Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Being Unitarian Universalist in the South

Until a few months ago, I had only been a Unitarian Universalist in parts of the country where there were several UU congregations within an hour's drive. Whether in Metro New York, the suburbs of D.C., the San Francisco Bay Area or Boston and environs, I knew there were faith communities nearby where people embraced liberal religious values.

Then, after being gone from living in the South all my adult life, I joined the UUA Southern Region staff and returned to live in my hometown -- Holly Springs, Mississippi. Now I'm part of an inspired team that travels to congregations and meets with ministers and lay leaders, all in service of our Unitarian Universalist values. I am the 'first UUA contact' for all the congregations in Mississippi and Alabama, for most of the congregations in Louisiana and Tennessee, and for Pensacola, Florida. However, I am available as needed on behalf of the UUA across our region and beyond, especially in matters regarding our shared social justice work and building UU communities beyond congregations.

I am inspired by the ways you have sustained liberal religious community in this religiously conservative part of the country. I share your commitment to vibrant, meaningful relationships within congregations, and to powerful witness for our faith in the public realm.

The Unitarian Universalist journey in the South is different from other places I've lived. Its deep racism gave rise to courageous nonviolent action during the Civil Rights Era. In the 21st century, as in generations past, Unitarian Universalists are answering the call to engagement regarding the issues of our day, including immigrant advocacy, LGBTQ justice and economic disparity.

Thank you for your partnership. I'm looking forward to working with you in the days that lie ahead!

In faith,

Rev. Carlton Elliott Smith