So what's a creedal test?

Unitarian Universalists have an outsided fear of creeds. Outsized because the expressed fear, for example, doesn’t match the reality of how throughly the “Principles and Purposes” of the Association have become the theological touchstone of the movement, and how theological eclectism, reinforced by middle-class tastes, has become the defacto majority theological view.

I know I’m a theological minority in Unitarian Universalist circles. I’m a Christian, a Universalist and a trinitarian to boot. But this is my home. I am as much an heir to this tradition as those who find themselves more comfortably placed in its mainline. And I think, plainly, that my end of the tradition — far from being dead or antiquarian — has more to offer the next generation than the last, and that its constellation of ethos, charisma (spiritual gifts), customs and theology can be healing, appealing and faithful to Christ and his gospel. (I have similar thoughts about Unitarian ‘biblical humanism’ or ‘lyrical theism’ but am not in a position to work on it. Perhaps someone else can.)

I’ll keep this short because I’ve written about this here, here, here and here; indeed, this concern goes back to the dawn of this blog.

My concern, in plain words, is that Second Universalist would not be allowed to join the UUA. The traditional Universalist way would be to have a member assent to the Winchester Profession, pledge to the financial welfare of the congregation and be bound by a compact or covenant (synonymous here). Member assent is to the Winchester Profession in general, and a congregation could come up with an alternative that, in a sense, embeds the meaning of the Winchester Profession. Some did, say the Rhode Island Catechism and the 1903 Creed, perhaps to make them more liturgically useful. (Indeed, the later “Five Principles” and Washington Avowal should be read this way.)

When I read church bylaws that require “sympathy” to the UUA Principles and Purposes, I see a parallel development which justifies rather than supersedes my reading of Universalist polity. And if a new church cannot do this (that is, gather in the traditional Universalist way) then what does it say about current Unitarian Universalist claims to continuity with its Universalist past? What does it say to the remaining Universalist Christian churches? That you’re good enough to stay, but not good enough to have heirs?

And, perhaps more importantly, would the powers-that-be agree with this read, or use it to keep Second Universalist out?

CiviCRM a try

I’ll be a bit quiet for a few days — busy time at Day Job, Thanksgiving, plus much of what I’m doing is behind the scenes. Planning and preparation. (Be sure to follow me at Twitter at 2udc; anything short and timely will come out there.)

I want to start off right, so I think I should keep good records and use constituent relation manager (CRM) software from the start. (If you use Salesforce at work, you know what I mean, but I don’t have that kind of money or established infrastructure.)

The days of “fill out this card” — I hope — are over. I’m trying out CiviCRM, on Drupal content management — not Joomla; it doesn’t have the user controls I need — at seconduniversalist.org. Absolutely no content or styling yet, nor am I ready to accept well-wishers’ or inquirers’ info, but I offer it at the early stage as a possibly appropriate first step for other church starts. (I’ll also be reviewing what other religious organizations do with CiviCRM and Drupal.)

He’re the guide I’d use to train people on CiviCRM, if you want to learn more. If you can install your own WordPress, you can do this. And pointers to people who are already doing this appreciated.

Second Universalist Church weekend!

My long-suffering husband has agreed to entertain himself this weekend while I work on the new church start. Getting the social media pieces set up, a provisional site and quite a bit of research and wordsmithing. Also researching Joomla, since it has CiviCRM integration and that might be very useful.

And thanks to UUWorld for noting the efforts so far.

Call it Second Universalist Church

When having a child, there are far more important decisions than its name — say, pre-natal care — but naming comes so naturally for human beings that I hope you’ll indulge me when it comes to naming this new church. At least I can get it out of my system for a moment.

Call it Second Universalist Church in the City of Washington. Or Second Universalist, for all practical purposes. Here’s why.

  1. Numbered churches are a Universalist custom. Not always, of course, but the custom is to number churches in the order of their formation. Universalist National Memorial Church is obviously the first in the tradition in this city. There were no others formed here. That makes this the Second.
  2. The name resists hypocrisy, or charges therof. Consider all the churches with an attribute in the name, like Friendship or Grace. That’s a headache to live into.
  3. That said, abbreviated, it makes a cute nickname. I’m thinking here of the Unitarian churches of Chicago — First U, Second U and Third U particularly — and Fourth U (Universalist) in Manhattan. That would make this church 2U, pronounced to you.
  4. For those old enough to remember the Avis TV ad campaign, there’s a certain “we try harder” quality to the second one in line.

And the web domains were available.

Considering the new maxim that the cheapest real estate to stake out is on the Internet, I was sure to snag 2udc.org and seconduniversalist.org — along with my long-held dcchurchproject.org — for future use. None are currently active.

And 2udc on Twitter.  It is active and I welcome you to follow it.

About the District (for non-Unitarian Universalists)

For all the grief I give the UUA leadership — and sometimes I worry deeply about strategies and priorities from Boston, but that’s for another time — I’m increasingly fond of the Joseph Priestley District (JPD).

The JPD is the regional grouping (middle judicatory in church-speak) that I live in. Encompassing roughly the greater Philadelphia-Washington corridor or the Chesapeake Bay watershed, it is often the largest (in adult membership) of the nineteen districts in the Unitarian Universalist Association, and since the devolution (or abdication) of church growth services to the districts, this is the place where I’ll have the most denominational interaction.

So why the warm feelings?

  1. The well-wishes here and here on my last blog post where I announced the church start. These things matter
  2. A policy for applicant churches that suggests someone has thought this through.

This policy (below the fold in HTML; the JPD site has an old version for download!) requires new starts to develop intentionally, give its Fair Share to the UUA and District and — here’s the pain in the ass; nothing’s perfect — have six members of the organizing committee attend a Health Congregations workshop. That’s over five days, stretched over a year and held middle-of-nowhere-adjacent. My experience with UUA workshops hasn’t been fond. But we live in hope.

Continue reading “About the District (for non-Unitarian Universalists)”

A new church

I’ve started planning a new church for Washington, D.C. To be specific, a Universalist Christian church. As I put it in a letter to denominational and local stakeholders:

My vision (much less the plans) for this new church is still developing, but I see it as a traditional-postmodern church start, as found in other denominations; including, in time, hundreds of new members; having a cooperative and inspiring spirit, while being undefensively Christian; and engaging in an optimistic, adventuresome and savvy outreach model. I do not want to let this project carry on so long that it dies on the vine. My goal is to have a functioning, gathered church fit for an application to the Unitarian Universalist Association in 2012.

Universalist National Memorial Church, my former pastorate, is a Universalist Christian church in Washington, D.C. but Washington could certainly use two (or more). The research I’ve seen suggest one would help the other, and besides, it’s not too much of a stretch to think a new church within a tradition can be planted in city every 150 years.

My goal, for the rest of 2010 is to come up with both that vision and that plan. Some conditions — for lack of a better word — are already in place.

  • First, as the organizing minister, I feel a responsibility to take a theological and structural lead. The conventional wisdom, where the people gather and then a vision takes place, seems both to get the order reversed and has had a poor record of recent success. (In this way particularly, I think Doug Muder is on to something. See his article in the current UU World.)
  • Second, the church will be necessarily more modest materially than others. Staffing, housing and mission will have to be accomplished in unconventional ways, and this new church should share what works with the larger fellowship.
  • Third, it should be born with a concept of life-long discipleship and preparation for ministry, express the best of Universalist catholicity (now in deep eclipse in an age of Unitarian Universalist particularism), and plan for new churches.

What I need from you is your spiritual support. In time, I shall surely ask you to ask your Washington-based friends and family to consider participating. Others I’ll ask for advice and some for material support. But for now, please spare a prayer for the success of this project.

I’ll be blogging as this vision and plan develop.