To Unitarian Universalists across the US and the World,
My name is Thomas Earthman, and I am the founder and administrator of the I Am UU project. Currently, that is some claim to fame in a fairly small circle. What I am hoping is that I can make it a path to greater acceptance of lay ministry. Earlier this year, I was accepted into the Unitarian Universalist Society for Community Ministries in recognition of my work. Since then, things have moved pretty fast behind the scenes, and now I am ready to talk about some of it.
I am also the lead artist, researcher, writer, editor, and I manage the bills. This is a very small project. That has a lot of advantages given its mission and its methods; we can respond quickly to news or to new information and we can create things without being stuck getting approval or creating consensus.
At the same time, it means that growing the project is hard. We don’t have a lot of people creating content; if our writer is also our graphic designer and our researcher, not all of those things can happen at one time. We have trouble reaching new people, because there is a very limited budget for paying to get posts in front of people who aren’t already fans. We have trouble expanding, because the time spent making things and managing the project is time I cannot spend reading and doing research.
This is all compounded by the fact that I cannot focus all of my attention on the I Am UU project. It barely makes enough money to cover expenses and pay for attending conferences and buying books (which is essential; I’m teaching myself theology and church AND graphic design, running an organization, and social media). I have to work for money with some of my time, too. Add in family, including kids with special needs, and my time is divided into a lot of slivers already.
I see the I Am UU project as a Teaching Ministry. I see myself as a Religious Educator at-large. I admit that it didn’t start out that way, but that is what it has grown into. It is Adult Religious Education, aimed at bringing Unitarian Universalist values to the rest of the week and doing so in a way that makes our ideas and principles (as well as our Principles) accessible to newcomers and life-long UUs alike. We hope that our work also helps us all build some common language and stories across our regional divides. We know we create work that congregations are using to be more informative and inviting on social media.
So, my real goal is to be recognized as a religious educator. Currently, I do not work for any one congregation, but for all of Unitarian Universalism and the world; an at-large educator for anyone who likes and learns from what I am creating. I think that 10,000 followers and hundreds of shares each week shows that there is a need being met. My time and energy are purchased for Unitarian Universalism and liberal religion by the Patrons who support the I Am UU project financially, allowing me to give away my work. I am proud of that, but it is not supporting me enough yet.
A Personal Goal: Recognized Unitarian Universalist Professional
I want to be a Religious Educator, with the training and the skills that entails. I want to work towards being credentialed through the UUA and the LREDA. One of the requirements for even applying to the credentialing program is that one should be “currently employed by an organization that is recognized as Unitarian Universalist.”
Now, I am already working on how the I Am UU project becomes “recognized as Unitarian Universalist” for a variety of reasons. What I need from the people who care enough to have read this far is your help in proving that my work is professional enough to qualify me as “employed”. I know this will be a problem, having been laughed at by a UUA department head in the recent past while defending that claim. I don’t make any money, so the quality of my work isn’t relevant; the impact doesn’t matter; if people aren’t willing to fund it, it isn’t valuable. That’s a terrible truth of living in our society, and one I need to confront.
So, I need you all to help me fulfill this dream. I need help becoming “professional”, whether that means making some changes or just finding a way to convince more people to give. I love what I am doing, and I know that it fills a need in the world. What I don’t know is if that is enough. Will it allow me to keep doing it long-term, or to help me grow and gain the credentials I need?
The Ask: Participation
I need more participation at whatever level you can spare. I am asking you to give, if you can, to the Patreon campaign. Do what you can to help the project reach more people; tell them what the project really is, what it means to you and your congregation, and why they should care. It would be wonderful to have more of your feedback on what I post; that helps me improve my work AND we can have more conversations and reach more people. I really need your ideas, your quotes, and your links because that means I spend less time searching for content to share. I need to know not just that this project reaches people, but how deeply it affects them. That will help me figure out if I am heading in the right direction.
Thank you for your time.