Making Contact

Today was the first day of the "Leading Congregations into a Multiracial, Multicultural Future" conference in San Jose, CA. Having to fight both the pouring rain and traffic, the commute from SF to San Jose took about two and a half times as long as expected and I arrived wet and annoyed, having missed the opening worship. I scanned the room from the back for someone I knew - anyone - briefly wondered, "why am I even here?!" and then spotted the familiar and always comforting form of Paula Cole Jones. Settling in next to her, I was ready to learn how to make our congregations more multicultural.

Dr. Jackie Lewis was wonderful. Energetic and sympathetic. She is the senior minister of Middle Collegiate Church in NYC, the church that Rob had mentioned as a model for diversity. I can see why.

As we took a fifteen minute break, I stood at the back of the room and watched its dynamics (something I like to do). Spotting an Asian woman at the front who was preparing to exit (in my direction), I knew from experience what was going to happen next.

Within seconds she spotted me. Her eyes lit up in recognition and she came straight towards me. "Are you Chinese?" she asked. Yes, I nodded. Wow, she was so excited to see another Asian face at a UU function. Black UUs may feel isolated in our mostly white congregations and need these kinds of conferences to connect. API UUs often feel isolated even in these kinds of conferences. So there we were, two Asians who had found each other. I soon learned that there was another Chinese woman here too. Three of us. We had lunch together. I told them about A/PIC and the recent conference. They expressed interest in joining.

And the part of me that is always the observer couldn't help but be amused at myself. Not that long ago I would have resisted this. I would have resented the assumption that just because we were Asian we'd have common interests. I would have been hesitant to be seen "congregating" with other Asian lest we look like we're refusing to integrate, conspiring. So great was my internalized racism. If my two Asian companions had any similar thoughts, they kept it to themselves. It was simply good to not be alone.

Thank you A/PIC, for helping me to this place. And I guess I should also say, thank you Unitarian Universalism.

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Acknowledgments is made possible in part by generous support from the Fahs Collaborative