Dear Beloved Community,
Members of the Board of Trustees (BOT) met this past week to discuss and reflect upon the removal of pictures of former FUUSN ministers and the congregation’s response, and to identify specific recommendations for next steps. We are writing to share our recommendations, outlined below. We hope to provide clarity regarding the path forward.
Going forward, the Operations Council (Ops) will work closely with the Racial Justice Ministry (RJM) and the Membership team (led by Heather Beasley Doyle) to develop a process to reconsider how we will use the wall outside the minister’s office to represent FUUSN. There will be opportunity for congregational input into how that space will be used. The pictures of former ministers will not be replaced in that location but have been appropriately and carefully stored until a decision is reached about future use of this type of iconography (see below).
The BOT has concluded it was proper for our lay-leadership to initiate this type of change, although we agree that an ideal process would have been for the RJM to discuss with the Ops Council their desire to have the pictures moved to another location, and then to communicate clearly to the congregation the actions planned, future plans for the pictures and associated wall space, and some idea of how FUUSN will consider future use of iconography such as these pictures to represent our history. The Board does not believe the decision to remove the pictures warranted a membership vote as some have suggested. FUUSN is a representative democracy where elected lay-leadership is responsible for many decisions which impact our shared congregational life.
The BOT would like to be clear that we fully support the long-standing work of the RJM and others in the congregation to reflect upon our building’s iconography to identify ways in which our building (or how it is decorated) reflects historical racism, limiting our ability to provide a truly inclusive physical space for BIPOC individuals and members. In reviewing congregational input from individual emails and the listening circles, there seems widespread agreement that removing the pictures and reconsidering how to use that space to create a more welcoming main hallway is an idea supported by the majority.
Going forward, the BOT has also recommended that the Ops Council work with the RJM to begin a process to reconsider how FUUSN represents our history so that it is more accurate and inclusive. This will include consideration of how or where to use the pictures, along with the many ideas and considerations we hope will continue to come from membership as we engage in this process. This type of reflection is enormously meaningful and a powerful way of holding our history while also moving toward an inclusive FUUSN future. This work is consistent with national trends in the use of iconography in historical spaces and UU congregations across the country.
The BOT would like to extend appreciation to everyone who has engaged with this process, whether through participation in a listening circle, connecting with others, or through self-reflection and individual discernment. We believe the outcome of the processes outlined above will create a welcoming, historically rooted, and inclusive view of FUUSN as it appears on our walls and is lived out by all of us. We are excited by what is to come, and look forward to continuing to support this wonderful, beloved community.
Responses, questions, or concerns about this email should be directed to your BOT and Ops Council members. We know that in a time when contact for many is still limited, the listserv serves as a way in which one can express themselves quickly. We would like to remind people that the listserv is not inclusive of all our membership and can easily lead to misunderstandings, which personal conversations can alleviate. We will continue to create opportunities for listening circles and feedback on this important issue for all our members as we move forward.
In faith and solidarity,
Board of Trustees
Demie Stathoplos (email@example.com)
Barbara Schmitt (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Brian Hicks (email@example.com)
Chris Krebs (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Hattie Kerwin Derrick (email@example.com)
Stephanie Kendall (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Naomi Wolfe (Youth Rep)
Tom Kisiel (Youth Rep)