Unitarian Universalist Association President Peter Morales’ recent invitation to Unitarian Universalists everywhere and to congregations is one that recognizes the dramatic changes that are going on in how we learn and how we faith. The congregation is no longer the only, or even, for many people, the primary place of learning how to be people of faith. We live now in a global house of study.
“This is not just about developing a set of programs, but finding a new way for us to learn as an institution.” - Peter Morales
Yes. We’re learning a new way to be an institution, and it is a big change for many of us. The change to what is called social learning. Was learning ever truly not social? Of course not. We have ever learned together, experientially and from accumulated wisdom. The difference is that we now have tools that allow us to learn even more, faster, with different people than we’ve learned with before.
One of the biggest things we’re learning in this environment is how to learn to be both teachers and learners, to have authority and to attend to and care for and share the authority of others. It is a kind of learning that resists both hierarchy and elitism, though there is still plenty of room for people bringing in specialized knowledge.
Faith communities choosing to isolate themselves from that global house of study and not participate in it are faith communities choosing to separate from one of the most powerful tools of faith formation and growing peaceful connections and community. I’m grateful and glad that my religious community is showing some signs of embracing and more fully joining the global house of study.
I’ve been part of a growing number of conversations and social learning teams - religious leaders, followers, non-religious, congregation members, and those living outside of faith communities — for some time. Those conversations and teams keep changing and growing. It is wonderful and exciting - and yes, sometimes exhausting - to be learning so more in so many different ways from so many different voices, experiences, and sources of wisdom.
I’m grateful that we’re moving towards the more flexible teams and shared communities of social learning. That kind of coming together and mixing things up can be scary for those of us who are pretty comfortable with the way things are right now, who like our niche, even if it is in being loyal opposition and regular cynical critic. Instead, we’re invited into generous faithing together, to creating alternatives, to making room to experiment and fail and figure things out, to learn not only from one another and established authorities, but from the whole world, and to be part of that whole. I
Toward this new model of learning, there’s a learning conversation beginning in Orlando February 1, lead by Terasa Cooley, the Director of Congregational Life with the Unitarian Universalist Association. I expect many more conversations. This is part of faithful life in the global house of study, and how we learn together to be different together, not just in Unitarian Universalist institutions, but in growing peace and generosity in the world.