Being Unitarian Universalist is not about reaching a specific point or place. If “revelation is not sealed”, then as UUs, we can always learn more and grow deeper in terms of living out our faith and values. For those relatively new to Unitarian Universalism, the focus may be about exploring how one’s own values, beliefs, and spirituality intersect with Unitarian Universalism and how to be part of a covenantal religious community, rather than a creedal one. We created a mentoring program, “The Intentional UU” as a way to support new members in moving from the “foyer” of Unitarian Universalism, into the living spaces.
In time, we can move from exploring what Unitarian Universalism means for us as individuals to how we can embody Unitarian Universalism, how we can live out it within and beyond the congregation. If we trust that Unitarian Universalism has something important, something life-giving and life-saving for our world, then we need to commit beyond the personal to the prophetic, to put into practice the world as we imagine it can be, even as we love the world as it is. We need to become leaders.
When we hear the word “leader”, we often think of a title or a job. And sometimes leaders have these things. But, in the context of our Unitarian Universalist communities, leadership is more than that. Quaker teacher and writer Parker Palmer writes: “Like many people, I reserved (the term leadership) for the special few. But at some point I had an insight that revealed how distorted my youthful standards for leadership were and how natural and widespread leadership actually is...The insight was simple: we are not autonomous individuals...Yes, there are differences in social status among us, but they have more to do with perception than reality. And yes, those perceptions breed a version of ‘reality’ that we have to cope with. But that version is only veneer. The deep and abiding reality—the reality we do not invent, the reality we have to cope with—is that we are interconnected beings born in and for community. If that is true, and surely it is, then leadership is everyone’s vocation, and it is an evasion to claim that it is not. When we live in the close-knit ecosystem called community, everyone follows and everyone leads. Leadership, I now understand, simply comes with the territory called being human.” (from Leading from Within, Sam Intrator and Megan Scribner, eds.)
If leadership is part of being in community, then leadership is part of our religious, spiritual and faith development as Unitarian Universalists. John Schneider, Bonnie Rankin, Deidre Heck, and myself (along with the help of several others) are piloting a new program entitled “The Soul of a Leader” that explores what it means to embody our Unitarian Universalism beyond our individual beliefs and spiritualities into leadership in our communities. So, be on the look out for more information if you are interested in this experiment.
There are a couple of other upcoming events that may be of interest. First, I will be participating in an interfaith service about people with disabilities and religious community, on Saturday, October 19th at 4 pm at St. Patrick’s in Lowell. If you are interested in attending or want to know more, please feel free to contact me. Also, the Greater Lowell Interfaith Leadership Alliance will be holding its annual interfaith Thanksgiving service and multiethnic meal at 4 pm on Saturday, November 16th. The service, “Ways of Praise” will be held at Central Congregational, just up the street from us, and will include a performance by our bell choir, the Meetinghouse Ringers. Then, participants will be invited to join in a procession of lights over to First Parish for a multiethnic meal. This is a real opportunity for us to host an interfaith event that will include all kinds of religious communities from around the greater Lowell area. We have not had our Unitarian Universalist voice present in such events for a long time, and I hope that we open our doors and make our hospitality felt. If you are interested in helping set-up, cook, and/or clean up for this meal, please let me know.