Beloved Conversations: Meditations on Race & Ethnicity

Brittany Packnett’s Ware Lecture at the 2018 UUA General Assembly
Thursday, September 19, at 6:30 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. in the sanctuary

Everyone is invited to gather to watch this powerful presentation by Brittany Packnett at the 2018 UUA General Assembly.  Brittany, a leader at the intersection of culture and justice, serves as Teach For America’s Vice President of National Community Alliances, where she leads partnerships and civil rights work with communities of color. Beyond Teach For America, Brittany was a Ferguson protestor and continues in activism as, among other things, co-founder of Campaign Zero, a policy platform to end police violence. 

In this powerful Ware lecture, she speaks directly to UUs involved in the fight against racism and oppression about a spirit of expectancy, the limits of progressiveness, how privileged moderates are more of a threat than fringed hate groups, and the difference between being an ally and being an accomplice.

After the 45-minute talk, we will discuss how our church can help heal the spiritual and organizational wounds that racism and other forms of oppression cause in our faith community. If you can’t join us, it is available online: (Her lecture starts at 16:44.) 

Our July presentation was a video viewing of Robin DiAngelo discussing her best seller, White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard For White People to Talk about Racism, and in August, we saw the slavery and civil rights exhibit at the Capitol Park Museum. Upcoming events include a field trip to Whitney Plantation on October 19, and a book discussion of Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right by Arlie Russell Hochschild.  

We continue to look for and welcome new ideas and activities that will increase awareness of racism and oppression and further our goal of becoming a more beloved community. Thanks, MiJa Thompson ( and Maida Owens (

Beloved Conversations Presents offers opportunities to help make our church more welcoming and help us individually become more aware of how micro-aggressions can make others feel uncomfortable. While this work is closely related to the Social Justice team's work, Beloved Conversations is more about the internal growth of the congregation and us as individuals and less about community outreach and activism.


Sunday, August 4 - Everyone is invited to join the Beloved Conversations field trip to see the Capitol Park Museum (660 N. Fourth St.)  exhibit on slavery and civil rights in Louisiana. 

We will meet in the lobby at 2:00 p.m. to see the exhibit together.  Then at 4:00 p.m., there will be a discussion at Brew Ha-Ha Coffee house, (711 Jefferson Hwy) to share reflections and responses to the exhibit. It will be First Free Sunday (downtown museums are free), so there is no charge to enter, but consider a donation. 

Beloved Conversation’s July presentation was a video viewing of Robin DiAngelo discussing her best seller, White Fragility, followed by short discussion.                   

The field trip to Whitney Plantation is tentatively planned for early September.  Whitney Plantation focuses exclusively on the lives of enslaved people. It is located near Wallace in St John Parish. ( 

We continue to look for and welcome new ideas and activities that will increase awareness of racism and oppression and further our goal of becoming a more beloved community.

Thanks, MiJa Thompson ( and Maida Owens (


On Saturday, February 26, 2019 Donney Rose's poetry workshop was a huge success. He challenged us to ask ourselves what the world would look like if it were different and then led 28 participants through the process of writing a prose poem based on one of our identities that we think the world misunderstands. One of the most memorable statements by Donney was: "It has always been the role of the marginalized in America to re-imagine our future.” 

Beloved Conversations next presentation is; White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism by Robin DiAngelo, March 14th, 26th, and April 11th, 6:15 - 8:00 p.m.

In her book, White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism, Robin DiAngelo defines White Fragility as: "a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves. These moves include the outward display of emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and behaviors such as argumentation, silence, and leaving the stress-inducing situation. These behaviors, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium and prevent any meaningful cross-racial dialogue."

In March and April 2019, the Beloved Conversations Alumni Group invites all members of our church to participate in a series of workshops where we will engage in the work of learning how to disrupt racism as a Unitarian Universalist faith commitment and practice. 

Sign up will start Sunday, February 24 in the Fellowship Hall after services. The discussions will be split into three parts, each will last 1 1/2 hours.  We encourage participation in all three sessions for greatest benefit.

Contact Cynthia Bryant, ( or MiJa Thompson ( any questions.


February 3, 2019

By MiJa Thompson and Maida Owens, Beloved Conversations Organizing Team

As we come to the close of our third Beloved Conversations curriculum here at UCBR, we are grateful to many.  First, to our church community and ministers for making this a priority, with a special thanks to Rev. Nathan Ryan, our mentor, and to Rev. Steve Crump, for always encouraging us all to be our best selves.

There were 18 participants who committed their time and honest work in pursuit of healing the brokenness of racism and oppression. These 18 will be added to our ever growing Beloved Conversations alumni group of 54 members, making a total of 72 alumni!  This number includes our dynamic facilitator team for this year:  Melanie Mayeux, Leslie Taylor-Grover, Cynthia Bryant, and Suzanne Besse.  Much gratitude.  

Thanks to Rev Kierstin Homblette, our retreat leader with the Fahs Collaborative at Meadville Lombard Theological School, for her leadership and expertise.

Our efforts were reinforced with the help of Allison Hall, our Office Manager, for not only her clerical work, but the interest and concern she showed.  Also to Leah Hartman, our Music Program Director, for graciously sharing the choir space throughout the 8 weeks of follow up sessions!

We would also like to acknowledge Kathy Smith, Director of Family Ministry.  Kathy continually made herself available to ensure a successful outcome.

Last but not least, to the Senior Youth of UCBR, a heartfelt, THANK YOU!  The journals you so beautifully personalized for us were a highlight at the retreat, and has continued to be with the participants as they are called to the deep work of faith formation.

Once again, thank you all for a powerful, moving experience which lays a strong foundation for work within our church and the larger community.



For 2018, please join us in our third Beloved Conversations series, a UU curriculum that provides a space to re-form/fuse the brokenness of racism and oppression into new patterns of thought and behavior ushering in social and spiritual healing.  The series starts with a weekend retreat on the evening of Friday, February 23, 6-9pm and continues on Saturday, February 24, 9am-6pm. Reverend Kierstin Homblette Allen with the Fahs Collaborative at Meadville Lombard Theological School--where Rev Steve and Rev Nathan were trained--will lead the retreat.  She will then speak at the Sunday morning services.  Following the retreat is a series of eight sessions that go deeper.  Each of the eight week sessions takes two hours to complete, and is highly structured in order to push and support the learning of the assembled community.  

Deep Check-in: Making Sense of the Retreat; The Invisible Footprint of Racial/Ethnic History
Exploring Our Dynamic of Racism and Privilege
Racism Today: Micro-Aggressions
Interrupting Racism
Community Audit: The Experience of Race & Ethnicity in your community
Power & Process: How Institutional Change Happens in our Congregations
Prophetic Vision: Towards a Multicultural Congregation in Solidarity with the World
Building the Bridge Between Our Present and Our Future  


In 2016, Guest Speaker Dr. Mark A. Hicks presented a weekend seminar Friday evening and Saturday, August 12 and 13, 2016.  We were led to challenge our assumptions and learn new ways of conversing with people of  races and religions different from our own.  Later,  we took part in eight sessions of deeper spiritual exploration in small groups.