Unitarian Universalism has a reputation of being the rehabilitation clinic for people who are leaving religion. That is a sad statement on how we view faith. People don’t come to us because they want to leave religion; they come because they want a religion that speaks to a broader world view and inclusion. People aren’t coming to church, even a Unitarian Universalist church, to get away from religion.
What many are looking for is community, encouragement, hope, and mental or ethical stimulation, and maybe some music or ritual. They are looking for religion when they show up, just one that is liberal and offers them a chance to explore theology, philosophy, and morality safely and sa part of a community. They are looking for a faith that allows them to be honest about who they are as a heretic, a doubter, or maybe just a hippie. It is when they don’t find anything fulfilling, for whatever reason, that they leave, often leaving religion behind for good. We need to tell them that we are believers, and that their faith, whatever shape it takes, maters as part of our shared identity.
“…we are believers. We believe in intellectual freedom; we believe in justice; we believe in compassion and concern for each other and the whole world. We believe in commitment to those ideals which make us caring and active in the struggles for human dignity. We are Unitarian Universalists.”
~ John M. Higgins
We are sometimes the last chance for religious community to embrace a person and make them feel welcome. Even after they are welcome, they have deeper needs we are obligated to meet. Our principles call on us to encourage one another to spiritual growth. They require our congregations to be laboratories for free, but responsible, exploration of the world and our role in it. That means we have to be communities of faith as well as covenant, or we’ve devolved into social clubs that are easily replicated in coffee shops and on-line message boards. Even sermons can be read in blogs or watched on YouTube. We have to offer more than Sunday services and coffee hour.
That is why Life-span faith development and small group ministry matter. That is why the focus of Unitarian Universalism needs to be open to change. It is why our mission is making the ideas we hold dear easy for people to share with their friends and family, so that we can spread them through human connections. It is what we ask you to support by being part of the I Am UU community.
The future of church is to offer what libraries, coffee shops, and the Internet cannot: a place where all of that is given freely, and supported by the folks who believe in the power of human beings, working together, to build a more just, more loving, more connected world. Is that what your congregation is? Tell us in the comments what is being done to take those ideas into the real world.