The Spiritual Activist Leadership Training (SALT) combines personal reflection with group learning. It develops relationships within the small cohort of SALT fellows each year and builds community with the wider region and state through Justice Journeys. The curriculum grounds justice making in Unitarian Universalist values and in a distinctly UU approach — one that values accountable relationships and prioritizes the creation of Beloved Community. Some highlights of the SALT Experience:
Justice Journeys: One weekend each month, SALT fellows and coordinators travel to different locations around the state to meet and learn from justice makers. Past trips have included: visiting a farm in the Central Valley to meet farm workers, see living and working conditions, and listen to owners of a cooperative farm talk about their struggles and successes with self-determination; touring Angel Island to hear about the history of immigration in California and reflect on the parallel and different experiences of immigrants today; witnessing the Calling Back the Salmon ritual of the Winnemem Wintu tribe and learning from community members and activists; and advocating for the passage of the Human Right to Water Bill in Sacramento.
Building Community: While many young adult Unitarian Universalists are passionate about justice, there is often a divide between secular young adult-led activism and congregational justice work, usually led by older adults. SALT seeks to bridge that isolating gap and build a supportive community of passionate UU young adult activists. There is also a focus on accountability, and the importance of showing up for each other. This is a change from the individualistic narrative common both inside and outside of church. SALT fellows are building a uniquely young adult spiritual community, and learning how to create the sustaining connections that make the life’s work of justice possible. Another key component of the program is making connections outside of the group with congregations, justice leaders, and secular and interfaith advocacy groups active in the community and statewide. SALT has helped fellows and alumni build the relationships that lead to jobs, board member positions, and organizing roles.
SALT Mentors: As part of the program, each fellow chooses an adult mentor. SALT leaders can also help make these connections, as needed. These supportive adults include longtime activists, ministers, lay leaders and educators. The mentee and mentor check in regularly throughout the program, and the mentor acts as a guide and sounding board to help build community connections and encourage deeper reflection. Many of these relationships last well beyond the SALT program.
Personal Reflection: Members do regular written reflections about what they are reading, learning and experiencing. These provide an opportunity for self-analysis and quieter thought about the spiritual roots of justice work. Reflections are sometimes shared with coordinators and mentors, who can provide personal feedback and be resources as participants struggle with the challenges of justice work.
Leadership Skill Development: SALT fellows spend time leading workshops for their peers at Justice Journeys, facilitating the monthly video conferences, and doing their self-directed individual community project. Fellows learn leadership skills based on UUA trainings, the Midwest Academy, Appreciative Inquiry, Nonviolent Communication, and participate in skills development trainings lead by seasoned UU and non-UU justice leaders. The program highlights one-to-ones, working in coalition and building partnerships, advocacy, public witness, lobbying, developing writing and speaking skills, event planning, publicity and dealing with the media, learning about a wide range of justice issues, and evaluation of the self, peers, groups, and events.
Group Learning: Combining the personal reflections with group discussions and Justice Journeys helps fellows think beyond their own spheres of awareness. Coming into contact with differing views in a deeply caring environment is critical for developing fellows’ ability to work in their own home communities, in which not everyone will think alike but all will still need to stay in right relationship. Giving and receiving constructive feedback is a crucial part of growing in community, as fellows become more conscious of how their own experiences have consciously or unconsciously affected their position in the world, and begin to struggle with issues of oppression and liberation as leaders, partners and allies.