Top Story: The Religion News Service is featuring a story (alternate link) on the 50th anniversary of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), and whether the shrinking (162,800 members, down 1,400 from last year) creedless denomination can endure for another fifty years.
“For 50 years the UUA has conducted a virtually unprecedented experiment: advancing a religion without doctrine, hoping that welcoming communities and shared political causes, not creeds, will draw people to their pews. Leaders say its no-religious-questions-asked style positions the UUA to capitalize on liberalizing trends in American religion. But as the UUA turns 50 this year, some members argue that a “midlife” identity crisis is hampering outreach and hindering growth. In trying to be all things to everyone, they say, the association risks becoming nothing to anybody.”
“A recent Sunday service at the First Unitarian Church of Baltimore ended with an apology. Laurel Mendes explained that religious doctrine had been duly scrubbed from the hymns in the congregation’s Sunday program. But Mendes, a neo-pagan lay member who led the service, feared that a reference to God in “Once to Every Soul and Nation” might upset the humanists in the pews.”
While I’m pleased to see UU Pagans get noticed, I’m less happy with the fact that Burke seems to use this moment to underscore how far the UUA has drifted from its Christian roots. As for the future of the UUA, Burke cites an internal document from 2005 that says the denomination needs to create boundaries, to overcome its “reluctance to proclaim religious tenets.” Current UUA president Rev. Peter Morales sees “amazing opportunity” in the growing number of “nones,” people who don’t claim adherence to any particular faith, the “spiritual but not religious” demographic, but can outreach of this sort compensate for reports that the UUA is losing 85% of its children?
For many years the UUA has served as a haven and home for Pagans, especially in towns and cities that lack an established Pagan community. Many Pagans have fond feelings towards the UUA despite some institutional bumps in the road recently, with some prominent Pagans, like Margot Adler and Isaac Bonewits, having played significant roles within the Unitarian-Universalist sphere. But if those predicting the disappearance of the UUA are correct, if the next 50 years will see their slow fade-out from American life, then modern Pagans invested in the benefits of this denominational body will have to tackle the question of what the UUA provides us, whether we can replicate it independently of the UUA if need be, and what role groups like CUUPs and independent UU Pagans will play in the near future.
In Other News:
- Over at No Unsacred Place Cat Chapin-Bishop tackles the “smugness problem in the world of sustainable living.”
- PNC-Minnesota interviews author Crystal Blanton, as featured guest at this years Sacred Harvest Festival.
- A new website, Fighting For Pagan Civil Rights, has launched. Its primary goal at this time is to draw attention to Patrick McCollum’s ongoing legal battles over the rights of Pagan prisoners.
- An Australian spotlight on the practice of exorcism drags out the typical “widespread preoccupation with Satanism and various occult practices”, as a reason for possession.
- How do you spot a fraud guru? Some say it’s elementary!
- Making Texas Governor Rick Perry’s upcoming prayer event interfaith would be “would be idolatry of the worst sort.”
That’s all I have for now, have a great day!