I’d rather be sanguine about all the discussion about religious language, what is authentically Unitarian Universalism, the cautionary tale concerning belief-freedom, and how our little band can make a difference, but this seems to be the umpeenth chapter in a saga that has neither finish nor goal. And it should have at least one. (Thanks to Burton Carley for punching a hole into the “journey” fetish that consumes us and so many others. Carl Scovel writes one of his little radio addresses on the same subject, in Never Far from Home. See “Give Me Jesus,” pp. 236)
Unitarian Universalism — at least the phenomenon of liberal religion of which it is the principle representative; I almost wrote embodiment, but that suggests a cohesion not in evidence — seems to be caught up in these life-or-death struggles. They’re certainly sexier than painting the church office or sending out pledge letters, but unlike mundane parochial tasks, I’m not sure how much good it does.
Wasn’t it Hauerwas that suggested that churches should give up their willful programming for a year and retire to pure prayer for God to transform the body? I’d settle for Unitarian Universalists spending a devoted year in parochial tasks. Painting, mending, shoring up, editing, throwing out, polishing, whatever — in a word giving the silent, dependable people a break, and giving each other a break from the purposeless anxiety that purposeless talk seems perfect to cultivate.
Perhaps the church buildings would look a little fresher and newcomers would pick up on a level of activity lacking in some places. Perhaps it would prove (particularly in the plurality churches, where the power is shifting) that new people can be trusted to keep the institution going.