I join the chorus in thanking Chris Walton for his work on the blog Philocrites. In his “signing off” post Walton mentions the fairly short lived group blog Coffee Hour and the value of maintaining “truly public forums”…
It didn’t take long before a bunch of us were in regular conversation and thinking of ourselves as “UU bloggers.” Several of us worked together to launch Coffee Hour, a UU group blog, in 2004, and I was sorry to see it expire in 2005. (Dan Harper laments that many UUs have now opted for semi-public conversations at Facebook rather than in truly public forums, and I’m sorry that we didn’t have the energy or foresight to transform Coffee Hour into something more like a social networking site using Ning or Drupal to keep those conversations out in the open.)
Recently I read a 2008 report on UUA.org titled “Communications” summarizing various communication efforts of our association. I was intrigued by the paragraphs discussing the autonomy and consolidation of our associations publications.
Unitarian Universalist Advance, an independent organization, launched its journal UU Voice in 1994 to provide a forum for discourse beyond a house organ. The Reverend Dr. Brent Smith, former editor, believes that the role of the journal is to increase the number of voices in communication. “There is a relationship between the strength of autonomous congregations and the multiple variety of forms of communication. To fulfill our role as autonomous congregations demands we have a variety of different communication vehicles,” Smith states.
Smith believes that our recent practices are becoming denominational rather than associational, with more centralization and consolidation. “I see a whole generation of ministers working in that centralized environment. With the UU Voice, we are concerned with the preservation of the free press and the free spirit. We want to hear many voices. Our interest is not in critiquing the UUA. We are focused on individual autonomous congregations.”
Walton’s remarks on maintaining “truly public forums” coupled with Smith’s cautions and the demise of the UU Voice leave me wondering if the larger Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations / Unitarian Universalist movement needs a voice – really a public conversation – separate from the UUA’s communications. Are loosely connected bloggers with interwoven comments sufficient?