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.