Guengerich: ‘We need to have more in common’

Rev. Dr. Galen Guengerich
General Assembly attendees filled the Charlotte Convention Center’s Ballroom B Friday morning to hear the second part of a workshop by the Rev. Dr. Galen Guengerich on what it would take to make Unitarian Universalism a “church for the new millennium.”

Guengerich, senior minister of All Souls Unitarian Church in New York City, spoke at length about the importance of being not just spiritual but religious. He also explored ideas about the defining characteristics of Unitarian Universalism, how shared histories and common rituals bind us together as a community, and how we need to adapt to a new understanding of what God is if we want to thrive as a faith.

The first part of Guengerich’s two-part workshop, held Thursday morning, focused on how and why Unitarian Universalism is failing.

“The challenge for Unitarian Universalism as a denomination,” he said, “is our tendency to think and act as though we are each a religion unto ourselves, each congregation developing its own rituals and each individual determining his or her own spiritual way of life. In order to thrive in the years ahead, we need to have more and more in common religiously, both as individuals within our congregations and as congregations within the denomination.”

At the conclusion of his speech the audience erupted in applause and then got to its feet to give Guengerich a standing ovation.

  • Anonymous

    I hope he’s not proposing a “common book of UU prayer or ritual” for all to follow, combined with an oath to all hang on one interpretation of UUism.nI can think of nothing that would stifle the creativity and experimentation that has led to so many of the rituals already common in UU congregations.u00a0 nJudging from this report it would seem such a move is being proposed.u00a0 I hope not.

  • Anonymous

    We already have much in common. The key is to focus on the larger context in which those commonalities exist, not to try to find the lowest common denominator.u00a0

  • Anonymous

    I am perplexed about what Rev. Galen is saying. Does he mean spirituality practiced in a community setting (such as a church) constitutes a religion, where as practicing it individually and alone does not?

  • Jamie McReynolds

    I do believe that is what he is saying. The origin of the word religion means to bind or to tie together. Kind of hard to do that alone.

  • JeremyB

    There are some good questions and statements already posted, and hope this website will provide us with the transcript of the speech. One of the challenges within our community is to identify the basic elements that we all have in common. Our diversity of thought and belief can only benefit us collectively if it is anchored to that which unites us in thought and belief.

  • Bernie May

    As a 42 year U-U (27 at All Souls-NYC), Guengerich’su00a0u201cchurch for the new millennium” is not one that I would be interested in. I value the full spectrum of religious thought, spirituality and ritual I’ve found in the many other U-U congregations I’ve been members of, or have visited over the past four decades, from a lay-lead congregation in Mississippi right on up through the high pulpit at at All Souls. I’ve also noted that the smaller the congregation, the greater its members seem to identify with the UUA as their denomination. If I wanted a “Book of Common Anything”, I’d go back to ‘organized’ religion, fromu00a0whenceu00a0I came.n

  • Elizabeth Dion

    I heard both lectures and hope they will be posted here in full. He did not suggest a book of common prayer or anything of the sort. He defined religion as taking what we know of the world and creating a life of purpose and meaning within it. Spirituality is something we do individually. Religion is what we do together.


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