The short answer to that last question is, Yes. UUs today really do share a profound sense of what we cherish and a deep longing for what we want to become. I have always felt this to be true, but now I know it in a new way.
In 2010 we began a national conversation we called “Gathered Here.” Rather than ask people to fill out questionnaires, we asked a diverse set of UUs from all across the country to engage in guided conversations. We asked you to share experiences (not opinions!) of times you felt UUs were at our best. We asked what moved you, what touched your hearts. Our goal was to discover our shared aspirations and unleash the power of our faith. (The final report makes a fascinating read.)
More than 1,000 UUs were involved. Here is my distilled version—my “elevator speech,” if you will—of the shared aspirations that form Unitarian Universalism’s core today: “We aspire to a faith in which our spirituality is deep, experiential, and relational, and which moves us to action.” The Gathered Here leadership team describes what they learned another way. We are at our best, they found, when we:
- Grow into our best selves and honor the divine in each person;
- Practice “spiritual justice”: justice-making grounded in faith and worship;
- Embrace fellow travelers within and beyond our faith, building community together;
- Invite people to share themselves and their gifts;
- Have such a strong sense of our religious purpose and identity that we must act on it;
- Covenant together to create sustained relationships across all ages and cultures;
- Transcend geographic, national, and language barriers; and
- Experience spiritual depth, individually and collectively.
We want to feel our faith, share our faith, and live our faith. We want a religious path in which there are intimate and inevitable links among our spiritual experiences, our treatment of one another, and our actions together in the world.
There are several themes here that I want to underline.
First, we reject the distinction between spirituality and acts of public witness and advocacy. We want our public actions grounded in our spirituality—in compassion and in awareness of our interdependence.
Second, we want our faith to be evangelical: We want to embrace others; we want to share our faith; we want to transcend barriers. This is a far cry from the idea that UUs have no interest in evangelism. We have good news, and we want to share it. Religious hospitality is a shared aspiration.
Third, although our religious tradition is often noted for its individualism, we aspire to connect with one another. We want to worship together and act together. We want religious communities that span generations and cultures.
I see one more theme in the report: the value of commitment. Covenant, after all, is about promises and commitments we make to one another.
Wow. This is powerful stuff. For those of us in positions of leadership, the results of Gathered Here create an awesome challenge. Our task, here at the Association’s headquarters and in every region, district, cluster, and congregation, is to work with all UUs to make these aspirations a reality.
Faith is not really about what we believe. Faith is ultimately about being faithful. Our UU faith is about being faithful to our shared vision. And what a vision it is! As always, love will guide us. Come, let’s live into our shared vision.
This article appeared in the Spring 2013 issue of UU World (pages 5).
- Vision for the UUA: Gathered Here. Results of structured interviews with Unitarian Universalists about their shared values and aspirations. (UUA.org)