At the Christian Feminism Today Gathering this summer, it was really hard to choose which workshops to attend because they were all outstanding. One of these workshops I chose to attend was “Inclusion as Prophetic Action: Creating Spaces Where all are Welcome,” facilitated by Alicia Crosty. Because I’d benefited greatly from Alicia’s workshop at the Gay Christian Network (GCN) Conference, I participated in her workshop at the CFT Gathering to learn more from her about how to create inclusive communities.
Like at the GCN Conference, Alicia begins the CFT Gathering workshop by going around the circle, asking all of us to state three things about ourselves: our names, where we’re from, and what pronouns (e.g. “she,” “he,” “they,” whatever) we’d like used to refer to us.
Alicia continues to model the inclusivity she advocates by hearing and valuing each voice at the workshop. She asks us to form small circles to explore these questions: What is inclusion? What does it look like? What does it feel like? What’s the most inclusive community you’ve ever been a part of? What made it that way? What did you find most challenging? What did you learn? What kind of diversity was represented? Who was left out? What do you gain by making a community inclusive? What do you lose? How is building an inclusive space prophetic?
In the small circle I participated in, several of us mention Christian Feminism Today as one of the most inclusive communities we’ve ever been part of. I also talk about New Wineskins Community in Dallas and the national ecumenical, multicultural Equity for Women in the Church Community. We discuss how these communities are the most inclusive we’re part of because of their gender and racial diversity, inclusive language and symbolism, equal valuing of every voice, and egalitarian structure.
After our conversations in small circles, Alicia asks us to come together again in the large circle. She invites anyone to bring insights from the small circles into the large circle. Here are some of the insights:
What is inclusion?
- being seen
- all included
- diversity of genders, races, faiths, classes
- all equally valued in the divine image
- everyone represented in the language and symbolism
- all feel a part of the community
- shared power
- all feel comfortable to choose to participate
- all welcome
- all opinions count
- respect for differences
- letting all people tell their stories
What does inclusion feel like?
- shared purpose
What does inclusion look like?
- seeing diverse individuals
- soft spring green color
- beautiful tapestry
What do you gain by making a community inclusive?
What do you lose?
- absolute truth
In the small and large circles we talk about some of the challenging aspects of creating inclusive communities. For example, by including one group we may exclude another group. People of some conservative religious groups may not join groups that have a diversity of sexual orientations and gender expressions. Religious communities may face the challenge of including enough diversity in worship styles so that people of all cultures and races feel included.
We also discuss some of the things we learn from our efforts to create inclusive communities, such as that it takes time and patience to create these communities, that shared stories have power to bring diverse people together, and that our wisdom increases in mutual relationship with a wide variety of people.
Connecting the workshop to the CFT Gathering theme, “Prophets in Every Generation,” Alicia asks: How is building an inclusive community prophetic? Some reflections include that inclusive communities are prophetic in that they bring people of diverse cultures, faiths, genders, races, and sexual orientations together and give equal value and power to each person. They are prophetic in their egalitarian, instead of hierarchical, structure. They are prophetic in that they contribute to the elimination of racism, sexism, heterosexism, classism, and other injustices. Alicia also offers her wisdom as to how inclusive communities are prophetic in making space for psychic, spiritual, and emotional liberation while navigating the major challenges of creating safe places for people across a wide range of difference.
Alicia Crosby, a native New Yorker, is Co-Founder and Co-Director of Center for Inclusivity (CFI), an organization that seeks to “foster healing communities among people of all faiths, genders and sexual orientations with an ethic of inclusion that is locally embodied, sacredly held, and widely replicable.” Her affinity for strategizing and planning makes spending her days dedicated to managing the organization’s logistical and programmatic needs a great joy.
Alicia’s love of justice, contemplative activism, and community engagement led her to pursue an M.A. in Social Justice and a Certificate in Non-Profit Management & Philanthropy at Loyola University Chicago. She also holds a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies with concentrations in Education, Psychology, and Pastoral Studies from Hollins University.
Alicia’s education paired with her professional background in religious, social service, and community empowerment organizations gives her the experience necessary to bring the vision of the Center for Inclusivity (CFI) to life through building out CFI’s network and running its day-to-day operations.