As Peter Bowden (@uuplanet) and I prepare for our Minns Lectures on the Age of Collaboration, we wanted to share some of our thoughts and invite yours by weekly questions between now and the lectures March 9th. (March 8th come hear a great lecture with Rev. Andrea Greenwood on Unitarianism & Children’s Literature).
Take up the question, blog and comment, and check out the UU Growth Lab on Facebook, where we’ll be posting the same question each week.
Join us for a Tweetchat February 12th at 8pm ET(US), too! #minnslecture
Here’s this week’s question:
What is it about Unitarian Universalism that makes it a faith worth living? how is your community changed by it?
Unitarian Universalism is a faith worth living because we teach that everyone is loveable, loved, and our work together is to make this world a more loving place. I spent years convinced that I was unloveable and that the people who said they loved me did not really know me. I was fearful of being found out as not enough, not good enough to be loved, not kind enough to deserve kindness, not enough in any way. Unitarian Universalism taught me two basis for the assurance that I am loveable, loved, and that our work together is to make this world a more loving place.
First, the people welcomed me. When I showed up to my first Unitarian Universalist congregation, I visually did not fit in. The music was alien to me. The worship service was alien to me. But this congregation had a tradition of greeting one another. The one thing that showed me I was accepted was when someone bothered to warmly take my hands, look me in the eye, and welcome me — and remember me the next week. That kind of hospitality is lived faith, and it told me that even if the community has its moments of imperfection (we all do), we mean it when we say, “yes, you belong here.”
Secondly, Unitarian Universalism affirmed theologically that the Holy is Love. Universalism has long taught that God loves us all, imperfect, insufficient, and downright troubled. And that gave me a foundation for my heart to rest upon and open up. This faith changed me. This faith continues to challenge me.
I learned from that first Unitarian Universalist community that faithful risk mattered. Our faith would challenge us and change us when we answered problems in our larger community. If there were lots of LGBTQ teens in need of affirmation, then we needed to offer a safe and welcoming place. When there was a need for a kitchen to stage Meals on Wheels in our part of the county, we could be there. Every single missional action that congregation took in the larger community may have seemed to flow easily and naturally from what we believed. But it was always a challenge to us, a change for us, and a challenge and a change for the larger community.
Unitarian Universalism gave my heart a foundation upon which to open and discover my calling: to join with others in making this world a more loving place.
Real ministry and real faith has not been any different for me than that first community. Via social media ministry, I am constantly amazed at how we connect and work together for change. One of my favorite examples of this is the Side of Love’s social media campaign: sharing real stories of faithful risk, from all kinds of people (because Side of Love is an interfaith ministry, though Unitarian Universalists participate strongly in it), Side of Love challenges people to keep risking faithfully and change our communities for the better. We pass legislation for equality for all people. We work for more human conditions. We seek to reunite immigrant families separated by an unjust system. We mobilize and act, inspire and dream together.
The tools of connection available to us today have challenged me to keep risking faithfully and changed me, too. But for me, the core of my faithing always comes back to love, and the people who use every tools they can to help us make this world a more loving place. Social media are tools, but how we use them is about our spiritual practices. How we discern, how we reorient to and are encouraged to risk faithfully, how we care, share, and create are issues for people of faith regardless of the tools available to us or our community contexts. One of the things about faithing with social media, though, is that it is public faithing. My ability to live faithfully has been made better because I’m not focused on living in a safe place where I know everyone or am primarily in contact with other people who faith like me. Yet I still am part of a larger faith community that, thanks to the Internet, is connected everywhere around the globe.
I learned in my first Unitarian Universalist congregation that faithful risk is part of how we are challenged and changed and how we have a real and positive effect in our larger world. The ability to organize and risk faithfully now is simply so much easier and larger. Love is vast, and the people living their lives devoted to making this world a more loving place, who want to give and receive encouragement, who are seeking and finding and creating amazing solutions to real-world problems and making real-world successes is all much closer and more possible because of these social networks.
Successful faith practice helps me join others in making the world a more loving place, in sharing words of encouragement and stories of change, in finding out about problems and doing something helpful to address them, in joining together generously and whole-heartedly to love this world into a better place. I am a Unitarian Universalist because I believed that God is Love, that we are all loved and loveable, and that we are here to make this world a more loving place. It is a faith that has changed my life, and I know can be and is part of changing this world.
To learn more about Unitarian Universalism or locate a congregation, check out UUA.org