Like Kent Saleska's sermon in the last case study, it is artful. The metaphor of birthing is right on the money for a mother's day sermon, and for a sermon at the start of a ministry, and for the process of being changed irrevocably by the new, for which you are not ready.
Her point, however, was that the purpose of church was to give us a context in which we can practice and develop competencies in compassion, solidarity, courage, intellectual rigor, etc. And she placed herself squarely in the midst of the shift that is going on in Unitarian Universalism right now.
We are moving from a model of the church that exists to provide a community for the members, a care co-op, a child faith development co-op, a chaplain co-op to changing the people by equipping them in some way.
Victoria calls it developing competencies; I have called it developing virtues. The Missional tendency is even more explicit: the purpose of the church is to find people to "send out" into the world to works of mercy and justice.
As I talk with ministers and seminarians, this sense of the church appears to be rising. The old sense of creating and celebrating a particular community seems to be passing away.
If so, this is a big deal. Just off the top of my head, I can think of four different conceptions of the liberal church in my lifetime.
There was a stage when UU churches were places when smart people gathered for intellectual exploration of life issues, in an atmosphere freed of religion dogma. On Sunday, the church thought deep thoughts.
There was a time when UU churches were one went to connect to the rebellious and counter-culture trends in the society -- you could meet more radical, committed and interesting people there than anywhere else in most small cities and towns. On Sunday, the church learned about the world.
There was a time when UU churches served as a place of a forming community, a community more welcoming and supportive than any where else. Sunday mornings felt good, like home, like a comfort.
And now, Rev. Weinstein quotes Annie Dillard that the ushers should be handing out crash helmets on Sunday, because the sleeping God might wake up and send us to where we are going to be uncomfortable, under fire, and off balance.
And if you think that Victoria is tough and demanding, read these words by Will Willoman, who is a big deal in Christian scholarship. (hat tip to Wendy Bell, who passed it along.)
I think that our ministers and seminarians are moving to this "equip them and send them out" model of ministry and church. I don't think that our congregations are in the same place. I think that the average person in the pews does not appreciate being seen as a self-centered spiritual slacker, a surly serf in the Kingdom of God.
So, building and sharing a vision of the liberal church and its worship is becoming really crucial.