma? Am I burned out and discouraged? Am I experiencing eco-grief and fear? If so, share what’s comfortable.
- What do I want to do more of?
- One definition of spirituality is connecting to something larger than our own egos, something that gives us meaning. Did that happen? How?
- Which of the UU Sources of Inspiration can I draw on now to connect to something larger and sustain me for the long work of justice?
- Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life;
- Words and deeds of prophetic people which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love;
- Wisdom from the world’s religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life;
- Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God’s love by loving our neighbors as ourselves;
- Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit;
- Spiritual teachings of Earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.
- (We add) UU history and leaders
Tenets of Accompanying
Collective Liberation. Remembering that the liberation of the entire living Earth community is inherently connected, and together, we are on a learning journey toward it.
Long Haul. Building relationships of trust and accountability with people and communities most impacted by climate injustice by showing up and staying in the relationships for the long haul.
Center the Impacted. Disrupting the systems and structures of oppression – with integrity and in authentic community with those most impacted, following their leadership.
Unlearning Dominance. Unlearning patterns such as taking charge, going first, jumping in without giving others an opportunity to speak, leading, rushing to decisions, either/or thinking, etc. Seeking both/and thinking and solutions. No Saving. Resisting the need to fix, tell, teach, give, help.
No Assumptions. Not assuming we know what life and experiences are like for those from different cultures, religions or with different identities than our own. Listening more than speaking. Staying open to one another’s pain.
Action. Willingness to do more than listen and talk. Committing to action and to showing up outside our realms of comfort, materially, emotionally and physically.
Reflection/Action Cycle. Constantly evaluating and learning from mistakes and strengths, and sharing that learning with others. Allowing ourselves to be changed.
Sustainability. Embodying Earth care, community accountability, collective healing, apologies and humility.
The Latin roots of “accompanying” are:
To be together (“com”) in eating bread (“panis”), face to face.
Derived from academic and pastoral care resources on the topic, along with interviews by Rev. Kelly Dignan with Dr. Vincent Harding, Staughton Lynd, Rev. John Fife, Rev. Dr. Thandeka, Rev. Julie Todd, PhD. Updated 2020 to include Emergent Strategy by adrienne maree brown, input from BIPOC groups, and characteristics of White Supremacy Culture.