UU blogs help guide, inspire, and educate

In addition to the InterConnections Tipsheet, UUA staff groups have a number of other blogs with useful information for lay leaders. The newest one is Call and Response, created by religious education professionals in the Ministry and Faith Development staff group. The blog promotes reflection and dialogue on UU faith development among educators, ministers, lay leaders, parents, and others.

The first article on Call and Response is about how to explain the Boston Marathon bombings to children. Susan Lawrence, managing editor in the Ministries and Faith Development staff group, explains the purpose of the blog: “We’ll offer useful stories of faith transformations, felt and witnessed. We’ll share concrete suggestions and best practices. With your help, we’ll cull from the collective wisdom and expertise of the UU religious education world we serve. Here we’ll exchange ideas, energy, and practical help to invite others–and yourself–to grow in spirit.”

Here are some other UUA blogs:

Beacon Broadside – Profiles of Beacon Press books and authors. Currently profiled are books about America’s first Muslim college, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the Holocaust, and educational testing.

Blue Boat – The best source of information for all things related to youth and young adults.

Standing on the Side of Love – Features inspirational stories of social justice work in our congregations, as well as calls to action.

There are also blogs on Growing Unitarian Universalism; Growing Vital Leaders; Unitarian Universalist Living Mosaic, for youth and young adults of color; Faith Without Borders, for the UUA’s international programs; Learn Out Loud, religious education; and the UUA Board of Trustees.

UU World has four blogs: the Interdependent Web, a weekly roundup of posts on a variety of topics by Unitarian Universalist bloggers; UUs in the Media, which features news items that mention Unitarian Universalism; UU Parenting, and General Assembly Coverage from UU World, a blog that is only active during General Assembly.

iMinister on growth, multiculturalism

The Rev. Christine Robinson, senior minister of First Unitarian Church of Albuquerque, N.Mex., has written a number of posts on her blog, “iMinister,” about growth, multiculturalism, and social media. Among her observations:

Growth – “When people who are ‘spiritual but not religious’ go looking for a religion, they go looking for spirituality; for heart, depth, warmth, spiritual practices, lessons in prayer, clues to a relationship to god. These things are not easy to get in UU churches. If we focused on them more, trained our ministers to provide them, helped lay people to tolerate, if not enjoy them…THEN we might attract some of this group of folks to our churches. But not before.” (April 26)

Theology – “Theologically liberal congregations tend to be even MORE institutionally conservative than theologically conservative ones.” Robinson notes that conservative ministers can find a basis in the Bible for, as an example, starting a contemporary music service to attract young adults. “That minister might meet some resistance, but he will have the congregation’s core beliefs (taking the Gospel to all nations) on his side. A UU minister…doesn’t have the same advantage.” (April 25)

• Multiculturalism – “If we achieve our goal of multiculturalism, it will be because we have attracted young people to our church and welcomed them—their music, their visual learning style, their multiculturalism, and most of all, their desire to explicitly address their spiritual lives.” (April 20)

Social Media – Robinson says she does not believe that the digital world will bring an end to brick and mortar churches. “What will have changed is how we attract people to church; that will be almost 100 percent digital (It is nearly that already.), and the fact that we will have the option to have online groups, trainings, and meetings, and that the resources we provide for spiritual development of our members (which will be the only reason people join churches in the future), will be available on our website as well as in sermons and classes.  A church doing its web ministry well will reach many more people, dispersed all over the globe, than any one church ever could before.” (April 19)

(Reader comments to these blog posts can be read on Robinson’s Facebook page.)

Using contemporary music in worship

One of the best places to keep up with trends in contemporary music as it is used in Unitarian Universalist worship is the blog “Liberal Religion Gets Loud” by Vance Bass, contemporary music/worship director at First Unitarian Church in Albuquerque, N.Mex.

In March, Bass posted a list of more than 200 songs that a band has either played during worship at First Unitarian or that were on CDs played as a prelude to worship. The list ranges from Raffi to Stevie Wonder.

Also on the blog is a sermon (March 13, 2011) by Bass about contemporary music and a post that notes that not all music is appropriate on Sunday morning, even if well played. There is also a video description of contemporary music at Albuquerque.

Supporting congregational decisions

The following is a posting the Rev. Daniel Harper made to his blog, “Yet Another Unitarian Universalist,” recently, about how congregations make decisions.

We were in a meeting talking about how our congregation makes decisions. An engineer told us what happened after they made decisions in her for-profit workplace. She said, “We used to have a saying: Agree and commit; Disagree and commit; or, Get out of the way.”

In congregational life, as in the for-profit world, there’s usually a fourth option: Disagree and sabotage. A decision is made by a duly constituted authority, or through an established democratic process, and a small group of people who disagree with the decision start to sabotage it. And why wouldn’t we behave in this way? That’s the way democracy in America works: once a decision is made, many politicians (both Democrats and Republicans) go out of their way to sabotage the implementation of the decision. Ordinary citizens like us unconsciously follow their example.

But I think our congregations should be countercultural; we should not do democracy the way many U.S. politicians do democracy. We shouldn’t blindly adopt the standard from the engineering world, but it might be a good starting place:

Agree and commit; 
Disagree and commit; or 
Get out of the way.

How much to ask of young adults

Unsure about how much to ask of young adults in your congregation? Andrew Coate, a young adult in Maine, offers one perspective at his blog “thoughts ON.” Here’s a sampling from a blog entry titled “Dear Church”:

If I offer to hold an adult RE class . . . don’t market it as “for young adults.” My voice deserves to be heard . . . by the entire congregation. . . when you ask my ideas on getting more younger people in the congregation and then I give those ideas, the next step is for you to respond to those ideas in a productive way, even if that productive way happens to be, “right now our church probably can’t swing this, but what if we did X instead?”

Moving into the community with ministry

The blog Ministrare, written by UU minister the Rev. Sean Dennison, has a message about making our congregations and our ministries more visible by moving out into the communities we live in.

Quoting from the Episcopalian website MinistryBestPractices.com, and adding his own thoughts, he notes: “So much of good ministry is being visible in the community. And that doesn’t mean having well-lit signage. It means not just name recognition––not just being known––but being known for the right things.”

He continues: “Can people in our cities, towns, and neighborhoods tell what we believe by our actions? I’m proud that many Unitarian Universalists went to Arizona to protest SB 1070 because they believed it to be racist, unjust, and cruel.  But I want to know what the people next door to our churches know about us.”

The website he drew from makes reference to a church in Georgia that sold its buildings and is using the proceeds to work out in the community, using the slogan, “The Church has left the building.”

Last-minute GA information

Last-minute information about General Assembly 2010, to be held June 23–27 in Minneapolis, can be found here. It includes information about the GA schedule, business agenda, the convention center, nearby restaurants, public transportation options, and travel from the airport.

Follow GA on Twitter and Facebook. UU World’s GA Blog will follow developments in GA business, social justice, and other issues daily.

For information on how your congregation can watch GA events live at home, read this InterConnections article.

Stewardship blog includes fundraising resources

As we enter the season for many congregational stewardship drives, check out the blog of the UUA’s Congregational Stewardship Services staff group. Recent blog entries include Growing Effective Lay Leaders, Accepting Loans from Congregants, Opening Our Hearts to Stewardship, and Environmentally and Socially Responsible Electronics Recycling.

About Growing Effective Lay Leaders, Dr. Wayne Clark, the UUA’s director of Congregational Stewardship Services, writes:

The chances of successfully implementing a stewardship development program are improved when there is one committed lay leader with a big picture understanding of stewardship development. The successful lay leader has an understanding that raising money for the annual operating budget is but one of at least five stewardship components; stewardship education, joyful giving, ministry and good works, the annual budget drive, and planned giving.

Clark describes his work with lay leaders in the UUA’s Southwestern Conference who have become “Champions of Change” in their congregations.

Keeping up with UUA blogs

UUA staff groups have recently created a number of blogs to help UUs keep up with what’s new with the various groups. Here’s a rundown.

Congregational Stewardship Services: Items on fundraising, how to start a book table at church, coping with difficult economic times, and presenting a budget to a congregation.

General Assembly: News items about the upcoming General Assembly 2010 in Minneapolis, including speakers, recycling at GA, and how the GA Planning Committee works.

UU Living Mosaic: This blog supports ministry to youth and young adults of color

New Media for Unitarian Universalists: Describes social media tools, including Facebook, Twitter, blogs, podcasting, and how they can be used by Unitarian Universalists. Articles include: “Technology use, social isolation, and the implications for congregations,” and “9 ways to promote your UU congregation’s Twitter feed.”

Beacon Broadside: Blog posts largely by authors of Beacon Press books, commenting on social issues. Other posts about Beacon books.

Inspired Faith, Effective Action: Blog of the Washington Office for Advocacy about various social issues and the work of the office.

Standing on the Side of Love: Posts about the UUA’s Standing on the Side of Love social justice campaign.

Unitarian Universalists in the Media: A weekly blog about UUs and UU congregations that are featured in news articles across the world, collected by uuworld.org.

The Interdependent Web: A weekly roundup of blogs and other web content about Unitarian Universalism, collected by uuworld.org.