Anointment for a New Appointment

In the closing sermon of the UUMA Institute, the Rev. James Forbes spoke of UU's having a new "anointment for a new appointment."  The Holy Spirit had work for us to do.  He spoke of another "Great Awakening" coming in this multi-inter-no-faith nation, and that we had been prepared, in particular, to preach it into being, by our work, among ourselves, over the last decades.  "A new anointment for a new appointment."

I have been fixed on UU history, especially the long period I call the wilderness years (1968 to 2008) when UU's were the most liberal denomination in a culture that was aggressively anti-liberal.

The reason I have been so fixed on this period is because I think that the danger we face is this: the mental habits we acquired in those years will cripple us in the future.  Indeed we are limiting our vision now.

I was inspired on Saturday by the "Unstuck" conference held here in Ann Arbor.  It was co-sponsored by a wide range of faith and movement groups, including the First UU Congregation of Ann Arbor.  But it was put together by the an Episcopal Church, the Church of the Incarnation.  The conference featured two major speechs -- Rev. Forbes, again and Cornel West.

It was public ministry.  It attempted to speak to the spiritual needs of the multi-inter-no-faith community.   It was not a strategy conference, nor an educational learning experience, or an encounter.  It was a revival: to give courage and gladden the heart.  Wonderful music of all types and information from a wide variety of groups and movements, with a focus on what was holding them back and how they saw a road ahead.

It was public ministry, and it was non-sectarian.  It was not about building up the Church of the Incarnation, although it made me very curious about it.  It was for everybody; it was widely publicized; it was held in a community space.  It was what the organizers thought was what this community needed.

How often do we do public ministry?  Not outward looking sectarian ministry, but public ministry?

To get the difference, think about this thought experiment.

We offer OWL, a high-quality sexuality education program to the youth through our churches and congregations.

What it we offered that program to the entire community?  Gathered the facilitators, found the facilities in community spaces (not our churches' youth rooms) and advertised it widely.  Like on billboards and the sides of buses?  How many families are looking for high-quality, values-rich, sexuality education for their youth?

In other words, we embarked on a public ministry of sexuality education for young people.  Suppose we turned ourselves inside-out, offering to the public at large, what we now offer only to our own people, our own families.

Suppose we offered 'Our Neighboring Faiths' on Saturday morning to anyone who wanted to come.

In this third period of UU history (2008-present) we have become aware that there is a rising progressive force that is emerging in this culture.  The election of the President is only a sign of it, not the totality of it.  At the forefront are the young; passionate, open, networked, idealistic.  They are the stuff of Great Awakenings.

Have we been anointed for a new appointment to be a public ministry for and with them?


  1. Anonymous2:50 PM

    Tom, you are so good, and I think you are right about us choking on what made us who we were from the 70s-2000s. I think the problem that we Unitarian Universalists will have in the future is doing ministry outside of the parish, since we only define ourselves by our parishes. Looking at the what the future of religion is looking like and how we have understood congregational polity I see a big problem in us thinking outside the box.
    - Hank


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