Coloring In the Margins
About ten years ago, the congregation I served decided to hire a new Director of Religious Education.We gathered a committee of four and set to work defining the position, advertising our need, and accepting applications.
After reviewing what we had received, we were left to decide between two people, neither of whom had any direct experience as a DRE but who had interesting skill sets and exhibited some relevant traits.
One candidate, a woman who had been a stay-at-home mom for many years, had been employed for a short time as a teacher’s assistant and wanted badly to work in children’s education. She had taken her child to a UU church for a few months but knew nothing else about UU before seeing the ad.
The other was a man who had never worked in education or stayed at home with his kids, but had years of experience in planning and organizing systems for the Army and for large insurance companies. Also, he was a long-time member of a UU church and had reared his kids there.
The committee was split in its deliberations between those who wanted our new DRE to be a teacher with some organizing skills and those who wanted her to be an organizer with some teaching skills. After extended debate, we hired the man.
Now with the trouble within the national offices of the Unitarian Universalist Association, I can see that our hiring practices in that tiny congregation ten years ago would have needed to be very different.
Someone on the hiring committee argued at the time that we should hire the woman because she was a woman and thus a member of a “traditionally marginalized” group. In response, the question was asked that since most UU DREs are already women, wouldn’t it then be counter-cultural to hire the man?
I don’t recall, as the committee deliberated, that we thought much about the history of racial subjugation in that town or considered that the congregation may have had embedded within it some system of oppression or other. No one that I know of ever applied the term ‘white supremacist’ to any of us or to anyone else in the church.
Now, though, it’s obvious that we have a lot to learn along with the UUA in addressing such issues among ourselves.
By the way, the man we hired built that program from about 25 kids to 75 over about three years, and is now sought-after around the UUA as an interim and consulting DRE. Of course we can’t say what the woman would have done in the position because we didn’t offer her the chance. I hope she found productive employment soon and was just as effective.
As they say, “may you live in interesting times,”