Time to turn off the cell phones.Time to put the pagers on stun.It’s even time to put a piece of duct tape on the face of your watch.It’s Christmas Eve and time is standing still for a moment. It is the time, maybe the only time of the year, when here and now drift away and we fall under the spell of story-time. Tonight we are both here, AND on a lonely hillside outside of Bethlehem. Tonight, we are with each other, friends and family, returning students and relatives from far away, AND we are also with the Magi, on a journey and such a hard time for journey. Tonight we listen to our choir, AND we listen to choirs of angels, a whole heavenly host of angels we have heard on high. Tonight, like every night, is new, a never happening before moment in onrushing time, AND yet, we have been here before, done this before, told this story before, and heard it before. There is way that the story we tell tonight is always happening: birth and death and taxes, weary travelers with no place to stay, b…
Let's just stipulate that the future of Unitarian Universalism will be in non-congregational settings. The future of liberal religion is post-congregational, or "Beyond Congregations."
But congregations are the source of ministerial authority.
In days of yore, congregations themselves ordained ministers; now ministerial authority is bestowed by the fellowshipping process. In practical terms, the Ministerial Fellowship Committee says who is a recognized and legitimate UU minister. But by what authority? By the authority granted to it as a body of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations. In theory, congregations have created a common system for doing what they each used to do on their own.
Our congregationally based system of conferring authority will be called upon to credential lots of ministers for post-congregational settings. It does that now, (community ministers), but awkwardly, and in small numbers. A system that is designed to produce and evaluate…
Think about the typical successful Protestant church in the late 1940’s and 1950’s. That church has a healthy membership by our standards. The minister is a white male, and he has a study. That minister has a secretary, a real secretary, not an church administrator, and she manages the great man’s schedule, and even types his letters, answers the church phone. But the rest of that church staff is, by our standard, quite small. Because that church doesn’t actually do very much. Weekdays, the small staff is around during the daytime, but on many nights, the building is empty. There are not a lot of small groups, support groups, or book clubs. The Sunday School program is, by our standards, rudimentary — just simple indoctrination into the faith.
Protestant churches in the 40’s and 50’s were about the Sunday service; and the Sunday service was about the sermon; and the mission of the church was to spread its particular message. The message was some variation of the Christian doctrine. Su…
Three historical developments re-shaped the Unitarian and Universalist churches of the 1940's and 1950's.
One: the Cold War.
As part of the Cold War, powerful business and political leaders sought to “Christianize” the United States of America — as an ideological counter to Godless Communism.
Kevin Kruse, a professor of History at Princeton, has written a very interesting book, called “Under God” and it is the story of how powerful forces in the USA sought to promote religiosity and public piety in the late 40’s and 50’s.
Here are some highlights of that effort: in the early 1950’s, the phrase “One Nation Under God” was added to the Pledge of Allegiance, and “In God We Trust” was inscribed on our currency. Political and Business leaders met in well-publicized prayer breakfasts, not only at the national level, but in every major city. The National Advertising Council ran radio, TV and billboards urging everyone to attend a worship service at the house of worship of their choice…
A sermon (since converted to an essay) that I wrote in 2015 is useful here. My argument was the sense of being counter-cultural and rebels entered into Unitarian Universalism during the 40's and 50's. We attracted those who were repelled by the effort to impose a Christian Nationalism on the USA, as part of the Cold War.
I note, and the comments received confirmed, that one effect of this origin story for many Unitarian Universalists is the vigilance that many UU Humanists have about any Christian influence in UU theology and liturgy.