Faith formation in a multicultural world

During the lunch break today, I was able to sit down and talk with Dr. Mark A. Hicks, the Angus MacLean Professor of Religious Education at Meadville Lombard Theological School. Hicks delivered this year’s Sophia Fahs Lecture on religious education. I asked Hicks what he saw as the big changes facing Unitarian Universalist religious education and faith development.

Hicks said he has been in conversation with other religious communities, including the United Church of Christ, Baptists, Methodists, etc., examining faith development for people of color. Hicks identifies as African American himself.

“When people of color choose to be in mixed-race religious communities,” Hicks said, “the focus in their involvement is either beloved community work, or anti-racism work, which is about interrupting systems of white culture in congregational life.

“What is absent from our faith development work is a focus on the faith development of people of color whose lives have been shaped by oppression,” Hicks continued. “So for example, the multi-racial teenager trying to integrate her multi-racial identity into her life, how does our Unitarian Universalist theology and our religious education practices help our child to grow?

“Or take the African American assistant professor,” he said, “who is struggling with issues of racism in his university, how does our program of faith development address those concerns?”

Hicks says he is calling for “a heightened sense of consciousness. These are issues that are alive for people of color in our congregations. How do we respond?”

“Thankfully, we have the philosophical bones as the basis for responding to these issues,” Hicks said. “But we haven’t created curriculum of support systems of educators or ministers to incorporate these lessons into our existing programs.”

Our conversation went on for some time, and I can’t report it all here. But in an increasingly multicultural world, the questions Hicks raises are facing many of our congregations. For additional information about these issues, Dr. Hicks has said that he can be contacted via email.

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