UU culture, identity, and congregations

UU culture, identity, and congregations

Questions for spiritual reflection and adult group discussions.
Jane Greer


Loving vs. believing. UUA President Peter Morales writes in “The ‘It’ Church,” “If you and I ask each other what we believe, we will get into talking about very heady stuff. . . . However, when we ask one another what we truly love, what we truly value, what we care about more than anything else in life, something amazing happens. We don’t aruge. We listen. We connect. We discover that we love and want the same things.” (page 7)

What do you love?

A congregation’s owners. In his Forum piece “Who Owns Your Congregation?” Dan Hotchkiss writes that the owner of a congregation is its mission. “A congregation’s mission is its unique answer to the question, ‘Whose lives do we intend to change and in what way?’” (page 15)

How else might you describe a congregation’s mission? Do you agree with Hotchkiss’s later statement that in congregational elections, members should “vote the mission?” If not, how do you vote?

Congregation as teacher. Hotchkiss writes, “Congregations do some of their best work when, instead of giving people what they want, they teach them to want something new.” (page 14)

What has your congregation taught you? Was it what you wanted or expected?

Alzheimer’s. In “Finding Spirit in the Sundown,” Laura Randall writes, “While we must always respect and honor the suffering that goes along with Alzheimer’s, we should also allow space for any unexpected benefits of the disesase. Many people with Alzheimer’s, especially in the more articulate early stages of the disease process, remark on the new and sometimes unexpected ways the disease allows them to perceive the world around them.” (page 23)

What has been your experience of Alzheimer’s? How might your perceptions be shaped by your relationship to the patient?

Who are you? In “Who are You?” Stephen Perrault writes, “To know ourselves, we must engage ourselves. We must ask questions.” (page 25)

How would you respond to the question Perrault poses, “If you have faith in a particular theology or set of convictions, ask yourself how you came to these beliefs, and why you still hold them.”

Going for the skill. Michelle Bates Deakin’s feature story “Transforming the Jericho Road” describes a program affiliated with several Massachusetts congregations that links volunteers with white-collar skills with nonprofits and organizations in neighboring towns. “The project suppplies nonprofits with management consultants, lawyers, bankers, executive coaches, software designers, and other professionals who can work with them on specific projects,” Deakin writes. (page 28)

Do you have skills you’d like to offer to your congregation or other organization?

Necessary changes. In “Can Unitarian Universalism Change?” Paul Rasor describes some of the demographic changes that are currently underway in the United States. “The Census Bureau projects that by 2042, whites will no longer constitute a majority of the U.S. population. . . . the fastest growing group will be those who identify as multiracial.” (page 34)

Rasor also writes, “If we fail to respond to this new multicultural reality . . . we will simply become irrelevant.” If your congregation was multicultural, how might worship and other activities be different? What is gained through diversity? What is lost?

UU culture. Rasor writes, “Unitarian Univeralism has its own cultural tradition, one that is rooted in European-American cultural norms and ways of being in the world. This normative lens is often invisible to those of us who look through it, but it is all too visible to those who view the world through different cultural lenses. (page 35)

What is the Unitarian Universalist cultural lens? What values and priorities do UUs have that might not be universal?

Learning to welcome. In her response to Paul Rasor, Rosemary Bray McNatt writes, “We must admit that we have a specific, sometimes alienating culture, and we must change it.” (page 41)

Have you experienced an aspect of your congregation’s culture as alienating?