At the invitation of Pastors United, an African-American group of clergy in Milwaukee, I attended my first ever Community Building Workshop. On a subzero day in January 2015, I pulled on my long underwear, wool sweater, and down coat and drove over to Wisconsin Community Services building, wondering what I had gotten myself into. I did not really have three days to spend sitting in a room with people I’d never met trying to forge new relationships across our differences. A million other priorities competed for my attention.
But in the end, I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else. It was a life-transforming experience.
As the hours passed, I witnessed people of many races, classes, genders, sexual orientations and ethnicities drop the mask of social convention and share from their hearts and souls who they were and what concerned them most in this world. There were tears, there was laughter, there were boring stories and riveting stories. I found the ability to speak from my own authenticity deepen and my reserve around “strangers”melt away. I found these strangers to be family, sharing a deep unity of what it means to be human. I also entered the sacred space of deep respect for differences. Pain is pain, yet experienced in raw particularity. And hope rises in the end.
“If you can make the time to join a Community Building workshop, I can guarantee you will walk away changed.” ~ Rev. Dena McPhetres
First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee is a home for spiritual community, social justice, and intellectual freedom, active in Milwaukee since 1842. Unitarian Universalism is an inclusive denomination; core principles include recognition of the worth and dignity of every person; respect for the interdependent web of existence; and the goal of world peace, liberty and justice.
The Rev. Dena McPhetres is First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee’s Associate Minister. As Associate Minister, Dena has four areas of focus: Pastoral Care, Small Groups, Social Justice and Summer Services. She also shares responsibility with our Senior Minister for worship, preaching, crisis pastoral counseling and rites of passage.