Before so many converged on North Carolina, we were discussing this difference:
Thinking of the UUA less as an "association of congregations" and more as a religious movement focused on cultural transformation...So, is that what we saw in Raleigh?
The Boy in the Bands has cleverly dubbed the latter position "Movementarianism", a neologism that I think will stick.
So, was Raleigh "movementarianism": Unitarian Universalism of the future?
Yes and No.
Churches and congregations will continue. It is not, repeat NOT TRUE, that a UU staffer recommended burning all the churches and plowing the earth where they stood with salt. Nor are they to be converted to Obamacare Death Panel hearing rooms.
In the future, I suspect that there will be a greater identification made between UU congregations with the social movements for change. There will be more participation by churches, as congregational activities. I hope that there are more non-congregational and extra-congregational groups of UU's operating in and around centers of cultural transformation.
But I also think that you could probably predict who is going to be a "congregationalist" and who is going to be a "movementarian" by looking at:
- where they are in terms of stages of faith
- where they are in terms of life-cycle development
- where their age cohort is in terms of their historical experience.
Taking myself as an example:
I am now a de-institutionalized baby boomer. I left the parish ministry, which means that I am transitioning out of a very social and institutional setting, the parish. There, I was fulfilling the generative tasks of my middle ages. I was building an institution, taking care of people, taking care of business. I had to balance my personal needs to the needs of others with whom I shared this thing we were building together. I was even arranging and editing my thoughts to what I could preach. I was very institutionalized and socialized; probably more than I had been in since high school.
Having left the parish, I am now in a period similar to being in college. My institutional role is open to the future, if I even am to have one. I am free to decide for myself what I think -- what I really think. I am in a process of self-identification and self-clarification, which often presents itself as questions about with whom and where I will ally myself.
Because I am a baby boomer, the idea that I would make these decisions about who I am in the public drama of mass protest, by going to Raleigh, is perfectly predictable. Not just predictable, but appropriate. I noticed that there were a lot of young people on Fayetteville Street, and a lot of folks my age. And not just among the yellow-shirted, but among all participants.
Faith development is a process much like breathing -- there is an inward motion -- individuation and differentiation -- which alternates by necessity with an outward motion -- coalescing, joining, identifying, taking action.
Ten years ago I would have viewed this call to Raleigh as a distraction from the real work of the church -- preparing good worship, tending to the institution and that list of pastoral visits and calls I should have been making. I would have wanted to go, but would have viewed it as a self-indulgence.
My hope is that what changes between now and ten years from now is that we see this not as a contradictory understanding of UUism but as polarities that all of us are moving through over time. I hope that our commitment to movements beyond ourselves that express our vision of a transformed culture becomes part of what identifies us, but does not ultimately define or limit us. I hope that our ministry speaks to people at all stages of faith development, lifecycle, and social and historical circumstances.