Happy December friends. Its a new month and you know what that means — a new UU Growth Blog Book of the Month! This month we’re looking at The Almost Church Revitalized by Michael Durall.
Before we dive in to this month’s book two announcements:
- I’ve had a request to table this months book until January as it is a busy month. NOT gonna do it. But I agree it is a busy time so let’s extend our investigation and make it our book for December AND January.
- For February (and maybe March depending on how beefy it is) let’s read a brand new growth oriented book from Skinner House, The Growing Church: Keys to Congregational Vitality by the Rev. Thom Belote. This title is being released January 15th, but you can pre-order now. I just did.
Okay, housekeeping in order let’s move on…
The Almost Church Revitalized.
I want to start off by bringing our attention to Durall’s description of the “nature and character of Unitarian Universalism itself” (see page 11). In Chapter one Durall states with great clarity that we are called to be public churches, not private inward focused organizations. There is an article based on this chapter that was recently published in the UU World Magazine which was widely shared on facebook. I think this resonated with people. We are not called to be UU member only clubs. We have to turn our congregations inside out.
So if many of our congregations are not yet truly public and outward focused churches, WHAT ARE WE?
In Chapter 2 “Why Unitarian Universalism Has Not Grown and How to Turn That Around” Durall offers the following list of characteristics to describe our faith. None of which he adds are of appeal to the average church shopper. The ten characteristics are:
- Diversity of Belief
- Low expectations of membership and charitable giving
- Reliance on reason and intellect
- Personal autonomy
- Traditional Forms of Worship
- Attempts to be all things to all people
- An abhorrence of evangelism
- Distrust of clergy leadership
- An emphasis on the democratic process
- A hands-off attitude toward encouraging members to lead lives of dedication, commitment, and when necessary. sacrifice for the greater good.
- Do you think this is an accurate assessment of our faith?
- How many of these characteristics are true of your congregation?
For me, while I agree with this assessment as a pervasive culture in our congregations, I don’t see it as characteristics of our faith as much as how we choose to practice it. I wouldn’t say that the very nature of Unitarian Universalism is flawed. And I don’t think that is what Durall is saying. Rather, the way we “do church” is. Those bullet items which fall into the “how we do such and such” category can be changed. That makes me hopeful, despite the challenges of change.
What do you think?