What is ours to give?

Last March I attended a study retreat to engage in research and discussion about what has changed in our new, global lives, and how ministering to the 21st century family requires congregations to change. The retreat was invigorating, thoughtful and productive.In the last twenty years, the growth of technology, advents in communication, acceptance of secularism and specialization in social justice efforts have allowed many of us to find elsewhere what families used to find in their local church.

For a lot of individuals and families, the needs church used to fulfill are met in myriad cobbled-together ways: yoga, team sports, activism, internet friendships, facebook, meditation, continuing education classes, spirituality programming offered at libraries, community centers, etc. So who are we? What does our church have to offer today’s family?

My colleagues and I identified three things that our Unitarian Universalist churches offer that families can’t get just anywhere else:

1. Spiritual Growth and Unitarian Universalist Formation — Can you be a UU without going to church? Of course. But growing as UUs is the number one priority in our churches. Through worship, RE classes (both teaching and learning), small group ministry, introspection, development of home rituals and spiritual guidance, we are all learning together how to live as Unitarian Universalists in the world.

2. Multigenerational Community — There is no shortage oaf activities on our plates, no lack of stimulation, but there are very few places where people of every age are valued, you never “age-out” and cross-generational relationships are formed and sustained. Our churches are places where children, youth, adults and elders can participate in full equality, bringing their whole selves to the community to learn and to teach.

3. Wholehearted Acceptance — Unitarian Universalist churches are places where you get to be you. Life stages and transitions are honored, people care about each other and listen to each other whatever our theologies or philosophies. This is a place where you get to be vulnerable, but you also get to be awesome. We practice community here. The work of getting along, of making decisions together, of co-creating this place together, may be a challenge, but we are the better for it.

That’s what we thought. What do YOU think? What is Unitarian Universalism for? What does our church offer that isn’t available anywhere else?

(reprinted from the April, 2011 issue of our Beacon newsletter)

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