(This is part of a series of blogs related to the Minns Lecture “The Age of Collaboration” that I co-presented with Peter Bowden.)
As people of faith and faithful promises – that is, people pledged to a covenant – there are many changes we can make. Some of the ideas I will name here arose from social media conversations. Some of them are mine; some originated from others who gave me permission to share them here; all of them are the work of collaboration.
Some of the work calling us forward involves re-equipping our faith communities. The Unitarian Universalist General Assembly has been engaged in some of that re-equipping work, just changing our bylaws to allow for non-local faith communities. Staff members like Carey McDonald in Youth and Young Adult Ministries are working to re-equip our faith communities to fulfill promises and empower people with fantastic gifts and callings. There are a lot of people, some inside congregations - the Reverend Ellen Cooper-Davis comes to mind — others working in partnership with communities, like my co-presenter, Peter Bowden and even others who are working away from outside. We need everyone for the work.
- In the age of easier connections and networks, congregations are only one kind of faith community.
- Small and niche faithful living can have real excellence that matters. Size is not a measure of faithful success: effect in the lives of people and the health of the planet is.
- We must share better information and tools with one another. Risking is easier when we are not shamed for doing so.
- As faithful communities, we can document and reward faithful failures.
- Collaboration is how really effective faithing happens.
- Celebrate faith communities risking together.
Curating is not only a spiritual discipline for our age, it is one of the easiest, and broadly participatory practices. As people of faith, we are already networks of curators; let us become even more attentive and intentional about what we are curating and how we share.
- Learn about the commons, care for it, and contribute to it regularly.
- Notice what is great and who is risking faithfully. Share that good news.
- Worship and faith development resources lend themselves easily to open-source curation and development.
- Utilize citizen journalism and citizen inspirational sharing in blogs, social media, and associational publications.
- Transform associational publications into inspiration engines.
Teaching & Learning
One of the realities of networks and new technologies is that they develop new applications, new wisdom, and new tools all the time. Learning, teaching, and creating go together in this exciting innovating age. Many faith development leaders are engaged in equipping our communities with and for this digital age. All of us need to be teaching and learning, though. As Unitarian Universalist consultant, congregational coach, and educator, Connie Goodbread is fond of saying: “faith development is all congregations do.”
- We must continue to create and share tools for comprehensive social media education, and integrate those into our faith development program for families and communities, along the lines of Our Whole Lives, the comprehensive sexuality education program developed by the United Church of Christ and the Unitarian Universalist Association.
- We could create an electronic pilgrimage, mapping an Abolitionist Trail, marking sites of faithful resistance to slavery.
- We can create more digital study spaces and help desks and offer free online courses teaching basic graphic design.
Re-equipping for innovation, teaching, learning, and curating are connected practices. We cannot attend to one particular area without engaging the others. Part of what we teach and learn as we risk faithfully for change is how to be brave, how to innovate, how to faith well, and how to curate (we notice what is good). When we curate, we notice who’s failing well, who’s learning, who’s teaching, and find resources in others’ stories of re-equipping and helpful practices. What matters is to begin.
Many of these suggestions do not require major money. But they do need generosity and time and collaboration. Others of them are things we really need to put big resources into - they still need generosity and time and collaboration. We are in this together. We need one another to be faithful.