Where There Is No Vision The People Perish…or Dreaming Big? pt. 5

The Disciples seem to have a vision. Enough of one to say that they are going to grow by 700 congregations anyway.

Do we have a vision?

And don’t give me that “we can be the religion of our time” line. I’m not buying it. And besides, that’s not really a vision–that’s a slogan.

So what is our vision?

Because where there is no vision, the people perish. And churches don’t grow.

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700 New Congregations In 10 Years. How Many Did We Have?…or Dreaming Big? pt.4

If you’ve been following this series of posts, then you know that I was following the proceedings of the Disciples of Christ General Assembly.

In her speech following her re-election, President and General Minister Sharon Watkins talked of the following:

700 new and affiliating churches…

That is not an error friends. In the last 10 years, the Disciples have grown by 700 congregations. 700. And they plan to have 700 more new congregations by 2020.

Now, for those of you who don’t keep up with Disciples news, their original target for the number of new congregations in the decade was 1,000. But 700 ain’t shabby a’tall.

How many did we grow by in the last decade? Did we have a target?

“I’m A Single Mother With A Part-Time Job And Full-Time Bills”…or Dreaming Big? pt.3

I was reading an article earlier today about how the high rate of African-American unemployment is affecting the diets of many people. And in the article I came across the quote that I use for the title of this post:

I’m a single mother with a part-time job and full-time bills.

That got me to thinking…what is our gospel to someone like this woman?

Can we grow without having something to say to her?

The GA Planning Committee Is NOT The Enemy

I was trying to not get into the GAPC discussion, but it looks like I need to.

As a member of the Planning Committee for the last two years, I really wish those who did not live through what I did would not presume to think you know what the issues involved with two members resigning are–you don’t.

For those of you who don’t know GA process, every year before its September meeting, representatives of the Planning Committee, the Board and the Administration have a meeting called GAMAP–General Assembly and the Mission of the Association Partnership. And last year the GAMAP meeting was devoted ENTIRELY to GA2012. I believe that everything that was discussed at that meeting is available along with the PC minutes.

The Planning Committee met with the Arizona UU Religious Professionals at our  January meeting. Then the Executive Committee of the PC met with the Accountability Group once it was formed.

But if you would like to know why I believe this is in a state of confusion, I’ll tell you.

There are those who seem to view the Planning Committee as an impediment to a “Justice” GA–and we’re not.

It was the PC and the General Assembly and Conference Services staff that brought up the question of how AIWs were going to be handled in a GA that is supposed to have as little business as possible.

It was the PC and GACS staff that has been reminding people of our UU commitment to making all UUA-sanctioned activities accessible to all those that want to attend–including those who have physical disabilities.

It was the PC that was advocating that there be more worships, not less–only to have people telling us that if there was a Service of the Living Tradition that it would be too much business as usual. (this was the final straw for me and why I will not be attending GA in Phoenix–see the post below)

It is the PC that has been advocating for a General Assembly that will help people build capacity when they get back from Phoenix–not just all protest/witness all the time.

The Planning Committee is NOT the enemy in the planning of GA2012. It doesn’t want to be. But it also wants to give people a good experience–and will continue to advocate for that–and not leave a bad taste in Phoenix’s mouth when we leave. We want GA to help in the process of justice-building, not be a detriment.

 (now back to regularly scheduled posts)

If You Only Do What You’ve Always Done, You Will Only Get What You’ve Already Got…or Dreaming Big? pt.2

Steven Caldwell writes: “Even with the criticism of the fellowship movement, it was one of the few growth strategies that the UUA could financially afford to do. Without the fellowship movement, Unitarian Universalism would be a regional religion mostly confined to New England.”

I’ve heard this argument before and it doesn’t work for me. While it is true that the fellowship movement created a number of congregations, isn’t Unitarian Universalism still primarily a regional religion? (and if you make socio-economic class a region, it’s definitely a regional religion)  And the anti-clericalism that the Fellowship Movement exacerbated has stymied the growth of our form of liberal religion.

If you only do what you’ve always done, you will only get what you’ve already got.

So let’s say that there’s a new fellowship movement. What would be different this time? Not that I believe that it would be intentional, but, the fellowships would be planted in far-suburbs or exurban areas; still primarily cater to those with 16+ years of education and be Eurocentric in culture. So 10 years from now, what would be markedly different in this “religion for our time?” (don’t get me started on what I think about that.)

One of the things we know about church growth is that it takes A dynamic leader to move the group forward. Not a committee.

The Disciples have something on us here. The UUA doesn’t support the Ron Robinsons in its midst. (individual UUs support Ron and his missionary/missional work, but not the UUA) If a group wants to start a UU congregation they are essentially on their own…and most of them struggle because they don’t have pastoral leadership at the beginning. This is to our detriment.   

With no plan for growth and no encouragement of, and support for, those who want to take our form of liberal religion into the abandoned places; are we dreaming big?

Are we even dreaming at all?

Dreaming Big?

For those of you who might not remember reading this from me, I grew up in the Disciples tradition (Church of Christ-noninstrumental for you home players).

Anyway…the Disciples’ General Assembly started today. So I was looking over the materials that they have describing the different programs and came across this one:

Re-imagining the next 10 years of the new church movement

By the year 2020, more than a third of all Disciples congregations will have been started in the past 10 years! That includes about 700 new churches. This session will engage participants around issues faced by new congregations — their funding, their continued growth, and expansion into uncharted territory.

So let’s study this. In these next 10 years (minus a few months) the Disciples plan to PLANT 700 new churches. 700!!!!! Is the UUA planning on planting ANY?????

After all, the stated purpose of the UUA is:

The primary purpose of the Association is to serve the needs of its member congregations, organize new congregations, extend and strengthen Unitarian Universalist institutions and implement its principles.

 

For all of our talk about the world needing our presence, we sure don’t act like it. If we truly believed that we had a saving message, wouldn’t we be dreaming as big (relatively) as the Disciples? Where is our plan for growth? Or are we really too worried about UUism getting into the wrong hands to even think about dreaming as big as the Disciples?

Why I Won’t Be At The “Justice” GA In Phoenix

Maybe it’s the deacon’s daughter in me. Maybe it’s the preacher’s niece in me. Maybe it’s the traditionalist in me. Maybe it’s the ministerial intern in me.

In all of the talk of how GA2012 can be transforming and transformative experience, I have yet to hear any talk of the importance of worship in helping people transform and be transforming agents.

And as someone who thought it was a no-brainer that we would have a Service of a Living Tradition at GA2012, only to be told that it was “business as usual”…I can’t fathom how a religious group can get together for its annual gathering and NOT have a service that honors its religious leaders or its dead.

For all of the big social justice activities and civil actions of the Civil Rights Movement, there were at least 2 worship services to go along with them.

So what is the place of worship in a “Justice” GA? From what I’m hearing from the loudest voices, there is no place for worship—only all protest, all the time.

That is why I won’t be at the “Justice” GA in Phoenix.