Monday, January 21, 2013
Building a church which has a purpose
We started the Brockport Unitarian Fellowship in September of 2009. It's been 4 years. We have about 35 members and an average Sunday attendance of between 15 and 20. We are planning now for our fifth church year, 2013 - 2014. We have a committee working on an annual operating plan for the 2013 - 2014 church year.
Rev. Christina Neilson, the congregational life consultant from the St. Lawrence District, met with our congregation yesterday, Sunday, January 20th, and we did the vision thing and set some goals in small groups. People shared a lot of ideas. We aren't short on ideas. It's executing them that is the problem. Most of the labor is volunteer with the exception of a 1/2 time pastor and a musician we pay twice a month to play the piano at two of our services.
The understanding which has slowly taken shape in my mind is that Unitarian Universalist ecclesiology is based on the idea of convenantal relations within each church and among churches in the UUA. The covenant is based on the affirmation and promotion of the Seven Pinciples which we draw from our Six Sources. It has taken me many years, about 10, to come to this understanding. Why has it taken me so long?
It has taken me so long because nobody has spelled it out for me, succinctly, clearly, and to the point that I have now spelled it out for myself. If covenanting to affirm and promote the seven principles drawn from the six sources is what Unitarian Universalism is about why is this not clearly understood by UU members and the world at large?
I think of all the jokes about UUs, like the one about UUs like Jehovah Witnesses going door to door to spread their religious beliefs but not having anything to say. How many UUs does it take to screw in a light bulb? A whole committee and they can't decide what should be done. You know the jokes. You've heard them too, and laughed, as I have too, in self denigrating humor, laughing at our own ignorance and gratuitousness. But taken seriously, as a way of life, Unitarian Universalism is not ephemeral whip cream, it is serious, deep, challenging, and demanding.
I have been thinking further about the seven principles drawn from the six sources and it dawns on me that if I am to seriously apply them in my life and make a difference to myself and to the world in which I live, I need a lot of help. I certainly can affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person, but in a world awash with racism, discrimination, and exclusionary policies of every sort and stripe, I realize that I cannot affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person alone. I need a lot of help. We, as a community, need a lot of help.
And so, our churches, our community of saints as Rebecca Ann Parker calls us, must grow, here and now, if we are to make our Seven Principles visible, relevant, and meaningful in our daily lives.
As I go about my daily life and enter into discussions with people and ask them if they too believe in the inherent worth and dignity of every person and if so, will they come to church with me so we can explore how to make this principle manifest in our community life together?
I understand now, better, what the purpose of church is. It is a group of people who join together and covenant with each other to affirm and promote the Seven Principles from the Six Sources. This group of people is a communion of saints who shelter one another and work together for a transformation of life on earth, here and now, for the benefit of the interdependent web of all existence. What holier work can there be? What could be more important? Our church will grow, has to grow, if we are to save the world.