UUA President Peter Morales delivers his 2013 report to the General Assembly. (© 2013 Nancy Pierce/UUA)
UUA President Peter Morales gave his annual report to the General Assembly Thursday morning. He described his own life journey, moving from being a college student to a career in newspapers and then his entry into ministry. “The things that informed me, the experiences that I think are precious, all involved taking risks,” he said.
The UUA also has an opportunity to take some risks, he noted, observing that current demographic trends highly favor Unitarian Universalism if it is able to capitalize on them. He showed a chart that reflected the declining membership of most mainline denominations, but Unitarian Universalism showed a small growth trend. At the same time young people are increasingly rejecting traditional religion.
He tied these trends together. “Here we are together . . . in a time of unprecedented change in our culture and in the landscape around us. This is an historic opportunity for Unitarian Universalism. Nobody aligns with the values of the emerging generation the way we do. Absolutely nobody. People are hungry for a religion that I call multi: Multicultural, multiracial, multigenerational, multifaith, multinational. We’re in the midst of a transformation, but we have to move quickly.”
He added that the theme of the next GA will be “Love Reaches Out,” about “how to take this tradition of ours and share it with the wider world in a way we never have.”
He used the experience of last year’s Justice GA in Phoenix as an example. “The lesson to be learned is how effective we could be when we were focused, when we were intentional, when we were prepared and when we partnered with people both locally and nationally. Collaboration is the key.”
Going forward, he said, the UUA needs to “support our congregations better than we ever have. Dynamic congregations have a tremendous future.” He also called on congregations to “experiment with new ways of being religious.”
He gave a shoutout to the new UU College of Social Justice, a collaboration between the UU Service Committee and the UUA. He also held up the “strategic review” of professional ministry that began three years ago. He noted that new initiatives are coming around ministry, including “Fulfilling the Call,” a program in its early stages that calls for continuing education for ministers through business schools, focused on bringing the skills of organizational change into ministry.
Another program that will be rolled out in the coming months has to do with “communicating who we are in a powerful way,” he said. He spent a few moments on the UUA’s upcoming move from its longtime headquarters at 25 Beacon St. in Boston to 24 Farnsworth St., also in Boston. He showed delegates conceptual illustrations of the UUA’s new space, developed by the architectural firm Goody Clancy. He noted the move will allow the UUA staff to work on three floors rather than 12. “We will be able to work in the ways we have always wanted to work.”
He concluded, “There is so much wonderful stuff going on. We are on a new journey together . . . and what will guide us on this way are the values that have always guided us. As I see the history of Unitarian Universalism we are not the people who got stuck. We are not the people who clung to traditions that no longer were serving humanity or the human spirit. We were the people who saw possibilities. We were always the bold seekers who reached out and embraced new knowledge, and the wisdom and teachings of different religions.
“What is before us now is to be the passionate bold spiritual adventurers of the twenty-first century, . . . to be the progressive religious community so many millions of people are hungering for. The possibilities truly are breathtaking. Our challenge is to seek those opportunities.”
He thanked delegates for allowing him “the unbelievable privilege of serving as your president.” Morales, formerly senior minister at Jefferson Unitarian Church in Golden, Colo., is completing his fourth year as president and is set to be reelected on Saturday to a second term.
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Donald E. Skinner was the founding editor of the InterConnections newsletter for congregational leaders and a senior editor of UU World from 1998 until his retirement in 2014. He is a member of the Shawnee Mission Unitarian Universalist Church in Lenexa, Kansas.