Beyond “Congregations and Beyond”
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.
This is a very preliminary glimpse at some ideas that emerged. Our visioning revolved around three major areas of strategies:
1) Engaging congregations in reaching out to the world beyond them
We talked of congregations who understand themselves as community centers, rather than membership centers, of tapping into that theological core of understanding congregations as a home that helps equip people to move out into the world.
2) Culture change
We recognized that much of this work involves the adaptive challenge of changing many of our cultural assumptions. To move out into the broader world will require us to have many different kinds of multicultural and multigenerational nodes of connection. We explored how the notion of covenant might be carried forward beyond a “membership” covenant.
3) New modalities
We will need a new kind of technological infrastructure to create a networked way for people to connect with one another and to their particular ministry interests. And we want to explore other modes of communicating our core message such as “UU Internet Radio” as well as creating some kind of reward structure for innovation that invites donors to directly contribute to new ideas.
As you can see, some of these ideas will be easier to achieve than others, but it was exciting for me to see that there are things we can begin to work on fairly quickly. I’ll be offering some clearer ideas and opportunities for involvement as these things unfold. In the meantime, you can continue to join the conversation at our Facebook group “Unitarian Universalists Exploring Congregations and Beyond.”