My head is still buzzing after our Congregations and Beyond consultation last week. The privilege of being in a far-ranging conversation with 22 visionary people astonishes me. In such a short time we could barely cover the territory of explorations, and I still feel like I’ve only been able to process 10 % of what we discussed, but I want to share some ideas that are emerging.
First and foremost what impressed me about the conversation was how clearly we all understand this work to be a shared ministry. We all understood that reaching out to connect people of common faith is everyone’s work – not just the UUA’s or some particular kind of staff person. All of the ideas generated were based on the assumption of willing hands and hearts. It just goes to show something I’ve always believed: that people find all kinds of energy for that which really calls to a deep place inside of them. And clearly this is tapping into that energy.
Twenty two committed Unitarian Universalists have gathered in Orlando, Florida to brainstorm how we might extend the reach of Unitarian Universalism in this new age.
We are laypeople and ministers from all regions of the US; we range in age from early twenties to late sixties, we are black, latino, white, differently abled, of various gender identities and sexual orientations. And we are called to spread the reach of the message of liberal religion.
All of us are hyper-aware of the new technologies that enable us to think in a new way about connecting. From the beginning we committed to having this conversation in a way that is transparent through different kinds of media. And in our opening conversation we realized that we still struggle with what it means to learn in public. As we developed our covenant for this time we were looking for a way to reflect deeply and creatively without worrying about who was watching and whether they might misinterpret our brainstorming.
At the same time we wanted to model real and true transparency and trust that our conversation partners beyond will see this in this experimental light. The covenant we came up with expresses this struggle. You can check it on the Blue Boat Blog.
Some of the challenges around this are just technical (just technical!) What media do we use to share the conversation? To share it on Facebook is quickly overwhelming. Twitter creates a nice feed but not everyone is on twitter. Etc., etc.
More of the challenges are around deep cultural shifts. Who can speak on behalf of whom? Who are the deciders of new initiatives? Who is responsible for carrying a vision forward? Right now we are spending some time envisioning what our movement would feel like, look like, be manifest in 5 years if we were a vital faith for the future. I can’t wait to hear what comes of this conversation!
I’ve been incredibly excited to see the conversation developing around the UUA’s “Congregations and Beyond” initiative. If nothing else, it has started a really important conversation. Checkout the Facebook conversation. There have been dozens of blog posts and twitter conversations about it. Follow the Twitter hashtag #congbeyond.
Joanna Crawford summarizes the responses well in her latest blog:
- “My Social Media peeps: after years of shouting from the rooftops about the very real community and relationship that happens via blogs, FB, Twitter, etc., they’re excited to see others are realizing it.
- My Boots on the Ground Parish Ministers: wonder if any of this is relevant to their churches and have concern that this will take away from the help they desperately need.
- Theology Wonks: want more emphasis on the “there, there.” What is the root of what connects us? What are those “core values”?
- Polity Wonks: want to know if this is a step toward being an association of members rather than an association of congregations, and if so, will this dilute/change our congregational polity?
- One question I’ve heard from almost all groups is a desire for clarification, to know what the end goal is.”
I’ve heard this same desire for clear goals expressed everywhere. And I would like to caution us that this is actually the worst place to start. Read more
Peter Morales (President of the UUA) has just posted a new statement, “Congregations and Beyond” that contains both a vision and a vow.
Our polity is founded upon a congregational structure, and our theology and ideology is much larger than that. The core question for me at this time is “who does Unitarian Universalism serve?” Is it just our members? Is it those who share our values? Or is it the larger community with which we hope to serve through our values? Read more