Since the merger of Unitarians and Universalists in 1961 we have struggled with articulating a common set of beliefs much less a theology that would help to ground us in a deeper meaning towards the good work we so often feel called to do. In large part, this is due to our denominational culture of sanctifying individual beliefs above all others. Indeed, such courses as “Building Your Own Theology” are based on the post enlightenment premise that each of us can build our own theology independent of the congregation and the larger movement of which we are a part. I believe such an emphasis on individual belief is outdated and shortsighted. While there is an attraction to discovering what each of us holds to be most important, it is often as a reaction to what we had been told was true by the religious authorities of our past. This tendency, now enshrined in our adult curriculum and membership materials, allows for easy entry into our congregations but does no more to challenge us to grow spiritually than signing the membership book.
I contended in my doctoral thesis that theological identity starts with the individual and grows richer as that individual shares and encounters other theological perspectives in the life of a group or community. All theology is in process. We are all the poorer in our faith if we rely only on our limited position in discerning meaning from and about the world in which we live. When we are walled up in our own individual beliefs we miss the creative interchange necessary to challenge those beliefs and grow from the process. Theology should speak to that which we hold most cherished together. Theology is the system by which we discover, raise up and act upon those shared ultimate values. Theology is the systematic consideration of values for at least the individual and more usefully for a group of people.
Given this, it is my contention that while “Building Your Own Theology” is a good start, it doesn’t go far enough. We need to “Build Our Own Theology” and then we need to “Create Theology Together”.
This in fact is what I will do. Starting Sunday October 7th after the second service for six weeks I will be leading the classic course Building Your Own Theology but with a twist; I don’t intend this to be the end product of our course but the beginning. We will each build a theology and then, if you are willing, I will invite you to participate in a new course, being developed for publication by Meadville Lombard Theological School, taken from my doctoral thesis “Creating Theology Together” (publication anticipated Spring 2019). I invite you on this two part journey with me. Join us for BYOT as it is fondly known and then take what you have learned and lets Create Theology Together.
Registration is limited to sixteen adults. Please email me should you like to be a part of this journey.
Yours Always, Rev. John