I heard something interesting yesterday from a former Unitarian. Talking about the congregation she had left, she said “It’s just a bunch of old people who don’t want anything to change.” (She is 71, so this is not youthful ageism.)
This is a congregation that has a possibly terminal illness. Unless they get some dynamic leadership soon, and that leadership can overcome the self-focused inertia, they are already dead, but just don’t know it yet.
Last year, I suggested that a church-hunting relative visit a nearby UU fellowship. Her reaction: “They spent an awful lot of time talking about themselves.” Their “joys and concerns” had lasted 15 or 20 minutes, and was apparently not balanced by anything of spiritual substance.
This is the Big Problem with Unitarian-Universalism, (and especially small congregations that don’t have a full-time minister) in my opinion: our openness to a wide range of religious experience can too easily slip into unfocused generalism. And if a common focus is not present, one will be found. The most concrete candidate is “Us”, a sense of supportive community. Which, without a common focus or goal, is just mutual back-patting, or even narcissism.
Worship: “to ascribe worth to someone or something.” Our worship needs to be, first and foremost, focused on our common values. Twenty minutes of personal sharing masquerades as this, but is the Lite version. These little fellowships need spiritual leadership, and are a good argument for the establishment of a UU lay ministry program.
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody. Bob Dylan