Sad news — not an April Fool’s joke — that the Unitarian Universalist Association has laid off ten staff members due to budget shortfalls. As an organization budget hacker, I know that making difficult decisions is, by definition, difficult. Not having the facts, I won’t opine about the cuts except to express my sympathy for those who have lost their jobs, and to those who will have to work harder by their absence.
On the other hand, the news came within a finger-wagging press release from UUA president Peter Morales, which includes,
We rely on the covenant between our member congregations and the Association to enable us to provide the services and support your congregation needs.
When our congregations, for a variety of reasons, do not fully contribute to the Association, we must work to decrease our expenditures while sustaining a high level of support for congregations and individuals.
And so once again, covenant is trotted out as a tool to scold. (When do you ever hear covenant described as a tool for happiness?)
And scold whom? The very congregations who create the UUA. And so if I’m going to give the UUA’s leadership council the benefit of the doubt, so much more will I give it to the hundreds of congregational decision-makers who have their own tough choices.
Theological language will only go so far. The institution of the UUA provides services for its members, though I’m often left wondering if the services provided are worth the money or trouble. There are other avenues for almost eveything the UUA provides, if you’re willing to look. (Ministerial fellowship might be an exception, but the ministerial “oversupply” blunts the power of the guild.) Emotional appeals will only got you so far, and with tight money and a culture that’s more connected, secular and tolerant, they won’t go very far.