When I was growing up in the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Croton, NY, I spent many restless hours in our “Sunday School” as we called it back then. I can remember learning about bible stories, famous Unitarian Universalists, and the holidays of other world religions. I never really learned what it meant to be a UU. This was a great failing for us a religious movement; we were great at teaching about religion but we were less successful in teaching about our religion. We failed to teach our young people what we believed as UUs and it has cost us. The vast majority of our children leave our faith and don’t return, except perhaps if they have children of their own.
Our congregation is somewhat the exception to this shortcoming. We have several multi-generational families in our congregation, and many of our younger adults do come back if only to sing in our Christmas choir if they are home for the holidays. This is not to say we don’t have young people. We are becoming more and more of a multi-generational community all the time. And thanks to the work of our former Assistant Minister for Faith Formation, Rev. Shelly Thompson, we have a new philosophy to guide us as we seek to learn what it means to be a UU from childhood through adulthood. We have much more work to do in this regard.
It matters what we believe as much as it matters what we do. Both being and doing are necessary to living an integrated life of meaning. That system of meaning of what we say and do is known as theology. Theology is, technically, the study of God, but in our context, it means the study of what matters most. A responsible theology helps us to have strong values which inform our actions in the world, among those we love and know and, most of all, towards ourselves. To truly have a strong theology we must come to grips with what matters most to us and then live our lives towards those ends. It is who we are most truly that matters; it is who we are when no one else is looking.
Only from a solid foundation of positive values are we able to affect lasting change in the world. It doesn’t mean we aren’t flawed; in fact, it is our flaws that give us our greatest understanding of what the world needs. But a responsible theology is a theology that comes to grips with who we are, broken and brilliant, and marries that reality to who we want to become.
Our congregation is a great place to grow into a more responsible theology. By attending worship, participating in breakout groups, helping with the many tasks and causes we are involved in, you can live out your evolving theology. I want to point out two great upcoming opportunities by which you can be more theologically responsible. The first is our Soul Matters Sharing Circles which help members deepen their spiritual understanding of themselves and this beloved community we share. Several times a year we run a four-session course called “Starting Point” which introduces you to this deeper and more intimate spiritual work, as well as what it means to be a UU. Our next series runs Saturdays 12:00-1:30 PM on ZOOM. If you are interested please contact me. This is a great course for those who are relatively new to our congregation.
Secondly, I will be offering the very popular course Building Your Own Theology (BYOT) in April over four sessions. Some of you have taken this before. It is a great way to start working more intentionally on your theology. However, I consider BYOT to be one of two courses that are required to be theologically responsible. In September I will be following BYOT with Creating Theology Together (CCT), a course developed by the UUA based on my doctoral thesis. In this year-long course, we will use the foundations of BYOT and work collectively on a more inclusive shared theology. More on both of these later. However, if you are interested in either one please email as well.