Racial Justice: A Spiritual Practice

March 28, 2019
  • Shira Ehrlich, Cedar Lane Racial Justice Team Member

Social justice work is a spiritual practice for me. As a UU, I experience joy and inspiration in living the seven principles by working to build a better world. So when I received an invitation last year to join the Racial Justice Team, I was glad to accept.

I was a new Cedar Lane member at that time, but I already had been involved in racial justice work through Showing Up for Racial Justice Montgomery County (SURJ MOCO). This is an organization primarily for white people who want to partner with racial justice activists of color. I had attended discussion groups, participated in direct action with the Bethesda African Cemetery Coalition, and last year served as a de-escalator at the August 12 anniversary of the Charlottesville Unite the Right rally.

Although SURJ is a secular organization, I grew spiritually. I met people of color and of different faiths. I learned to listen to their ideas and see our society through their viewpoints. In doing so, I realized more fully the inherent worth and dignity of every person, and respect for the interdependent web of all existence. And my racial justice activism has been a most free and responsible search for truth and meaning.

Even more, when I mentioned my SURJ work at a meeting of the Cedar Lane Together Diversity Team, which includes racial, LGBTQ+, and gender justice teams, I learned that the Together Team already had a connection with SURJ MOCO. The Together Team expressed interest in deepening their connection with SURJ. This interest has led to plans for a SURJ MOCO co-sponsored Active Bystander Training at Cedar Lane. Details here:

Active Bystander Training is an opportunity to learn how to support marginalized people who are being harassed. A facilitator leads participants through role-play scenarios. These scenarios include supporting a woman in a hijab, a transgendered person, and a person of color undergoing harassment. I have found Active Bystander Training to be excellent practice in challenging oppression on the most personal level.

I look forward with joy to challenging oppression, personally and systematically, with the Racial Justice and Together Diversity Teams. UUA president Susan Frederick-Gray, in her sermon at Cedar Lane on February 3, quoted Mary Oliver who wrote, “If you…feel joy, don’t hesitate. Lean into it.” I have leaned into my joy by working with those in our Racial Justice and Together Diversity Teams. Frederick-Gray said, “Our communities can and need to be places of connection and collective inspiration.” Leaning into my joy has brought me inspiration as I have seen the dedication of the people on these teams. They have shown me how love works at Cedar Lane.