Ujima - Collective Work and Responsibility - to build and maintain our community together and make our brother’s and sister’s problems our problems and to solve them together.
Overview of Ujima
Ujima, as a principle, builds directly on the principles that precede it: Umoja and Kujichagulia. If we see ourselves and our destinies as united (Umoja), and we have named not only ourselves, but also our challenges together (Kujichagulia), then we ought to do the work of solving our challenges together and working toward our collective destiny (Ujima).
Ujima as a practice calls us to reject the capitalist notion of individualism, and understand that I cannot benefit from taking advantage of my neighbor. If I take an action that hurts my neighbor today, that same action will hurt me tomorrow. Therefore we are called to look for and prioritize the actions that will benefit us, as a collective.
The real challenge is that if we measure ourselves against the pace of American capitalism, then as individuals we will seem to be behind much of the time. However Ujima is an investment in our collective outcomes because it holds the words of the proverb to be true: if you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together.
Ujima and Christian Practice
As Christians, Ujima builds on our understanding of worship. We pray together, we sing together, we read scripture together, we celebrate communion together. These are common markers of Christian worship. Ujima invites use to build on that spirit of togetherness in tackling our problems and building our future. In other words, we do not just worship together on Sunday and go our separate ways, as one might go to a movie theater with hundreds of others for a time, but then leave with little thought or care about what the people around you are doing after the movie. We worship together as the precursor to the actions we take together in the world. Worship does not prepare us to be individual change agents in the world, rather worship prepares us to thin and act collectively.
Biblical Examples of Ujima
When Moses encounters the burning bush and is called by God to back to his people who are suffering, and to lead them out of oppression into freedom, that is Ujima in practice. Moses had removed himself from the oppression, but was called to return and make the suffering of the people his suffering and their quest of liberation his quest.
In the fourth chapter of the book of Nehemiah, we see that the building of the wall of Jerusalem has been accepted by the community as an important project, and the people did it together.
So we rebuilt the wall, and all the wall was joined together to half its height, for the people had a mind to work.
In the gospel of Luke Jesus teaches the principle of Ujima in the parable of the Good Samaritan. The Samaritan is called good because he acts as the neighbor to the one who was attacked and left for dead. He made his neighbor’s problems his problems.
Practicing Ujima at Home
- Talk about household work as collective work and responsibility. The home is where we first learn what it means to operate as a collective. Cleaning, meal preparation, serving meals, tending to the outside of the home... all of these are opportunities to talk about and practice working collectively. This is especially true in homes with children, where not only the practice, but the framing of the practice can help shape who they become as adults. This is also true in homes with no children. Intentionally thinking about how we approach and participate in the work needed to maintain our living space is good discipline and practice.
- Practice talking about collective problems with a sense of ownership. If the level of gun violence in the community is weighing on you, in your discussion of what is wrong “in the community” include ways that you may have contributed to the problem, and ways that you are being or will be a part of the solution.
Practicing Ujima in the Community
- Leading or participating in efforts to address community needs, or to build a better future. Most churches or organizations are engaged in some effort in the community. Find out what yours is and volunteer to help out. If there is not one, talk about what would be aligned with the history and nature of the organization, and recruit a few people together to lead one.
Reflection Prompts, Discussion Questions, and Activities for Ujima
Celebrate what is happening well! What are ways that you and/or your family are already living into the principal and practice of Ujima? Name those and celebrate yourselves for what you are already doing.
Make a regular Ujima day in the home. Based on the size and rhythm of your family, this could be as often as once a week or as infrequent as once a year, or anywhere in between. The goal to set aside several hours of the day to tackle tasks important to the ongoing well being of the home together. Play some music, start with a communal meal or snacks, work to make it a communal experience.
Make regular Ujima days in the community. Have days when your organization as a collective comes together to build a better community. If you are able, coordinate with other, like-minded organizations to have a bigger day.
Set an Ujima goal for the year. As a family and/or as a community or organization, what is going to be the collective project that you work on for the year. Find ways to celebrate the efforts you make and the impact you have throughout the year.
Do you like this page?