Grateful to bring you our next installment in our bi-weekly messages with a prayer, a contemporary spiritual and justice leader and a song speaking to our spirits. This is our third and last of several offerings featuring UUs in Chicago doing radical work for justice. One contemporary spiritual and justice leader to lean on, one prayer for our messy lives, and one song to strengthen and soothe.
CHICAGO UU RADICAL CONTEMPORARY SPIRITUAL & JUSTICE LEADER
Upon attending First Unitarian Church of Chicago for the first time in 2012, Andrea Freerksen cried in the back of the sanctuary. In that space it became acceptable for her to be herself - an ever-evolving, 27 year-old, UU humanist, at least according to the spirituality test she had taken.
To live her faith Andrea needed to connect to more justice work in the community so she started showing up at local actions put on by the Black Lives Matter Chicago chapter along with other UU young adults: at vigils to mourn people murdered by the police, at rallies outside Chicago Police headquarters demanding accountability, at marches through the city bringing attention to an issue that many wanted to ignore. Because First U of Chicago is on the southside it was important for her to show up at these community actions, to listen to and learn from her neighbors, to use her privilege as a white, middle-class person in ways that might offer some protection from police and connection to well-resourced communities. Having other UUs present at these actions was a supportive experience that helped Andrea to connect her politics and faith, to grapple with the complex emotions and realities that were shared in these spaces.
It was especially helpful to have this community when she heard some people from her church’s Multiracial Justice Taskforce using the phrase “all lives matter”. Andrea felt a disconnect between what she heard her fellow congregants saying and what she knew their values to be. She also felt a disconnect on the congregational level. Every year First U has a big celebration of the Emancipation Proclamation, however, the celebration wasn’t connected to the current abolitionist movement. She recognized this as an opportunity for growth. She worked with a dozens of other church members to start a Black Lives Matter Taskforce. This year they put on a workshop about the policy agenda from the Movement for Black Lives. The workshop was an opportunity for people to understand the Movement for Black Lives as broader than addressing police violence, as deeply interconnected to economic justice, political power, community control, and self-determination: things that UUs value but perhaps weren’t connecting with the phrase “black lives matter”. Andrea saw that the workshop also allowed congregants to link the current abolitionist movement focused on the criminal-legal system to the historic movement for the abolition of chattel slavery.
The conversations weren’t easy and they’ve continued to be complicated. Andrea and the Black Lives Matter taskforce have engaged with their congregation in some deep conversations about the 8th principle. The work is messy, emotional, and at times painful for those involved. But Andrea and First U are holding to the congregation’s commitment to encourage one another to grow. Today, the Black Lives Matter taskforce is the biggest taskforce at First U. The congregation hasn’t come to a consensus, but they’re learning together.
* Fun note about Andrea - she is an LCSW bilingual Spanish-speaking psychotherapist at Live Oak, a community of helping professionals with a sliding scale where she can say “Black Lives Matter”!
Like Andrea may we find community with whom to root, to learn, to share, to grow.
For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone. The shell cracks, its insides come out and everything changes. To someone who doesn't understand growth, it would look like complete destruction. – Cynthia Occelli
This week’s theme is growth. Growth is a lot easier when we have a stable center of self-love, so our song, Divine Love by Chicago artist and activist Tasha, helps us focus on that light within. Enjoy!
“I want a song that’s gonna tell me I can love myself
but not for the purpose of being better at loving someone else
Got all this light around me but I can’t see it through this haze
of my own insecurity
This fear in me
that I can’t glow from the inside out
see I got moonlight spilling from my mouth
So easily now
I can see you
and all the little pieces of God shining through…”