Monday, October 16, 2006

Cancelling Sunday Morning Worship At GA: Not A "Cultural Shift" -- A Mistake

Here's the latest on the shoving of Sunday morning worship to the position of closing ceremony at General Assembly, from the UU World online magazine,

This part disturbs me greatly,

"McGregor, of the Planning Committee, posted responses on the blogs and answered questions about the changes on the UUA-GA email list. She said that the changes 'are part of an ongoing multi-year effort to gently evolve the GA and shift its focus 'toward 'a meeting of congregations, where congregational representatives interact and learn, and delegates discuss and act on denominational issues and directions.'
'We're in the midst of a subtle but intentional cultural shift, with attendant discomforts,' she said.
'It's an experiment,' she added. 'We're going to try it and see how it works, but we're excited about the possibilities.'

This isn't personal, but I find McGregor's words an incredible insult to my intelligence and to the integrity of our member congregations and delegates.

We're an association of congregations: a religious organization. Our "business" is to share religious life, and the way we "interact" (could that language be more coldly corporate?) IS to worship. Our work as an association IS a form of worship; it is an incarnational expression of our highest values and our communal vocation as champions of the inherent worth and dignity of all people, among other things dear to us. When we worship together, we make explicit what is implicit in our gathering; that it is not "business" that ultimately brings us together, but reverence and a sense of calling.

To de-emphasize worship in our largest annual gathering isn't a "cultural shift," but a blatant attempt by one group to re-direct our priorities. I think that's dangerous, and I encourage you to watch this development carefully.

As for me, I am not feeling "attendant discomfort" about change. I am feeling deeply suspicious and angry that, just as many in our movement are finally beginning to understand that if we are to be taken seriously as a force for personal and societal transformation in the world-- and if we are to be respected and heard at the table of interreligious dialogue-- we must not shy from religious language, we must be willing to make professions of faith where we once offered only intellectual arguments against what we do not believe, and we must engage in religious life together not only for the good of our public reputation but for the good of our souls and for the sake of our work.

Again, this isn't personal. I respect the hard work of the Planning Committee but I think their orientation around this decision is deeply skewed and troubling in ways that they probably didn't realize when they began the discussions around this change. It's another case of not being able to see the forest for the trees.

We are not a secular organization. Any business we have that isn't grounded in spiritual solidarity is no business for us to be about. We do not build spiritual solidarity and cultivate reverence by spending Sunday morning in meetings.

This is not a "cultural shift," it's a mistake. A bad one.

Truly, my sympathies are with Ms. McGregor and her team for the conflict they've engendered. If they need the support of ministers and lay people in working through this and amending the error, my hand is up to volunteer.


Blogger fausto said...

Preach it, Reverend!

Blogger Obijuan said...

As a Unitarian Universalist evangelist in training, I'm disturbed by the message this sends the wider community. Visitors aren't likely to come to a "closing" worship. It sounds like the movement is "closed for business" - in more ways than one. And, yes, absolutely, a church that doesn't worship together on Sunday morning is not likely to be taken seriously on the national stage. Way to undermine our long-term agenda, guys!

That being said, the devil on my other shoulder is wondering if there's ever been a count of how many visitors we've brought into previous Sunday worships at GA.

Blogger Siobhan said...

I am in total agreement with you on this. This decision is misguided, to say the least. While it is true that the Sunday morning worship is open to visitors, that is really not the point of this worship service. Yes, there are other opportunities to worship at GA, but the Sunday morning service has always been a highlight- a coming together to lift up the work we've done, give thanks, and be energized to carry our 'good news' into the world. Worship is what this UU does on Sunday morning. Because I would rather not take an additional vacation day to attend GA, I would not be likely to stay until the afternoon on Sunday. I sincerely hope the planning committee reconsiders this.

Blogger The Emerson Avenger said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Blogger ms. kitty said...

I can't help but wonder if there are local politics going on in this decision. I don't want to think so, but I've heard some things that make me wonder.

Blogger SC Universalist said...

if you're taking a poll, I would certainly vote your way!
but... being an UU, the only question I have is, how do we take action? ;-)

Blogger PeaceBang said...

ms. kitty, if you get confirmation on any of that, it would certainly be illuminating. If the Planning Committee is getting pulled on by some local force to move Sunday morning worship, they should not try to grapple with it on their own. The member congregations -- who should have been more intimately involved in this decision from the beginning, and in a more specific way than they have been -- should know about it and help them respond wisely and well.

Blogger ms. kitty said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Blogger Stephen said...

This is interesting, because at British GA last year, there was a decisive shift towards MORE worship, which was (I think) universally agreed to be a good idea.

Previously we had had a welcoming of the local Mayor and a first business meeting to start with, but this year we had an opening worship. For my money that worship was one of the highlights of the GA.

Blogger Bill Baar said...

I agree with you.

I am surprised though. I would have thought the trend to more formal kind of worship.

Blogger ogre said...

I am so with you.

I was fried crispy this year on Sunday morning. Burned out. Toast on the edge of bursting into flame.

I wisely opted to just curl up and recover.

But I regret not having gone.

Portland? I'm planning to go. My wife wants to go. And... I expect we'll skip the service and leave. And I won't regret it.


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