Jonalu’s Journal – February 2018

No one doubts that the religious scene is changing faster in this country than anyone can keep track of.  First, the mainline churches hit decline, and now, even evangelical churches are fighting to maintain their numbers.  Church is no longer central to people’s lives.  While UU congregations are holding their own in this challenging atmosphere, it’s clear that the traditional ways of gathering on Sunday mornings for a service of hymns, sermon, and ritual is the way of the past rather than the future.  (On a personal note, I hate saying this, because I have always loved this kind of church!)

Still, though, people long for community and connection and for meaning and purpose in their lives. How do we answer these needs?  How do we create ways for people to connect, join our community, and find the meaning and purpose they seek, in the 21st century and beyond?

No one has a definitive answer.  Different people and different denominations approach it in different ways.  Let me tell you about recent discussions and thoughts I have had.

In mid-January, seven of our leaders met together to discuss a webinar by our regional UU staff person Phil Lund (you can view it at https://youtu.be/Z-Ge-71sohI).  We learned about innovative efforts such as dinner churches, service organizations, on-line communities, co-living and working spaces and more.  These efforts have components like openness, authenticity, service, participation, and more.  The UUFM members who gathered felt we do well at UUFM on some counts; we are welcoming, open, experiential and unashamedly liberal.  As we got to the question of how we serve the community we live in, we struggled a bit more.  Our OWL program received enthusiastic endorsement, though.  Not only do we serve the children of our congregation, but we always have a few others from other congregations involved.  How might we better showcase OWL and what it accomplishes?

We do give money to nonprofit groups and have built relationships with them.  Could we build on that through a monthly social action/service project and literally be Helping Hands?

Finally, what kind of gathering might invite people looking for both meaning and connection?  We talked about “Religion with a Twist,” holding a non-service kind of service where we relate to our theme, maybe even include a particular reflection–but use it as a springboard for discussion and interaction.  The Two Services Task Force will follow up on this idea.

Other things loom.  Interfaith relations and cooperation.  Social media presence.  Worship with stronger threads of creativity.  There was also a sense among those gathered that we need to more clearly and succinctly define ourselves–maybe as a community that helps people grow or a community that challenges by posing questions.  Or … ?

I’d love to hear your input.  I look forward to more discussion.  And making a difference in how we do church together.

In faith and freedom,    Jonalu

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