Monday, January 23, 2006

Fix UUism Entries

Rewrite the Principles and Purposes
It has been decades since our congregations adopted the Principles and Purposes. It is my understanding that these are supposed to be revised from time to time, and I think it is time to start. This s something it may not be best for the UUA itself to do. To me, the Principles feel like they were written by a committee. Don't get me wrong, I like them, but I think it would be nice to have what we stand for stated in a way I can comfortably quote in an elevator speech. People find "Unitarian Universalist" intimidating and "The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large" is not much more comforting. I do not think that this is the best way to present to people the higher, abstract concept that that principle represents.
The best religious guidance is simple and clear. Generally, this is done by individuals. Some editing would probably be needed for wide acceptance, but this should ideally be done by the individual or small group that wrote the original.
The UUA should encourage UU's to begin thinking seriously and writing about 'What UU's believe' with an eye towards a revision of the Principles and Purposes. YOU need to start writing. Someone will create a new document that resonates with us.
Regardless of the method used, we need to talk a good look at our current document, and find ways it can be improved upon.

Inreach to the "Unchurched"
Somewhere around two-thirds of Unitarian Universalists are not members of UUA congregations. Some of these are probably active but not 'signed-the-book' members, but why aren't the rest coming in? We need to find out what is keeping these people away, change it, and let them know. These are people who already consider themselves UU, they should require relatively little convincing. This could be an easy way to triple our numbers.
Yes, it is herding cats, but that just means we need a can-opener.

Abandon our History
Wicca started out in 1954 when Gerald Gardner published the book Witchcraft Today. It has since grown dynamically and is (for better or worse) a cultural icon. Some would argue that Wicca is in fact much older, but this is not relevant to my point because Wicca ACTS like a new religion. It spreads quickly from person to person, it adapts and mutates easily, it knows how to handle being a minority religion, and it doesn't have a centralized bureaucracy.
Unitarianism started in the 1500's, and Universalism in 1793. Both claimed roots back to Jesus. Most Unitarian-Universalists think that we are an old religion with a rich history. For this reason we ACT like an old religion. We are hard to explain, and slow to change. We lost our minority religion stance when we had Unitarian Presidents, and we are centered in Boston. These things need to change.
Unitarian-Universalism was created in 1961. It is vastly different from any religion that has come before. It is accepted by less than one half of one percent of the population of America, and is virtually unheard of elsewhere in the world. We are a new and small religion, and we need to act like it. We need to simplify our message, so that people can learn about us more easily. We need to be less attached to traditions, and more encouraging of adaptations. (And more apt to adopt adaptations) We need to learn to use our smallness, instaed of trying to bark like a big dog. We need to remember that Unitarian Universalism is not owned by the UUA, and should exist and thrive even where the UUA is uninvolved.

Real Outreach
Unitarian Universalism needs to start seriously evangelizing. I'm not talking about ads in Times Square, or 'Principles' wallet cards. We need to give every person in America a basic idea of what we are about, as a first step. This would require much more advertising, or very much more personal effort. I don't think going door to door is in the cards, we need to find our own style, but we need to do it in bulk. This is worth a whole other brainstorming contest.
Then we need to start being present and talking to people about why the things that we value are important, and why a church is a good way to promote those values. We need to look to groups that would be sympathetic (homosexuals, minority religion members, environmentalists, etc.), and also to groups that we have not appealed to in the past. (The poor, the uneducated, the bigoted, and even the fundamentalists.) We need to give everyone in America a Personalized 'Elevator Speech' as a second step.
Then we will be ready to start a real outreach.
While we are doing that, we can use what we are learning to look into evangelizing overseas. Of course, we should NOT link our charitable services with conversion, or probably even evangelism, but that does not mean we can't present our faith as an option to people overseas, and help them establish churches. Unitarian Universalism is about some very powerful and useful ideas. People dedicated to those ideas being present woudl be very helpful to the rest of the world.
During WWII Unitarians in Germany adopted the Flaming Chalice as a secret symbol to help Jews and others escape. Unitarian Universalist can not help people escape genocide if there are no Unitarian Universalists in the country.

We are not good at evangelism, and many of us don't even like the idea, but it will give us new blood, more numbers, a better presence, and a stronger voice. We can promote our principles without violating them.


At 11:53 AM, January 23, 2006, Blogger chutney said...

Excellent suggestions all.

At 1:03 AM, January 29, 2006, Blogger Gary said...

As a presently unchurched UU I am very impressed with your suggestions.


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