How many church websites feature a group picture of the congregation: cheerful smiles, many matching tee-shirts, a visual invitation "to come join our group"?
|Abraham Lincoln UU Congregation|
How many congregational missional statement explicitly say that their mission is to build a community where all sorts of good things happen?
|UU Church of Nora|
How many sermons and worship services directly address the life problems of being in community?
Isn't our transformation strategy that we build a global Beloved Community by building a Local Beloved Community?
|The Purpose Statement of the Unitarian Church of Calgary|
And in the 70-80's, UU's could not make social transformation that higher value. We were not going to go all in on a prophetic social justice strategy. Too many Boomers in our congregations were suffering from a form of PTSD about the late 60's/early 70's. They were withdrawing from social movements en masse. And younger people of the era, the emerging GenXers, were also repelled by the anxious combativeness of that early period. Being "stuck in the sixties" was seen as a kind of mild mental disorder.
And the aggressiveness of the cultural conservative movements had pushed us onto the defensive.
An organizational strategy of building communities/congregations fit with our non-creedal and congregational traditions.
Demographically, we have not broken out of our particular culture. Creating a truly welcoming community turns out to be very hard; the prevailing culture of the founders inevitably shows through and either attracts or repels people who are different.
Further, it doesn't seem that people are actually eager to join the kind of high-commitment community that a typical UU congregation is. We like to think that our congregations are low-commitment communities, but actually they are not. To be a full insider member, you need to commit a lot of time, energy and money to the congregation. I would suspect that a majority of congregational members feel that they are too busy to fully participate in the life of the congregation.
We believe that there is a deep hunger for community out there, but is that really true?
In the next couple of posts, I will suggest some alternative organizational strategies.