‘Congregations and Beyond’
This past week Unitarian Universalist Association President Peter Morales published “Congregations and Beyond,” encouraging all Unitarian Universalists to “read, discuss, and share” his “vision of the opportunities and challenges that face Unitarian Universalism as an international movement.” Bloggers have been obliging.
The Rev. David Pyle is representative of many responses in wanting to go farther than Morales’s paper does.
Let us open up membership and identity as a Unitarian Universalist to any and all who can connect with us. Let us join with them not how we are used to, or how we are comfortable joining with others, but however the hundreds of thousands out there need us to join with them. Let us accept that they will transform who we are, as our radical faith calls us to accept such transforming power and grace. Let us find any way we can to bring people to the point where they can say, in their hearts and with their voices, “I am a Unitarian Universalist” . . . and to know what that means.
But let us do this for the right reason . . . not because of what we might expect to gain, but because of what we have to give to this wounded, broken, hurting world. What we have to give is our saving, transforming, and healing message. (Celestial Lands, January 20)
The Rev. Chip Roush points out that UUs are not unique.
I agree with much of Peter’s analysis – and I had virtually the same conversation, with a friend about her Lutheran church, two days ago. We UUs are not unique in facing this issue. Nor are we unique in trying to solve it through marketing. (So May We Be, January 21)
The Rev. Christine Robinson considers three circles of engagement in a congregation: “leaders,” “members,” and “the audience.”
The audience includes the people who come to services but don’t join or contribute, sometimes just on Christmas Eve, or when they are between relationships, or when their mother comes to town. They are the people who use the church parking lot as a staging ground for group hikes, who rely on the food pantry, whose children go to the child care center which only pays it’s direct expenses in rent, but not the cost of the capital investment in the physical plant. The audience includes the people who read the op-ed’s which the minister produces, whose organizations meet for free in the meeting rooms, and those who are considering membership and getting involved. (iMinister, January 21; see also January 23)
Patrick Murfin places Morales’s statement into the context of changes in governance within the UUA. (Heretic, Rebel, a Thing to Flout, January 24)
Bill Baar doesn’t think it’s worth reaching out to people who identify as UUs but are not members.
You can’t build Churches (or a Movement) with folks who will not commit to do the hard work of building either.
(Pfarrer Streccius, January 25)
The Rev. Dr. Cynthia Landrum says Morales is “vague.”
But the question that he points to, well, that’s intriguing. Morales points out the there are, as we’ve known, bunches of people who identify as UU and who don’t attend UU churches. And there are bunches of people who were raised UU who don’t attend UU churches. Some of them are fairly well connected to UUism in other ways—he points to the fact that a significant number of people who attend SUUSI don’t attend any UU congregation. . . .
But what I think is new about “Congregations and Beyond” is that Peter Morales is not suggesting we find out why they’re not in churches, but, rather, find out what they are interested in doing that would connect them to our movement in other ways. Some people will never be church-goers, he’s saying, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be part of the UU religious movement. (Rev. Cyn, January 24)
The Rev. Scott Wells thinks there’s too little in the report for him “to be hopeful—or upset.” (Boy in the Bands, January 24)
Christine L. Slocum does not experience her faith as membership in her congregation.
I agree with him 100%. I also share a lot of the reaction that various other UUs have – this is not exactly earth shattering. In fact, I am already active with many of the suggestions that Rev. Morales gives. Being somewhat uninterested and somewhat ignorant of UUA politics, I already thought of UUism as a religious movement. Imagine my surprised when, in the ensuing discussion, I discovered that I had the wrong idea the entire time. (Seattleite from Syracuse, January 24)
The Rev. Peter Boullata is “thankful that Rev. Morales envisions the continued central place for congregations and is imagining other experimental forms,” but is concerned about the difference between an institution, such as the UUA, and a religious movement.
The relationship between an organized religion and religious movement, it seems to me, is one of grassroots momentum and institutional response. How does a religious organization spawn a religious movement? . . . [W]here is the movement on the ground that the UUA will respond to? What are the theological and ecclesiastical distinctives among us today around which a movement is moving? (Held in the Light, January 25)
The Rev. Dr. Victoria Weinstein, on her ecumenical blog for clergy, Beauty Tips for Ministers, explores her personal grief at the changes in congregational life.
I do not want to be a “Churchitarian,” worshiping buildings and traditions that may not minister to seekers of today. But there is a difference between false worship, or idolatry, and love. The Church has earned my love, respect and loyalty. It has changed my life in all good ways. The discipline of Sunday morning worship has been a challenging spiritual practice that has hammered a lot of alienation and unkindness out of me. (Beauty Tips for Ministers, January 24)
Around the blogosphere
The Rev. Naomi King was waiting for her life “to really begin.”
Perhaps I would have waited longer, if I hadn’t tumbled to the fact that there’s no cure for what I have. I find mercy in that. I’m free to live as I am now, without waiting for something to perfect me first. (City of Refuge, January 20)
Vance Bass, the contemporary music director at First Unitarian Church in Albuquerque, N.Mex., regrets the name he chose for his blog, Liberal Religion Gets Loud:
When I named this blog, I made a mistake: “loud” is not the defining characteristic of contemporary worship or contemporary worship music. . . . We’re no louder than the Steinway, which is to say no louder than the choir. (Liberal Religion Gets Loud, January 20)
The Rev. Kit Ketcham give a peek into the minsterial credentialing experience. (Ms. Kitty’s Saloon and Road Show, January 20)
The Rev. Justin Schroeder explains (on day 21 of blogging about spiritual practices) what he means by “spiritual practice.”
Spiritual practices/disciplines are about growing the soul, about paying attention in such a way that the “soul” expands. Spiritual practices are about noticing the ways our inner lives, the world, and something larger than ourselves are woven together. (The Well, January 22)
Crystal St. Marie Lewis looks at religion through the analogy of learning to ride a bicycle.
I do not oppose the guiding hand of tradition. In fact, I fully acknowledge that tradition seems to work like a charm for some people. However, for others, organized religion works better as a springboard to becoming independently spiritual. I think it’s important to understand religion in these terms and affirm the validity of both experiences. Some people prefer the guidance that organized religion can offer, while others prefer to break free and ride more independently. (Crystal St. Marie Lewis, January 22)
Andy Coate draws attention to expressions meant to be inclusive that are actually gendered (and exclusionary), and offers some specific suggestions.
When an assembled body of people is referred to as “ladies and gentleman,” or “men and women” or anything along those lines there is a group of people you’re ignoring. When you sing “brothers and sisters” or “oh, fathers/mothers let’s go down,” or do a reading that calls on “men” to do one thing while “women” do another you are ignoring all of the “me’s” out there. You’re ignoring my existence. I don’t think it’s intentional but I do think it’s something that needs to change. (thoughts ON, January 22)
Linda Laskowski continues her series of posts on the recent meeting of the UUA Board of Trustees at UUA View from Berkeley.