“Moving from Polity to Purpose”
I had the privilege of witnessing a profound conversation with my colleagues in the Pacific Western Region. They were talking about what it would take to really shift our culture away from holding on to “this is mine” to “we are called to serve a larger vision.” They named it powerfully as “moving from polity to purpose.”
What excites me most about our move toward regionalization is not so much that we can create new and interesting structures, but that this transition helps us uncover a deeper charge of culture change that asks us to claim a larger purpose of serving the larger world, not just “ourselves.”
The Pacific Northwest District Executive, Janine Larsen, recently charged a congregation with this injunction: “The days of ministering in isolation and from behind the comfort of your own walls are over, my friends. This is the age of the network. You must serve differently, nimbly, diversely; virtually and in meet-ups, constantly and spontaneously, in the streets and in the homes.”
So much of the conversation I hear in congregations about what feels so wonderful about being Unitarian Universalist is that they feel they have found true sanctuary in the midst of chaos. We often hear people relieved at finding a community of the “like-minded”.
And of course one of the great benefits of community is feeling anchored and supported. But the shadow side of this is when we build the walls too high, or focus only inwardly. What if we move from the (perhaps arrogant) statement of being “like-minded” to seeing ourselves as “like-hearted” – coming together to offer our gifts to the world.
So Very True!
I often ask the question: What is the function of a church/fellowship/congregation?
Too often I get the feeling that many of our members are looking for a social club where they get to be in the IN group. That’s a shame, because we have so much more to offer. I often believe that folks are looking for a place where their gifts are wanted and appreciated, a place where they can give part of who they are to a lonely and needy world.
I believe that churches/fellowships/congregations should Make A Difference — in the lives of the members and in the community that surrounds it and in the world at large. Otherwise it IS merely a ‘club’.
This movement from polity to purpose is the great challenge of a faith based on principles rather than creeds. Our walls are too easily made of mirrored bricks, so that we see only our reflections as we look outward. The challenge is to preserve the anchor of the community while always reaching beyond our comfort zone. To the degree we are successful, we are never in a completely settled state. Terasa’s vision taps the core of what we are about.
The notion of being “like-hearted” is beautiful and powerful. It’s yet another way to describe this “radical openness” that we see in many domains in recent popular culture and even in the small business world. It’s true, just because we hold certain values dear does not mean that we own those values or have some special/arrogant claim over their every manifestation.
This “deeper charge of culture change” that you lift up is truly the more important and challenging work. Let our values spread, and as we spread them let those who repeat them believe that it is their idea as it was certainly someone else’s before we claimed it.