Tuesday, March 13, 2012

All Souls Diversity Task Force Visits Congregations in Arlington, VA and Washington, DC

Our Learning Experience in Diverse Multicultural Ministry: Arlington Virginia and All Souls DC

On Sunday, February 12th, Task Force members Sabrina Alano, Daniel Gregoire, Lissa Gundlach, Carolyn Jackson, Blanca Rodriguez and Carol Emmerling traveled south to attend Sunday worship with the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington, Virginia and All Souls Unitarian Church of Washington, DC. We joined a group of Meadville Lombard Seminarians who had gathered for the week to learn about diverse and multicultural faith development with Mark Hicks, Meadville Lombard professor of Religious Education. DRE Taryn Strauss attended the course throughout the week. Both the All Souls DC and Arlington congregations have prioritized diversity at the center of their congregational life over the past four decades. In mission, they define themselves similarly. The Arlington congregation describes themselves as a “A diverse, welcoming community of open hearts and minds since 1948, while All Souls DC describes themselves as “A diverse, spirit-growing, justice-seeking community.”

Our visit was transformative in many ways, helping us to understand the great joy and possibility as well as the challenges inherent in our journey towards deepening our capacity for diversity. Here are some reflections from our Task Force members:

After our group visit to All Souls in Washington D.C., I know that we can reach this goal. All Souls in D.C. truly walks the talk of diversity. I felt it as soon as I walked in. There was diversity among the greeters and ushers and within the congregation, and a striking degree of multiculturalism in the worship service that felt so genuine, joyous, embracing, and comforting. The congregation sang Spirit of Life in Spanish and then English. The words in Spanish are so beautiful, and hearing the congregation sing these words in unison made me feel that we were indeed a community of "All Souls."

-Blanca Rodriguez

“Visiting the Arlington and All Souls DC congregations has opened my eyes to ways that we could continue our efforts to become an intentionally welcoming, inclusive community that would attract greater diversity. If I were to sum this up in one sentence, I would say that these congregations attend to a person's whole self, the heart as well as mind.”

-Sabrina Alano

“I have to admit that I was not sure that it was possible to have a thriving Unitarian Universalist congregation that could hold both the richness of our common faith and the wealth of diverse cultures and experiences. If I were to approach the experience of All Souls DC by way of food analogy I would say that place was rich with micro-nutrients from a variety of sources, like a hearty vegetable soup. We owe it to ourselves to work diligently to create our own expression of a nutrient rich environment; that does not just welcome come all, but really includes them in all aspects of worship. We can do this."

-Daniel Gregoire

“I always like going to All Souls DC because it demonstrates what can be done to make the worship service more diverse within a setting much like our own.”

Carolyn Jackson

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