Breaking out of UU Culture into what's NEXT

As a final wrap up to my  General Assembly experience I want to return once more to what’s NEXT?  What’s next for Unitarian Universalism? I don’t know, but I do know that if our liberal religious tradition doesn’t change, doesn’t fall over the tipping point into a new era, we will be left behind as a footnote on the American religious landscape.  Our theology is open, accepting and in many ways both an exciting and challenging place to be spiritually and intellectually, yet our church culture is stuck in a different century.  While other religious communities with far less accepting and engaging theologies separate the sheep from the goats, the saved from the damned theologically, they do a good job at presenting their theology in the language of the post-modern, global media culture.

A third way is arising.  A religious and theological exploration that understands the global media culture with all its possibilities and all its possible fault lines, and yet engages deep theological exploration, understanding that limiting theology to rigid creeds and exclusion is not soul deepening, but soul deadening. If you haven’t already, explore online spiritual communities such as Solomon’s Porch, Ikon, and Micah’s Porch.  I’ve mentioned some of these before, including the Unitarian Micah’s Porch.

I dig Ikon’s “Last Supper” :

The Last Supper is an informal gathering of 12 people who meet together over food and wine to discuss a pertinent issue. At each meeting we invite a guest of public standing to join with us and get the conversation going with a 10-15 minute presentation. Then, over the meal, we ask questions of our guest, discuss the issue in more depth and see where the conversation takes us. The evening is called ‘The Last Supper’ because, if our guest does not prove persuasive it may turn out to be their last supper.

Now that’s wild!

As I left the closing worship of General Assembly, I found myself at the rear of the convention hall talking with Rosemary Bray McNatt, Jennifer Innis and Patrick Price discussing a lot of the topics raised by the pastor who preceded me at Pathways, Anthony David, on his blog Thousand Voices, in a post titled On Repelling Fewer People.  By the time the UUA got around to trying its hand at mega church start ups, mega churches were on their way out as the energy center of the American religious landscape and the Emergent Church movement (see also Emergent Village for a taste of this movement) was a decade old.  In order to really revitalize the UUA, we need to be looking ahead to what’s NEXT, not trying what already happened.

To that end Revs. McNatt, Innis and Price and yours truly will be looking to work with others to bring a NEXT summit together, hopefully down here in Texas in the near future.

If you’re also thinking about who and what’s NEXT? – stay in touch.

4 thoughts on “Breaking out of UU Culture into what's NEXT

  1. I am a turned off by the description of the “Last Supper.” One of the important aspects of the Last Supper, for me, is the historical context of the event: Jesus was an outcast leader of a colonized people. He must have known that he was heading toward his arrest by the colonial authorities. He must have known that those colonial authorities would treat him as someone easy to kill and then easy to forget.

    I find it difficult to think of the Last Supper as a “conversation on an important topic of the day,” a la the Last Supper you describe from Ikon. And I’m equally disgusted by the idea that if the conversation isn’t satisfying, it would be the leader’s “Last Supper.” Sure, it’s “wild.” But I think you mean by that, “it’s fun!” And making the Last Supper into a “fun” dinner party inappropriately makes light of the anguish and worry that surely surrounded Jesus’ friends as they gathered with him for the Last Supper.

    And besides, I am always hesitant to put myself in the position of Jesus’ disciples. I have never been faithful enough to follow Jesus like that. And I am hardly in the position of being colonized by an expansive and brutal empire. If I am anyone in the passion story, I am a member of the crowd that later is complicit in sending him to his death.

    I’m not against reinterpreting ritual for the present day. But let’s not trivialize it in the process.

  2. This partly excites me and partly gives me pause. Creative responses to our smallness and complacency are always welcome, but it also seems to me that our nation is a culture already addicted to novelty for its own sake and constant stimulation. I see that the media’s response is just to capitulate to this and claim that they’re “giving people what they want,” but is that what the church is called to do? I’d like to hear how what we’re offering is not just one more piece of entertainment like the TV and film industries are producing.

    And I share Marc’s impression of the “Last Supper” program. I’m definitely a fan of more small groups in our lives. But seriously, this doesn’t sound like anything innovative. The 18th century did them and called them “salons”, and we tried to recapture the salon model in the 90s, which was going to rebuild community. That lasted a few months, as far as I can tell, because looking for whatever’s next is often more exciting than working on what we already have.

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