Home stretch…

Fort Worth

We’re coming down to the home stretch at General Assembly here in Fort Worth. In some ways, things are slowing down — quite a few people have already left, people who could only take a long weekend and have to be back at work. In some ways, it feels as though the pace is picking up, as those of us who are left try to cram too many events into too short a time.

I’m sitting in the Raddisson Hotel, cramming some lunch into myself before heading off to the final session of Plenary, which I’ll be reporting on. So I’m quickly updating this blog before I have to run off. (I asked for a table near a plug, and they found one for me — but when I plugged in my laptop, I discovered the plug has no power — typical, I’m afraid, of this hotel, where the staff is pleasant and accomdating but the building is falling apart.)

I wasn’t going to go to Elaine Pagel’s lecture last night — went up to the Web room to write up some stories, and while I was writing, I turned on the live video streaming of the lecture — she was so good, I hustled right over to hear her live. A woman came in a little later to stand and listen — she obviously knew her Bible, because I could see her mouthing the words of Bible quotes as Pagels cited passages in the Gospel of John — and this woman, too, was captivated, found a seat, and sat down. I watched teenagers who were lost in rapt attention — and someone whom I know is pretty much of a humanist, also rapt in attention.

OK, so Pagels is a great speaker. But there was something more going on here.

After the lecture, I ran across Chris Walton, who’s on the staff of UU World magazine. Chris was sitting in the Raddisson lobby, typing away on his cute little 12″ Mac Powerbook, and he had just come back from Pagels’s lecture. “We are seeing a real change in Unitarian Universalists,” he said.

I wasn’t sure I agreed with him, but he went on.

“Ten years ago, I could not imagine over 2,000 Unitarian Universalists sitting and listening to a lecture about Jesus the way people did tonight,” he said. “No one got up and walked out in a huff.”

He’s right. there does seem to be a new openness to all things religious amongst Unitarian Universalists — a distinct movement away from the hardline ideologies that many Unitarian Universalists used to adhere to — there’s a new sense of intellectual openness, a new willingness to listen.

And Chirs and I agreed that this openness does have a generational aspect. The generation of younger Unitarian Universalists now coming up is far more open to exploring the Christian tradition, and not immediately rejecting it out of hand.


3 thoughts on “Home stretch…

  1. Administrator

    Comments transferred from old blog

    I want to agree with your observations, thought I did see one or two people leave Pagels and saw no one younger than me at the UUCF service.

    The thing that most amazed me about the crowd at the Ware Lecture was just how in touch with the lectuer they were. I just finished an NT class, and had Markan priority and the synoptics fresh in my head. Not only were people willing to sit through a very blblically oriented presenation, but they were engaged with the material on a very high level. It made me wonder if UUs were not as ignorant about religion as people think sometimes.

    Comment from jfieldnerd – 6/28/05 12:48 PM

    jefieldnerd — I didn’t go to the UU Christian Fellowship worship service, but heard it was a little… slow. Unfortunately, the UUCF has this tendency to slip back into early 20th C. approaches to the liberal Christian tradition, with some members still battling over the Transcendentalist split of the early 19th C. In spite of the fact that they have a group of younger, hip, fun members, I’ve let my membership lapse because on the whole they feel lost in the past to me. –And to be fair, I feel the same way about the UU Humanist group, who seem lost in the 1970’s (even to the point of using gender-exclusive language at times).

    Maybe what’s going on is that Unitarian Universalists are moving beyond the narrow little theological/ideological labels of the latter half of the 20th C. — and moving towards a more open search for truth and goodness. I’d like to think that’s why so many people stayed in Pagels’s lecture.

    Comment from danlharp – 6/28/05 2:20 PM

  2. Administrator

    Comment transferred from old blog

    We are experiencing the kind of change Chris and you have mentioned within UU, and in the wider Christian world, and it is being reflected in the changes within the UUCF as well (not nearly in my experience stuck in old arguments, or in argumentation itself, the way it was at times back in the 80s and before; witness what has been happening at our annual Revivals. We have a long way still to go and it is a high priority for me and others in the UUCF leadership to keep our mission alive to those born in the last quarter of the 20th century. Looking forward to Revival 2005 back in Fort Worth and hope we can get some blogging out from it, featuring Peter Gomes and Thomas Anastasi as keynoters, with Thomas leading the prayer and healing service, and Suzanne Meyer leading communion service. East coast, west coast, and middle covered in those three, which is important still because for so long the UUCF was representative of a historic New England perspective, and we have moved the offices to Oklahoma from where they had been in Mass. for 60 years, moving from the First Church of Christ–Unitarian, of Lancaster, founded in 1653, to the emerging Epiphany Church in the Tulsa area, http://www.epiphanyspirit.org) and so much more. I thought it was great that the UUCF took to the streets with an emerging church style servant project, giving out free water to people walking between GA and the hotels and hope we can walk our talk more and more at future events. All in all, though, we are moving into a deep listening mode now as part of our transformative work, so keep the comments coming. And our UUCF-bible list is a great place to keep the Pagels follow-up going.

    blessings, Rev. Ron Robinson
    Executive Director, UUCF, http://www.uuchristian.org

    Comment from revronrobinson – 7/11/05 10:20 AM

  3. Administrator

    Comment transferred from old blog

    There are thousands of Christian churches in this country. I don’t understand why it is so important to some people for Unitarians to feel that they have to blend in and become Christians when they already have the most open, spiritual, independent faith which teaches the morals and principles of all of the major religions without adhering to or advocating any one religion as the “ultimate truth.” If I wanted to deny the concept of Unitarian oneness and Unitarian’s unique acceptance of diversity, and discredit the Unitarian belief in the dignity of all people, I cannot think of a better way than to adher to one religion, or one fixed dogma such as Christianity to do so. We have a good thing, why would we want to become Christians??

    If you want to hear about Jesus to the exclusion of other faiths and belief systems, why be a Unitarian ?? There are thousands of Christian churches that would love to have you. If you just want to learn about Jesus, there are tons of books, films, and speakers on that subject, and fewer and fewer articles being written about the principles which Unitarianism stands for, caring, sharing, love, diversity, tolerance, acceptance, and individual dignity.

    Comment from wiggic – 7/14/05 7:00 PM

    wiggic writes: “the most open, spiritual, independent faith which teaches the morals and principles of all of the major religions without adhering to or advocating any one religion as the “ultimate truth.”

    For me, this a problematic summary of Unitarian Universalism — Link to a later post on Unitarian Universalism and its alleged ability to draw on all major world religions.

    Administrator, 12 February 2006

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