Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Okies and Liberal Puritans

I can't resist dipping into the discourse in the blogosphere on liberal Puritanism then and now and current UUism over at www.philocrites.com and especially at www.makingchutney.com. I mean, after all, I have lived all but four years of my 52 years in Oklahoma and the other four all the way up in Wichita, KS, and I am immersed in UU Christianity which draws a sizeable share of its continuing identity from Puritanism, liberal and otherwise. I discovered UUism in Oklahoma and through it discovered a deeper relationship with Jesus and the tradition and communities springing forth over the centuries. And now, the national offices of the UUCF and much of our recent activity is located here in Oklahoma. As I joke, when folks in New England here this, they say the UUCF is where? and around here folks say the UUCF is what?

My first Unitarian church was First Church in Oklahoma City which has been shaped so much by New England, in its architecture and in its ministerial history, especially from Frank Holmes. Also in its liturgy which has changed but still owes so much to the Puritan heritage. My other Oklahoma church of note was All Souls in Tulsa; its chancel area is especially designed to the measurements of the first meetinghouse of the Plymouth Pilgrims, and its architecture is likewise New England, though its own ministerial history and theology has been shaped more by the theistic free church Western Conference strains of Jenkin Lloyd Jones.

Having said all that, as I have posted back in August archives (see previous post on Puritans and Emergent Church) there are tensions galore in our heritage from New England religious culture of the congregational stripe. It has a lot to do with why we have not been church-planting folk, which has a lot to do with why we have not grown but are slip sliding away from a national perspective (there's a lot to say here too that don't have time for about the post by Colin on the fellowship movement and why its representation growth with us while merging with humanism of the day was not due to the humanist theology; it had more to do with the cultural baby boom of the time and the fact that we still then were existing in a churched culture, and there was a lot of growth also from already existing churches that were theistic as well; humanism played a part in the overall growth of the time of the new churches, and perhaps also why between 1961 and 1983 so many of them and other of our churches died out).

The New England legacy is ours in so many fundamental organizational ways, which always have roots in theological understandings. I will try to pick up and post more about ways to glean from that legacy parts of it that will help us shape new organic relational ways that will help us turn loose our people and churches to reproduce and multiply. We have a free church polity that already frees us from so many of the restraints that other more hierarchical denominations have in terms of church planting and redefining church, but our pendulum swing to the other extreme of favoring our own community and congregation without building connections to others and especially to new and emerging possibilities has been a detriment that the more "connectional" polities can employ once they catch the vision and passion. It has a lot to do with the various covenants that make up our embodiment of faith, and how we need to understand and pay more attention to them and to the ones we have left out of the picture, but I will have to post more on that in the future.