Many of us have been there. We are out with a friend or with family, or chatting in the drive with your neighbor, or with a local group doing community service or perhaps, just perhaps, making small talk on-line at the market. Somewhere in the conversation the topic of religious life comes up and you are asked what congregation you attend.
You (proudly): “Unitarian Universalist.”
Them (curious): “I’ve heard of Unitarian Universalism before but don’t know much about it. Could you tell me?”
You: [Long pause, looking up, looking down, looking anywhere for the words, or maybe for the emergency exit…deep breath in] “I can try.”
I recall some of my first (and second and third and fourth) adult conversations trying to convey UUism in a meaningful way to others who asked about my religion. I struggled. I struggled because I wanted to share the breadth of our understandings, but also our depth. I struggled against the assumption that Unitarian Universalism was a free-for-all and that UUism didn’t stand for anything. Take this for example, from an episode from The Simpson’s, set at the church ice cream social:
Lisa: “What flavours do you have?”
Rev. Lovejoy: “Well, chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, and our new Unitarian flavour ice cream.”
Lisa: “I’ll have that.” (Rev hands her an empty bowl)
Lisa: “But there’s nothing in there.”
Mostly, I struggled to learn how to share of our faith in the affirmative and not in the negative. So often UUs define themselves but what we are not (non-creedal, non-dogmatic, non-trinitarian) moreso than what we are. I struggled. A LOT. And I was raised Unitarian Universalist.
What can be so frustrating when we struggle to adequately explain UUism is that it keeps us from describing how this faith has touched and changed our lives, and the lives of so many others, for the better. We never know how much that friend, family member, neighbor, or stranger at the shopping center might be desperately seeking what our liberal religious movement has to offer. Also, as our congregation deepens and grows connections within the community, our ability to covey the messages of Unitarian Universalism in interfaith and multicultural gatherings may help us find common understandings and strengthen those relationships.
I’m grateful that two of my colleagues, the Revs. Barbara Wells and Jaco B. ten Hove, created a five-session course aimed to help UUs speak more effectively about Unitarian Universalism and what it means to us–from our particular perspectives. It’s called Articulating Your UU Faith. Scott Kitchen and I will be co-facilitating this 5-session course Feb 17, Feb 24, Mar 3, Mar 10 and Mar 24 from 7pm-9pm in Fellowship Hall. If you’d like to join us for a fun time of exploring what UUism means to you and how to better share that meaning with others, please sign up by using this link:
Please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions about the course. I’d be thrilled to talk with you about it. Perhaps over a bowl of rich and flavorful (dairy-free) Unitarian Universalist ice cream.