Name the Change

Sometimes a congregation could use more clarity about why it gathers, maintains a building, pays a staff. Not that there aren't already some good words about what the congregation is all about. It's very rare for a congregation to have to start from scratch on this. Most are off to a good start.

Unitarian Universalist congregations have the seven principles. These say quite a lot about what the congregation exists for. The seven principles – the principles for all Unitarian Universalists -- are a covenant to affirm and promote:
  • The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
  • Justice, equity, and compassion in human relations;
  • Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth;
  • The free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
  • The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process in our congregations and in society at large;
  • The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
  • Respect for the interdependent web of existence of which we are a part.
What does any UU congregation exist for? It exists to affirm and promote those seven principles, that's what. Even so, a little more clarity could help.

You may have noticed, the language of the principles is all rather general. How exactly shall we, for instance, affirm and promote the free and responsible search for truth and meaning? How exactly are we to work compassionately for peace, liberty, and justice. And how can we tell if we’re doing it?

If those are the things we’re here for, are we doing them? Are we doing what we say we’re here to do? If I had to answer that question, I'd have say, “Well, kinda.”

It’s not that more details are needed. I don’t think that would help. Details are subject to endless quibbling over and too easy to ignore in any case, too hard to remember. Details don’t capture the heart and fire the imagination.

What we've got is language that's general and abstract. Yet adding specific details isn't the way to go. So what would help?

Here's what I think would help. Each member asks herself/himself this question:
"How would I like to be changed?"
A congregation can get some clarity on what it's here for if it can identify how the members would like to be changed. What kind of people would they like to become? Our seven principles don't answer that. They don't say how the people living by that covenant will be, or would hope to be, transformed by adhering to the principles.

The central question for each of us is this: On what path would I like to see myself? In what direction is that path headed?

Naming the change we seek -- not adding more specific detail to our abstract and general principles -- is how Unitarian Universalists can get clearer on what they're about.

* * *
This is part 3 of 5 of "Mission: Possible"
Next: Part 4: "Becoming Partly Intentional"
Previous: Part 2: "Atone = At One"
Beginning: Part 1: "The Vision Thing"

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