A Short List
1. The "language of reverence" is now our vocabulary. President Sinkford was roundly criticized for suggesting that we needed to break out of the straitjacket of humanist language, but then, we did. We're all about "calls", "faith", "mission", "prayer", "spirit", and "soul". Admittedly, we are probably sloppy in our usage, but everyone kind of gets what each other is talking about, and goes along with it.
2. Evangelism is IN, even "growth for growth's sake." Gone are the days when people like us didn't do anything like that. Now, we are all for spreading the faith, sharing the word, and witnessing our faith in places and at times where people we don't know may actually observe it happening.
3. Congregations are great, but so are not-congregations. Once upon a time, UU's worried about non-congregational organizations of UU's. In fact, in recent memory, a whole bunch of 'independent affiliates' were invited to be just 'independent' and not 'affiliates.' Much weeping and wailing occurred. Now, they could just say that they were 'beyond congregations' and list themselves on Faithify.
4. O yeah, "Faithify". In the childhood of my ministry, I heard some parish ministers of blessed memory complain about the UUA sending letters (paper, stamps, envelopes, return envelops, remember all that?) asking for funds to their congregants. Not PC in CP Association, (Polity Correct in a Congregational Polity Association.) Now, we all get lots of emails begging for money, and it's the norm.
5. We used to worry about Community Ministers out of the same narrow understanding of Congregational Polity: who were they supposed to be accountable to?
6. It's even hard to get a good fight going about whether UU's are Christian or not, which was always a third rail discussion
7. Most of the time, now, it is hard to gather a mob to head to Beacon Hill, pitchforks in hand to growl at the ecclesiastical bureaucrats holed up in 25 Beacon Street. It's hard to brandish a pitchfork with one Flour Bakery's pastries on one hand and a cup of coffee in the other. I think 'l'affaire logo' may have been the tragedy repeated as farce.
8. But most importantly, the consensus is that we are headed for the public square. The dichotomy between "spirituality" and "social justice" has moved from an "either/or" to a "both/and", at least more than it used to be. Or to be more precise, I think that some UU's harbored a suspicion that other UU's had no agenda beyond social activism. I know I had that distrust. And I suspect that there was a mirror like mistrust that some UU's, like me, were navel-gazers, or worse yet, mid-century, mainline Christian nostalgiques. (is that a word? It ought to be.) Or New Age crystal collectors. But that dichotomy now seems so unimportant.
None of these differences and concerns have been entirely resolved. God knows we have still have issues, technical problems and adaptive challenges to share our feelings about. But the fight has gone out of us, at least, the fight with each other.
I think that the world changed.
I think we changed, too.
I think that our participation in the struggle for Marriage Equality brought us into contact with a public, people beyond us who appreciated our support and wanted to work with us. In a crucial way, they were us and we were them.
I think the proclamation that we were going to "Stand on the Side of Love" brought our Seven Principles and Six Sources and all those elevator speeches down to earth.
I think that the awful shootings in Knoxville made us realize that if we were worth hating, we must be worth loving. We were shown that again this week in New Orleans.
I think we realized our skills when we went to Phoenix and it wasn't an embarrassing disaster, as it so easily could have been. And when we saw all of us in that hot night outside of the Tent Jail, bright as suns with yellow t-shirts, we felt that we had some power. And we see our presence, and thus our power now, so often now. In Raleigh NC, and in Washington DC, today.
There are now more examples of that powerful presence than I can list.
What happened; the world changed; and we changed with it. It is now more clear than ever that our country is headed into a period when the public square is going to be figurative battleground. There is a powerful, inflamed, and armed, reactionary movement out there, and it is aggressive. And there is a broad movement for change gathering its strength. Everything we have learned in the decades since Selma has been in preparation for the times to come. All of the arguments that used to pre-occupy us were thought problems to help us sort through what was transient and permanent about this path of faith.
We don't make the times that we live; the times that we live in make us. And we are finding ourselves here and now and in history.