Engaging Everyone in ACTS That Lead to TRANSFORMATION

In order for education to change lives, it must be transformative.* As such, I work in multiple contexts:  first as a university professor on matters of teaching and learning; as a religious worker within the realm of spiritual formation; and finally, in our larger national community.  My hope in each of these spheres is to create communities of critical reflection where learners are able to cordon off “business as usual” and seek new responses to nagging problems.  As a result, I pay attention to:

• how systems of preference and style impact the way we see ourselves and relate to others;
• how knowledge (issues of epistemology) and values are constructed and enacted as forms of self and group knowledge;
• the use of our imagination to reshape real and perceived realities;
• how working in teams can be a way to starve the tyrannies of narrow-mindedness, competition and efficiency;
•  the liberating possibilities inherent in democratic ways of thinking and being.

*(see the text, "Learning as Transformation" by Jack Mezirow and Associates; 2000).

Multi-Racial Congregations

November 2014.  Thirty seminarians and congregational lay leaders joined me in Tulsa, Oklahoma to explore how a ministry of faith formation happens in the context of multi-racial faith communities. Turns out it's quite rare, but when it happens, it's a powerful thing to behold.  Our shared text was two Tulsa Unitarian Universalist congregations - All Souls and Church of the Restoration - who have committed extraordinary spiritual and intellectual resources to the challenge.  I wrote a working paper, "Spiritual Malpractice and the Struggle for Voice in Multi-racial Congregations" to explore how faith formation, as a tool of developmental psychology, works in such a setting.  Student papers and essays are suggesting that we've hit a golden vein for exploration and on-going learning.  I'm excited to explore this in the coming months.

Bearing Witness.  Beloved Conversation participants talk about their learning outcomes. For more information or to gain a liscense to use, click here

“If you told me 10 weeks ago that I’d be sitting in circle with Black Christians, singing a gospel song about interconnectedness, I would have told you that you were crazy!”  - White, male humanist


“Thank you for telling something I didn’t want to hear. You’re helping me return to the real intentions of my heart.” – White, female, Jewish elder


“Simply because Black people know oppression does not mean we have nothing to learn about how we’ve been shaped by racism.” – Black, female lay leader

Beloved Conversations was created out of a consultancy with First Unitarian Church, Portland Oregon to explore matters of "race and ethnicity" as a function of spiritual development.   The curriculum includes a 1.5 day retreat followed by eight "sessions" wherein participants are asked to place the stories of their lives into a critical yet sacred conversation with dominating structures that divide the human family.




That Bring the World We Dream About

I recently overheard a student say, "you never know what will happen in a Mark-Hicks-class."  I take that comment as a point of pride!  Learning does not happen when we are safely tucked inside our comfort zones.  Learning happens when we reach, as my colleague Jennifer Garvey Berger writes, " the edge of our meaning."   Thus, my classroom tilts toward the evocative end of things, stretching everyone - including myself - into places where we can bump up against what we "think" we know.  It is in those spaces that the magic of transformation happens.




Technology, like any tool, can be used in ways that cut us off or, conversely, connect us to a world we never imagined.  As a Transformative Educator, I’m constantly playing with a wide variety of technologies…I’m always in search for new ways to notice why we’re alive! Here, during the early days of Twitter, I took my students to a museum on the campus of the University of Chicago. While they were exploring ideas and images throughout the exhibit, they  found themselves living the question: how might this new technology help me engage with fellow learners?   A wonderfully vibrant discussion was launched, one that is yet to be fully understood.


Systematic discrimination, internalized racism and “stereotype threat” have impacted the spiritual formation of people of color for generations.  Additionally, people of color in predominately white religious congregations, are often asked to play the educational role of helping white congregants understand their on-going complicity with institutionalized racism.  When a preponderance of spiritual development and advocacy programs focus on “interrupting systems of whiteness,” for People of Color, the result is limited psychic and emotional space to make meaning of their own spiritual journey.  The cost is daunting.  As UU congregations work to grow in terms of ethnic/racial diversity, conscious efforts must be created that support the faith development of children, youth and adults who themselves are targets of oppressive thought and behavior.  This project includes an outline of basic educational concepts/principles/elements that have the capacity to promote self-knowledge and systems of support for persons on their journey toward wholeness.





 Creating Theology Together.  

Our newest curriculum is a learning exercise that invites individuals to not only identify their theological commitments, but to do so in the company of others who may or may not share your same beliefs.  Led by ministers and religious educators,  to inform & shape a public theology that grounds our faithful actions in the world.  Curriculum launch:  June 2019.


Gathering Our Selves: Faith Formation for the Melanin Majority. Based on the ourcome of my work over the last five years, it's clear to me that the human and faith development of people of color in  primarly White cultural context can cause psycho-spiritual distress among non-dominant cultural groups.   Gathering Ourselves reverses that trend and orients participants toward flourishing ways of thinking, feeling, and being.








UUA Commission on Instituional Change.  Walnut Creek, CA   Oct. 1-3


Race and Formation as a Family Matter.   Eno River, Durham, NC. Oct 19-21.



Keynote:  Tools for The Shift: Foundational Insights for Transformive Communities"  Mosiac Makers National Conference.  San Diego, CA.  Oct. 28-31.

Workshop: Gathering Our Selves Spiritual Direction for People of Color.   CENTER Institute for Excellence in Ministry.  Jan 22-26, 2818








Liberal Religious Educators Association, Fall Conference.  Houston, TX  Nov. 2-5


Multicultural Congregations as Faith Formation (with Rev. Kierstin Homblette Allen).  All Souls Church and The Church of the Restoration.   October 28-Nov 2.  Tulsa, Oklahoma









Just published!   "Religious Education and the Traditions," in The Oxford Handbook on Religion and Higher Education (2018).  The article is a review of the history, trends and practices employed by religious workers in transmitting religiosity to its faithful. The chapter is also an excellent resource for teachers and those curious about exploring how faith formation “works” as well as the role specific teaching practices. The handbook features preeminent scholars from the fields of religion (some excellent scholarship on faith formation!) education, law, and political science to craft a comprehensive survey and assessment of the study of religion and education in the United States






ChicagoLand BC Retreat, Oak Park, IL (Unity Temple); Nov 16-17


Cedar Lane, Maryland; January 18-19


San Luis Obispo, CA; Feb 1-2


All Souls, Unitarian, Washington, DC Feb. 22-23







October 2013 was an extrordinary month for many reasons.  Stll hard to put it all into context but I was joined by 18 Unitarian Universalists from my home congregation to connect our African American identities back to Africa.   Titled, “Sankofa: Looking Back in Order to Move Forward,” pilgrimage to Ghana, site of the slave castles that were the point of departure for The Middle Passage.  A few insights from my journey are posted here.



The Closing Ritual

A beautiful image that bears generations of joy and struggle.