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Why Aren't We All Rushing To A Unitarian Universalist Church?


Monty
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I live in an urban area of about 300,000 which is mostly populated by mainline churches. There is one small Unitarian Universalist Church. All I know about Unitarian Universalism is what I have read on the internet so I know very little.

 

With more and more Christians calling themselves progressive (in varying degrees), I was wondering why more Unitarian Universalist Churches aren't springing up?

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I am a “Progressive” Christian, a true hypocrite and/or agnostic, who attends a Christian and Missionary Alliance mega church because there are members of my family who still worship the way they were taught in their younger days. They are entitled to worship in the fashion in which they feel most comfortable and the conservative sermons appeal to them. It is not my business to tell anyone else how to worship. (Besides, I kind of enjoy the music.)

 

I support this church because it supports the community. They have a free Medical and Dental Clinic, they feed the homeless who sleep under the bridge, they support foster parents with clothing and school supplies, they contribute regularly to the M-P Food Share program, they support the Boys & Girls Club, they have a Peace Committee which helps to solve community conflicts, they support the Union Gospel Mission and the Salvation Army, and they have a Benevolent Fund which is used for excessive medical expenses and miscellaneous things like unpaid utility bills. I probably have not listed all of the charitable activities that take place, but this gives you an idea.

 

Small churches have difficulty getting involved in things that take a lot of money (like the free Medical Clinic). To me, this is what a church congregation is for, not just a location where the members can come every weekend to hear a sermon.

 

I believe in Bishop Desmond Tutu’s philosophy: “Perfect Love is not an emotion, or a feeling, it is what you do.”

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I wonder Monty if it might be because PC's generally arise out of an exisiting religous framework, and either don't see the need or don't desire to operate under 'another' framework, but rather feel less need to be associated with any particular 'church'.

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I for one have just started attending a UU church. I didn't choose it for the denomination, but because the website mentions the word progressive and claimed to have a children's programme (though it wasn't in evidence the two times I've been), and the location is fairly accessible to me.

 

The meeting was particularly small the first time, as many members were on holiday. That was fine by me, a gentle introduction where I felt the confidence to speak out (the leader invited discussion during the service.) Today was interesting - a 'water ritual' was held where people brought water from a place meaningful to them and added it to a communal container, while explaining their choice.

 

Although people are trickling in rather than rushing in hoards, the building has held regular services since opening in 1901. Perhaps the crowds don't rush in because more people are attracted by the promise of salvation in more traditional churches, or by the chance to take a rest wherever they want?

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I am a “Progressive” Christian, a true hypocrite and/or agnostic, who attends a Christian and Missionary Alliance mega church because there are members of my family who still worship the way they were taught in their younger days.

 

I am curious as to how long you have been Progressive / Agnostic. I existed in a similar state of being for about five or six years. I became so comfortable in my subterfuge that I began teaching an adult education class. Well, some of my progressive thoughts accidentally fell out of my head and onto the floor. That ended my SS career.

 

It was not too much longer before the church went through a conservative makeover that pushed away everyone who was even the slightest bit progressive and eventually the church folded.

 

My wife and I held out to the bitter end for some of the very reasons you find fulfillment in your current church - the social outreach of the community. However, it was always the more progressive members who consistently volunteered for these types of things. As more and more of those folks left the church (we felt they were pushed out), the programs began to fall by the wayside. There was an increased emphasis on more evangelical efforts (groups like Campus Crusade for Christ, Promise Keepers, etc...).

 

I tell you all of this because I wish that I had spoken up sooner and not kept my ideas to myself. I would have discovered (as I did way too late), that there were plenty of other folks who had the same progressive ideas that I had - even as far back as I first started on this track.

 

So, let your freak flag fly!

 

 

 

 

(Besides, I kind of enjoy the music.)

 

Yeah, I'm a sucker for a good choral arrangement.

 

 

I believe in Bishop Desmond Tutu’s philosophy: “Perfect Love is not an emotion, or a feeling, it is what you do.”

 

This should be painted on the front door of every church.

 

As to why there is not a great migration to Unitarian Universalist churches? I can't speak for all UU congregations, but in my parochial experience, they have moved from a more intellectual discovery to new-age-y spiritualism. I get it, but most pew-muffins in my part of the country are unwilling to abandon the "old language" just yet.

 

 

NORM

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Today was interesting - a 'water ritual' was held where people brought water from a place meaningful to them and added it to a communal container, while explaining their choice.

 

Funny that you mention that - this was what happened during my first UU service. I guess it's a popular one. I brought water from my fish tank (don't ask).

 

NORM

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Each person has to make his/her own decisions about religion and the possible after-life.

 

I try to read one non-fiction book each week and have 76 (I just counted them) books related to religious issues in my personal library. The authors range all the way from Philip Yancy, through Spong and D.M.Murdock and include some books on Islam and Buddism. I am 86 years old so it will not be long before I find out what is on the other side.

 

I am the "Old Silverback" and my wife is the "Ape's Mate" of the family which includes 18 individuals, who support us wholeheartedly and we support them.

 

Hal

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Funny that you mention that - this was what happened during my first UU service. I guess it's a popular one. I brought water from my fish tank (don't ask).

 

NORM

 

The water ritual apparently takes place but once a year, it's curious that we both stumbled upon it. I brought (virtual) rainwater from our roof.

 

 

 

 

As to why there is not a great migration to Unitarian Universalist churches? I can't speak for all UU congregations, but in my parochial experience, they have moved from a more intellectual discovery to new-age-y spiritualism. I get it, but most pew-muffins in my part of the country are unwilling to abandon the "old language" just yet.

 

 

NORM

 

 

Yes, and UU churches may be a more wholesome hangout for 'new age spirtualists' than the local crystal shop:) Still, I've found plenty to think about in my brief contact with UU. I do with agree with your comment about attachment to the old language. Initially it was a relief to join in a service with no reference to the Bible / Jesus. On second thoughts, I miss these references, and the rousing Presbyterian hymns of my youth.

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Initially it was a relief to join in a service with no reference to the Bible / Jesus. On second thoughts, I miss these references, and the rousing Presbyterian hymns of my youth.

 

I used to think that too, until recently actually READING the lyrics to those old hymns. Oy!

 

NORM

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It has been a long time since I've had the opportunity to attend a UU church. I would like to attend, but there just aren't any near where I live. But my memory of UU is that they define themselves too much as being NOT traditional Christian. I think they should be more aggressive about asserting who they are, rather than who they are not. My own preference would be to spend a lot of time with community service, helping the needy, and philisophical discussions centering around goodness as defined by words like truth, justice, kindness, honesty, mercy, and so on.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Why churches grow or shrink, even within a denomination, seems a complex issue. The Unitarians produce a magazine, 'UUWorld' and a regular feature is an article on a growing congregation. Winter 2012 profiles a church in Bedford, Mass. and identifies the following:

 

*a 'preacher who holds listeners spellbound'

*creativity, including elements of comedy, eg giant remote-controlled clownfish, but also a connection to 'the ancient stream of things'

*community action and activity eg a bus service from a retirement home to church services of any denomination

*renovation of church facilities through member donations 'instilled pride...and an ambition to do greater things'

*making a partner church in Transylvania has led to many 'pilgrimages' between the two countries

*four choirs

*making an effort to welcome newcomers

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  • 6 months later...

I wonder why I even bother to attend my PC church. PC can be so diluted spiritually that I consider it the step- sibling of UU. And both can se useless spiritually as they sometimes contain homogenized spirituality. At times at least, is rather stay home Sunday morning as the services are so bland.

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I wonder why I even bother to attend my PC church. PC can be so diluted spiritually that I consider it the step- sibling of UU. And both can se useless spiritually as they sometimes contain homogenized spirituality. At times at least, is rather stay home Sunday morning as the services are so bland.

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I wonder why I even bother to attend my PC church. PC can be so diluted spiritually that I consider it the step- sibling of UU. And both can se useless spiritually as they sometimes contain homogenized spirituality. At times at least, is rather stay home Sunday morning as the services are so bland.

 

The thing about these socially redeeming types of churches, I've found, is that you only get out of them what you put into them. To attend a UU or other PC church without participating, and merely observing, can indeed be quite bland.

 

The pastor of our local UU church is also the chair of the local "green money" economy, very active in historic preservation and in homeless advocacy. It's more about the doing rather than the watching.

 

I attend a Jewish synagogue in our town. Without mitzvah, it would be quite boring.

 

Of course, that's just me. Personally, I don't seek out "spirituality" when looking for a faith-group.

 

NORM

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In terms of participating I would say that there is as much a lack in the PC church I attend as I have seen in virtually ever church I've attended which has a liberal bent to it. What always depressed me was the more conservative or orthodox churches I have encountered are so participatory that it seemed to me second nature. PC and more liberal minded church contain the seeds of their own dissolution as they say that members can believe whatever they want do long as they show up. Worship within that faith community is essential to me for showing up. If I sense that a congregation a lukewarm, who look docile and seem asleep in the pews, and the minister is delivering a bland sermon and essentially preaching to the choir about how great we PCers are, I realize I can spend my Sundays doing something more productive. One PC church I went to and wanted to be a member of left me starving for something. It was literally a waste of my time as I was left wondering why anyone else showed up. I don't think all PC congregations are like this, but I have yet to find one locally who had credited anything more than a liberal oasis of self-satisfaction. Becoming more aware of spiritual disciplines has raised the bar for me beyond what liberal Christianity has to offer in my area and that depresses me.

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In my opinion, Progressive Christianity is quickly becoming a form of UU. Though it still wears the name "Christianity", it is open to all beliefs and practices.

 

One of the things I found impressive about the liberal Christianity of the past is that it was creative in finding ways to reinterpret the Bible and the Christian faith in order to often be on the cutting edge of social change, to be able to speak truth to power, much as Jesus did (which, unfortunately, got him hanged). It felt there was a "better way" and often lead the way in issues of justice and making a difference in our world.

 

PC has no prophetic edge to it, IMO. Because it doesn't hold to truth, it doesn't speak truth to power. And it doesn't want to unite in order to make a difference in our world. It, like the UUA, is just a loose association of people who get together to share different points-of-view, but with no vision, no call-to-action, no truth to proclaim, and, IMO, no purpose.

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"It, like the UUA, is just a loose association of people who get together to share different points-of-view......." Sounds like my kind of outfit! I liked this part of your comment, Bill. As for the rest of it, well you did say it was merely your opinion. I think what we have here is a forum where people can express their religious and spiritual views freely. I don't think there is any particular movement afoot, nor does there need to be. I don't think there is much more to it than that. If there is a "Progressive Christian Church" per se, I don't know of it. Of course, we are always free as individuals to express the truth or unite to make a difference.

 

Peace.

Steve

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From my perspective, an "organized" PC that ...

 

...[has a] prophetic edge to it...hold to truth, ...speak truth to power. And ... unite in order to make a difference in our world...

 

would utterly defeat the purpose of this forum. I think our purpose is to express freely our thoughts and ideas concerning the place of human religious thought in our society and in our personal lives.

 

Anything more than that would develop the same problems that plague most other organized faith groups.

 

I think that religious thought belongs to the individual.

 

I also think that whatever your personal belief (or non-belief) system, if you do not seek to become a positive force for good in human society, then you are, as the writer of the epistles declares; "a noisy gong."

 

NORM

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>>I also think that whatever your personal belief (or non-belief) system, if you do not seek to become a positive force for good in human society, then you are, as the writer of the epistles declares; "a noisy gong."

 

And I would agree with you, NORM. Regardless, this is only what *we* think and is, as SteveS55 reminds us, "merely opinion" (i.e. easily brushed aside), and therefore carries no weight to it whatsoever.

 

I once thought this forum was an extension of TCPC.org. But 1) no one from that organization participates here that I am aware of and 2) they can't even spell "community" right on this forum's blurb page. ;)

 

It's like the Spong forum. Does Spong himself participate in his forum? I've never seen him here. That's a shame because I value his work and contributions and would like his take on a couple of subjects.

 

Nevertheless, this forum is much like UUism. That doesn't make it bad. There are many, many UUs out there. There are, obviously, a great number of people who enjoy that approach to religion, spirituality, and philosophy. But the UUA is not honest about their name, for they are neither Unitarian or Universalist. That's my point. We should be honest about who we are and are not. Yes, I know, that's just my opinion. :lol:

Edited by BillM
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Bill,

 

Your last 2 critical posts were uncalled for. You have visited us and shared with us the same negative words of your opinion on PC many times using the same and other alias in times past. As a member i am disappointed with your repeated continued negative comments concerning PC. Will there ever be an end to it? What purpose do you hope to serve with these type of posts here? No answer expected as these are rhetorical questions.

 

As a PC, i and i am certain others, do unite with others (whether PC, Christian or not) in feeding the poor, giving to the homeless, supporting those less fortunate and doing some small part for the environment. Many members here , whether they identify as PC or not.and whether they verbally credit it to PC or not is not important as long as they are a positive force for good.

 

As administrator, i remind you , you have been previously warned and placed on approval of posts for continuing the same repeated negative comments concerning PC. Repeating them serves no useful purpose for this community. If it has nothing to offer constructive, why do you keep returning with your critical remarks? I do not expect another repeat performance like this one from you again. Otherwise it will be your last post on this forum.

 

JosephM (as Admin)

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  • 2 weeks later...

I think one of the issues in describing progressive churches and I think UU's and Quakers for that matter is that very often we are met with the question that is asked of many conservative churches. What does one have to believe to be a member and then one is expected to give them an asserted creed. We believe etc etc. The thing about liberal churches is that they mostly do not insist on uniformity of belief but that does not mean to say that there is no united beating heart within each church or congregation. I am aware of when I go to a Quaker meeting we have Christians, Agnostics, Atheists and people of other faiths there but in the practice of the meeting it would be heard to point out who is who. There is a unity of spirit and an openness to each other and an ability to be aware of the mystery of communion with each other. Now I call that spirit that unites us in the meeting and the work we do, the Spirit of God but I know others may have differing views on that. Hence, it is one of the reasons I feel the language of God is often shackled by human labels, concepts and interpretations which often fail to convey the full expression of the feeling we each experience. Sometimes, we are asked well what do you all believe and this is then seen as a criticism that the answer may seem woolly to some but I have seen people's lives changed, spiritual and emotional responses and expressions of love and peace brought about by the unity/(God (IMO)) working within us all. True we are not like many conservative churches who can give a crisp answer to the question well what do you believe but I am sure that the disciples of Jesus and his subsequent followers were a mixed bunch of people too but they still came together. Many PC's, UU's and Universal Quakers express that spirit in the social concerns that they get involved in and try to make it a better and more caring world as an expression of the spirit within. We may not adequately say what we have or what we are but have something- we do and for me it is the working of the spirit of God.

Sometimes we need a differing instrument to measure to measure differing things and although creeds and the like may be a measure of some conservative churches they do not adequately measure more universal and liberal type meetings but that does not mean such meetings have nothing to say or have no relevance. Sometimes the movement of such universal meetings can have a powerful influence that should not be easily dismissed or go unrecognised (IMO).

Edited by Pete
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The problem I have seen in PC churches I have been to is the self-identifying with a particular congregation. For example a church I frequent is under the banner of the UCC - United Church of Christ but are also a "Congregational" church. At the same time there seems to be an accommodation the pastor makes in their sermons and in the, I daresay, liturgy to the point where it seems a little homogenized if not wishy washy. This is the dilemma I think of PC.

 

A church can identify as Presbyterian, Methodist, and consider themselves as "progressive Chridtians". Or not and stand alone or under the banner of the UCC. That to me is just an alternative to say the Southern Baptist Convention.

 

Also in the church I attend at times the town is somewhat liberal I guess and there are is an UU church and another UCC church. The dogma is similar between the three.

 

Honestly despite the Points of Progressive Christianity I don't see anything very progressive. I see an alternative view with its own exclusivity and preoccupation with "issues" and still mired in The limitations of modernist thinking - which all if Christianity. While PC may be influenced by post-modern philosophy it is still too concerning with the limitations of The Enlightenment.

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I am guessing we come from two differing perspectives. One as a Universal church and the other as a reformed church with a liberal outlook. Although the outlook maybe seen as progressive I think the universal churches tend not to stick with creeds and the like. The Quaker meeting I go to is very universal and in the UK Quaker meetings do not even have ministers. Hence, there is an ability to diverge should one want and leave all creeds behind. Where as a reformed church with a set of creeds and a clergy may tend towards not moving that far from the starting position. I am not saying one is better than the other. More like recognizing a possible difference.

Then I have to admit I have never been to a UCC church and do not know of a UCC church near to me and maybe I am completely wrong in my presumption and guess work.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Church_of_Christ

Perhaps you could give me more information on your personal experience and knowledge of the UCC and let me know how you see what I have said?. I admit I am ignorant of how the UCC works.

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