Thursday, February 04, 2010

The Future History of UUism

Here is a blog post lecture that colleague Rev. Thom Belote wrote looking at where the UU movement could and should be headed. I agree with all he writes, not just because he mentions me in it, not just because the basis for his vision is one of the church's committment to public spaces such as to what we call our "third place" centers here.

He has broadened my own horizon a little as he is writing about the need for the church to relocate itself in places where there intentionally are few public spaces for diversity, namely in suburban and exurban areas; while I, because of our focus, tend to think of the church needing to relocate to the "abandoned places of Empire" where the poor are, and not just the poor in spirit. I have tended to equate suburban and exurban places with the Empire itself and its dominant values, and have argued for an advance guard movement away from those places, as my own family and church did, precisely because so many "growing churches" have been moving toward them. I can see more clearly now the need for authentic diverse public space churches in these areas. I also know that the resources it will take to create them will call for churches and their partners to make major institutional changes in order to carry out something of a vision Thom hints at for these areas. But wouldn't it be grand if the churches, and the UU churches, who have the most resources would break themselves up in order to build up the public space of the communities they are in or become a part of. I will have to give some more thought to how a church of 500, for example, might become five groups of 100 with a mission of transforming suburban exurban space into diverse community nourishing third places.

Related to all this, I just want to add in thanks for Thom's reference of Alice Blair Wesley's historical comment about Unitarians as a church that became not began, and what lasting effects historically that has meant in relationship to our lack of church planting in diverse ways, at a very time when church planting, mission planting, is as crucial to the spiritual life and organizational life of a religious body as ever before. I am teaching a UU history and polity course this semester and this sentiment is picked up in many places and times of how much of our history has bent us away from church plants and growth.

And finally, from another reading source, John Perkins and Shane Claiborne's new book "Follow Me To Freedom" comes the insight from Shane that many of his Catholic friends get the life of the missional and new monastic communities easier than do his Protestant friends. This is because they have a concept of The Church rather than of a church, and so they can grasp how groups of people can operate more fluidly and organically and missionally because they are rooted in The Church rather than in a church. As UUs are often the most Protestant of the Protestant, this would go doubly for us.

Type rest of the post here


Stephen Lingwood said...

Yes! I think in Britain the history again is one of becoming not beginning. Even today most of our churches are still old Protestant churches that became Unitarian in the eighteenth/nineteenth century. At least in the United States as the country expanded westwards there was church planting that followed (otherwise UU churches would still be limited to New England). I fear that there is even less institutional memory of church-planting here.

spiritualastronomer said...

As I sit here in my little RV up in the mountains of SoCal, looking out over the vast desert 4,000 feet below, I agree that there is a need for church up here as well as down below in more established areas. Owner up here, a Quaker, is planning to build a room for meetings and seminars of all kinds. We've discussed a kind of "living room church" as well. Will be interesting to see how far we can go with this. Now to read Tom's blog. Thank you, Ron.

spiritualastronomer said...

"Third, our current system of ministerial preparation offers no incentives for ministers who wish to plant churches. In fact, our current system of ministerial preparation disinclines ministers who may have an interest or a vocation for church planting from pursuing this avenue."

In reading the article, this just jumped right out at me. Looking back on my fairly recent seminary experience (Jesuit) and my decision not to see the MFC, I remember being so shocked at a UU classmate's decision to leave her UU ministry preparations and become involved in a house church instead. I'd never heard of anyone doing that. Now it makes so much sense I can taste it.