Daughter, Arab-American, Person of Faith…
Connections Made and Deepened at Multicultural Leadership School
This year, as the struggle for racial justice lives on in our streets and classrooms, in courtrooms and corner stores, UU youth and young adults of color are invited to come together for the Unitarian Universalist Association Multicultural Leadership School (MLS), an annual gathering of soul-renewal and leadership development. MLS is July 10-14th, 2015 at the Walker Center near Boston, MA. Apply by April 15th, 2015. Registration fee is $275 (includes transportation) and there are many scholarships available!
In this guest blog, Multicultural Leadership School alum Ranwa Hammamy reflects on her experience and how MLS has shaped her call to ministry. -Ed
A daughter, an Arab-American, a student, and a person of faith. Hanging from my bookcase are four pipe cleaners representing these facets of my identity, twisted together into what looks like a multicolored pretzel, and held up by a piece of green yarn. It may look like an inconsequential project by someone with limited sculptural capacities, but that inedible pretzel is loaded with beautiful memories of affirmation and worship. It stays on my bookcase to remind me of four formative days that I spent in Boston, when identities were celebrated, leaders were supported, and sacred bonds were formed.
As a participant in the 2011 Multicultural Leadership School, I arrived on my first day planning to engage in meaningful dialogues and leadership development activities. What I didn’t expect was the immediate sense of community that was created upon our arrival. I was thrilled to find that those initial feelings of connection and celebration never faded – they grew. Our class, with our various backgrounds, was in a space where we knew that all of who we were and hoped to be was respected. Through hands-on sessions and worships, the MLS strengthened my connection to Unitarian Universalism. Workshops on honoring diversity helped me to live more deeply into that second “U,” and I developed a passion to nurture a faith tradition open to all. Discussions on identity gave us space to celebrate parts of our selves that may not have felt welcomed in the past, and an opportunity to honor the beautiful complexity that exists in every person’s story.
In 2014, I returned to the MLS, this time as a facilitator. I was excited support a transformative program, and honored to serve with the staff members whom I had known as my MLS mentors. I found that my role as a facilitator relied upon the skills and love that were nurtured in my earlier MLS participation. Most importantly, I was grateful that I had been trusted with the opportunity to cultivate an experience where another affirming community could grow. Returning as a facilitator, I witnessed how sharing stories of hope and struggle made the meeting room a sacred space. I celebrated how the visions of the MLS participants showed that the future of Unitarian Universalism was in inspiring hands.
The Multicultural Leadership School continues to have an impact on my life. In 2011, I attended the MLS with a vague sense that I was called to Unitarian Universalist ministry. By the time it finished, that sense of call was overwhelming. This spring, I will graduate from Union Theological Seminary, after which I will begin a ministerial internship at Mt. Diablo Unitarian Universalist Church in Walnut, California. The mentorship of the MLS facilitators and the support of my MLS peers throughout these years have helped me continue along the path of ministerial formation with courage, joy, and intention. The best part? I know that my story is just of dozens that show how the Multicultural Leadership School is transforming both individual lives and the Unitarian Universalist faith.
Ranwa Hammamy attended the Multicultural Leadership School in 2011, and then served as a co-facilitator in 2014. She is in the final year of her Master of Divinity program at Union Theological Seminary, and hopes to serve our living tradition by promoting interreligious learning and cooperation in social transformation. She currently serves as a co-chair for Union’s LGBTQ Student Caucus and as an intern in the “Arts at the Intersection” program at Intersections International. Next year she will be the ministerial intern at Mt. Diablo Unitarian Universalist Church in Walnut Creek, CA.