What’s the Message?

This week, I attended the North Atlantic chapter of LREDA (the Liberal Religious Educators Association) retreat. We learned together, conversed on hot topics and of course joined in worship. I always learn so much at these gatherings, but the chance to attend worship- to attend to my own spiritual needs is very welcome.
This year, we enjoyed two music rich offerings of worship whose themes meshed beautifully.Wednesday evening, the theme of Roots and Wings made me think about how our faith roots us to reality and connection with others in an increasingly virtual world. How we are sometimes in free fall and need to remember the wings of our faith to guide us when we are doing something new.Thursday morning, Robin Barraza expanded on her timely and popular blog post, musing on how Unitarian Universalism is poised for great relevance in this time of change in American religion.

as Unitarian Universalists, we are increasingly finding that our method is no longer particularly unique in the secular or religious worlds. Schools, social justice organizations, liberal Christian, Buddhist and Reformed Jewish congregations (among others) use similar methods to teach morality, justice, and the tenants of their traditions. … So, Unitarian Universalism finds itself struggling to answer the question: what is our unique, bold message?

So many of us are unable to describe what Unitarian Universalism is – even if we have attended RE classes and services for years. We are so concerned with casting a wide net, of not alienating anyone, that we lose sight of what binds us together. Barraza challenges us to find our common theology, the beliefs which unite us.

I see this era of Unitarian Universalism as an incredible opportunity for growth, if we are willing to be bold. Our historic theological traditions make bold theological claims. Our Unitarian tradition reminds us that we derive from one sacred source, therefore we are connected to one another and to the earth, and are capable of committing Godly acts of love in the world. Our Universalist tradition reminds us that we are fated to the same destination, and that our liberation is bound up in one another’s. We believe in this-earthly salvation. Therefore, it is imperative that we love our neighbor as ourselves, and that we work for justice in human relationships—that we help save one another in Love.

What is the central message we want for our children, youth, and adults at Channing? It is a discussion worth having, and one to have soon since we are witnessing a migration away from the traditional Sunday School model, and organized religion becomes a less important cultural focus. Let’s look our common Unitarian Universalist beliefs, articulate an inclusive message that, “says something about life, death, creation, human unity, interconnectedness, God, suffering, Love.” (Barraza) Let’s create a message that engages our bodies as well as our minds. A message of action. A message of hope. This sort of message will inform our choices and direction as a religious education program, congregation, and Association.