Take for the moment the following scenario. I know it looks like it’s a bit of an over generalization, but I think it has heaps of truth to it. Local Unitarian Universalist (UU) communities (churches, congregations, fellowships, societies) especially many of the ones that are the only one in their area are doing their activities ((worship) services, social gatherings etc…) and engagements with the wider society (social justice/action work, environmental justice/action work etc…) in a way that has nominal to no discernible religious and or spiritual component and or nominal to no discernible religious and or spiritual approach to it. Lets for argument sake say this is a problem because it leaves little to no room for genuine UUism and genuine UU communities to thrive in these local communities. And lets also for argument sake say genuine or authentic UUism and genuine or authentic UU communities have a core or central religious and or spiritual reason for their being. And I think UUism and locale UU communities to be genuinely UU they need to have a core or central religious and or spiritual reason for their being. Lets also say that some of these local UU communities are indeed doing some good in the world, just things with a nominal to no determinable religious and or spiritual component and or nominal to no determinable religious and or spiritual approach to them. And lets also for argument sake say this is also a problem for the existence of genuine UUism and UU community in these local communities.
In terms of the above scenario, what needs to be done to make room for genuine UUism and genuine UU commodities to exist and to hopefully thrive in these locale communities? Do the UU communities that are doing good just not in any way that is genuinely UU need to stop doing their work under the UU banner so this can happen? Do the ones that are not doing anything perpendicularly good regardless of if it’s in a genuinely UU way or some other way need to disband so this can happen? Thoughts?
It should be noted that in terms of this scenario I am defining religion as the following; Communal practices and accompanying beliefs that have the function of addressing the fundamental questions of human identity, ethics, death and the existence of the Divine (if any). And I am defining spirituality as the following; An individual’s personal practices and beliefs that have the function of addressing the fundamental questions of human identity, ethics, death and the existence of the Divine (if any).
The following tweet by fellow Unitarian Universalist (UU) twitterer J.F. Crawford has got me thinking.
Indeed, wen you have a crisis of faith, who walks with you? Who helped you interpret and deal with the events? What about your feelings? Your brother or sister? Maybe only if you have one and are close to them. Even then your sibling may not be the right person to turn to in this kind of situation. Maybe your parents? Well possibly only if you are vary close to one or both of them. Even then not likely. Lets face it most of us just don’t share thing this deep with our parents regardless of how good the relationship we have with each other is. Maybe then it’s your minister, assuming you go to church and your congregation has a minister. Not all congregations have a minister. This can be do to many factors. Such as the congregation being in transition from an old minister to a new one. The congregation’s decision to be lay lead. Lay lead congregations are commonplace in UU circles. And if you go to church, and your congregation has a minister they may still not be the right person. This may be do to your crisis revolving a new found belief in God and the fact your minister is an atheist. Yes in UU circles many of the ministers are indeed atheists. So who is the right person to tern to in this kind of situation? It may well be determined by many factors. Is this crisis of faith a crisis of new fond belief or is it a loss of belief? Is this crisis causing you to hold beliefs different then those held by your community, family?
If you are having a crisis of faith, the best thing for you may be to take time to read some of your favourite religious/spiritual bloggers. If you do not have any then it may be a good time to find some and to start following them. Also finding some music that reflects your new state of beliefs and listening to it I would say would be another good thing to do. Also reflecting on what these blogs and songs have to say and why it is you find yourself drawn to their ideas and opinions, would be in my opinion a good next step. It may take you several years to come to terms with your new beliefs, but I would say it is not a good idea to run from them. The best cores of action is to start to posses your new found beliefs. Some people as a result of their crisis of faith find themselves going into the ministry. Going into the ministry can be a wonderful and right next steep for some folks. For many others who also have a crisis of faith it may not be the right chose.
So if you have don some reading, listening and reflecting, and have found someone you can talk to about your crisis of faith, what next? For some it is of to become an ordained minister. What if ministry is not right for you? Lets face it, it’s not right for the majority of people who go through a crisis of faith. What then is the right next cores for these folks? Well I will say for my brother the answer seems to have been the ministry. For me however I know the answer is definitely not ministry, at lest traditional ministry. By traditional ministry I mean becoming a parish mintier. If not traditional ministry then what? Well some have decided to become community ministers and serve folks in hospitals and other medical settings. I feel this kind of thing suites even less folks then parish ministry dos and lets face it the process of becoming a hospital chaplain is just as long and debt ridden as it is to become a parish minister. I would say for some the answer is simply they wont to from now on live a life that is more spiritual/religiously grounded. For UUs this can be the hardest thing to grapple with. I would say in UU circles it can be even harder for some then the process of becoming a minister. This is do to unlike those on rout to becoming a minister who have resources and a clear path to follow, those seeking to live a more spiritual/religiously grounded life having little to no UU specific resources geared to their particular spiritual/religious needs. What then should we do about this? The answer has been to help them have a personal spiritual search. For most of theme they are past the stage of simply needing to be supported in undertaking an individual search for spiritual truth and meaning. What they need is a community that will walk with them as they try to live a life guided by their new found beliefs. This can often be hard for a UU congregation as they feel that making the changes that will help folks in this situation, things like deepening the Sunday services and adult religious classes can lead to an environment that is to intimidating to possible newcomers. I would say the answer for us as UUs and as spiritual and religious folks is not to just let these folks go it alone, but to start to take their needs into consideration wen we as congregations and as UUs more broadly go about planing our activities. For it is only by having activities geared towards people in all stages of their spiritual/religious walk that the likelihood that folks who are going through a crisis of faith will be able to find some one appropriate who can walk with them on this journey of theirs.