2016 Justice Summit - Recap

On October 1, 2016 nearly a hundred Unitarian Universalists (UUs) and their allies converged at Quimper UU Fellowship (QUUF) in Port Townsend, Washington for the 6th Annual Northwest Justice Summit.  Our theme was Bridging the Divides – Faith, Party, Privilege.

As with last year’s summit, the morning began by lighting our chalice and by recognizing the site of our summit as a traditional territory of Indigenous People.  Jo Blair of QUUF’s Native Peoples Connection led us in stating our collective intention to nurture our relationship with our Cost Salish neighbors and our shared responsibility to their homelands and all living beings.

Speaking to all gathered, Rev. Bruce Bode and Florence Caplow offered presentations addressing the divides of party, faith, and privilege.  Rev. Bruce Bode's presentation acknowledged the stark divides now evident between the national candidates for President of the United States – divides that are echoed within large constituencies of US citizens.  Rev. Bode also revealed divides manifest between our faith and those of mainstream republicans that were not in evidence a generation ago.  Using Robert Frost’s poem Mending Wall as a reference throughout his presentation, Rev. Bode agreed with Frost that “something there is that doesn’t like a wall. That wants it down.”  To support bridging our divides, Rev. Bode provided us with several steps we can each take to begin to address the critical cultural divides in our country.    

In her presentation, Rev. Florence Caplow emphasized that many challenges we face today demand that we find common ground with those who are not like us.  But how do we create common ground?  Rev. Caplow noted how most Unitarian Universalists represent a quite narrow band of race, class, culture, education, and politics as compared to our country more generally.  We UUs largely occupy a band of privilege that impoverishes our understanding and a ‘comfort zone’ of sameness that challenges our ability be effective partners for justice.  Rev. Caplow recounted her own experience taking the PBS News Hour’s Do you Live in a Bubble Quiz – an opportunity to find out just how close her life experience was to that of mainstream Americans.  Not so close, it turned out.  Rev. Caplow suggested that our journey towards more just outcomes for our country will necessarily involve working directly with people not like ourselves.  She provided examples of what can be accomplished for justice (as well as for the folks directly involved) when we intentionally work across our divides in coalitions to effect change.

The morning program climaxed with a playback theatre workshop led by Marc Weinblatt of Mandala Center for Change with theatrical interpretations presented by the Poetic Justice Theatre Ensemble.  Beginning with simple one-word expressions of the divides initially evident, Marc moved us from the familiar realm of  ideas, opinions, and issue positions – our heads, as one participant put it – into the less familiar, more personal and potent realm of memories, emotions, and conflicting values – our hearts.  Each story drew a dramatic interpretation from the ensemble which explored the stories told and honored them with powerful truths evident in each vignette.  We in the audience watched, laughed, cried, and were changed.  We found ourselves engaged with and a part of each of these stories – each of these divides.  What at first seemed personal stories were revealed as universal, or nearly so.   What began as story became something more akin to transformation.  Several folks commented at the end of the day that the experience had opened a new dimension for them in their understanding of their justice work.

These reflections continued in small groups as we broke for lunch in the fellowship hall, which was ringed with exhibits and energized with conversation.

As the host team cleared the fellowship hall to set up for afternoon sessions, attendees rejoined DD Hilke, executive director of the Northwest UU Justice Network to learn more about how the Northwest UU Justice could help power their connections.  Attendees received a handout that summarized several ways personal justice work or (flip the sheet) a congregation’s justice work could be made easier and reach more people by taking advantage of free network services.  DD Hilke also updated summitters on the two interstate issue networks that are under development (First/American Indian Nations; Antiracism) and the online resource Hubs under development on the network’s website.  Summitters were invited take the idea of connection with them into their breakout session and consider whether they would like network support to stay in contact or begin the work of birthing an in-state or interstate issue network.

And then, as happens at our summit every year, we split into several different issue focused sessions.  We mixed ourselves again and again, in two different hour-long breakout sessions that ultimately supported intense justice conversations on ten different issues.  At the end of the day, we came together again to share our individual and collective learnings, as we reflected on what we would tell our closest friends and justice coworkers when we returned home.

We invite you to browse our 2016 Summit Program Highlight page.  In the next several weeks, summit note-takers and presenters will be submitting their reports and linking their session outcomes to this Program Highlights page.  Several reports are already posted. Give this page a quick glance to remember the day you helped to create.  Then, dive into the links offered.  Feed your hunger for what's going on with Northwest UUs as we pursue justice work on a many justice issues.

At the end of the day, we were each asked three questions:

What did YOU accomplish, today?

What are YOU called to do next?

What are WE called to do next?

We invite you to read what each of us had to say - to bear witness to our learning, our inspiration, and our declarations of the work we will do. We also invite you to join us next fall for the 2017 Summit. Why not add your passion, issues and ideas for action to our UU Network?  You can join our network here. Who knows what we might do together?  You might be like this participant who spoke for many of us with these words about the 2015 summit:  I "connected with other passionate people who, like me, want to know the truth and what we can do to heal our broken society and earth."

2016 Northwest Justice Summit - Stats at a Glance

Individuals Registering


UU Congregations Registered


Other Organizations Registered




Issue-Oriented Break-Out Sessions


Interactive Workshops


Sponsoring Congregations


Sponsoring Organizations



Special Thanks
to our Summit Sponsors

Sponsoring Congregations

Quimper UU Fellowship (HOST)

Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship

Cedars UU Fellowship

     East Shore Unitarian Church

     Edmonds UU Congregation

     Evergreen UU Fellowship

     Northlake UU Church

     Olympia UU Congregation

     Shoreline UU Church

     University Unitarian Church

     Vashon Island Unitarian Fellowship

     Woodinville UU Church

Sponsoring Organizations

Church of the Larger Fellowship

Mandala Center for Change

Northwest UU Justice Network

Oregon UU Voices for Justice

Unitarian Universalist Service Committee

Unitarian Universalists for Justice in the Middle East

UUs for a Just Economic Community

Washington UU Voices for Justice

Interested in sponsoring the next summit? Click here to learn more.

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