Many Unitarian Universalists are yearning for a life of more meaning and impact. They want to advance our values and make a difference. They want to live more deeply in our faith with others who are trying to understand and advance the religious legacy that we are carrying forward. The words we church folks use for this now are “discipleship” and “neo-monasticism.” When we talk about “elderhood” in our modern movement these are the callings and gifts that we mean to honor and support. — Rev. Susan M. Smith

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Several members of the Red Pill Brethren have been considering this post about wearing a clerical collar out in public. They had a respectful and loving conversation about it, and agreed it could be shared. Some are in positions where they didn’t feel comfortable identifying themselves publicly, so all names have been removed:

Person 1: I have been thinking about this post quite a bit over the past couple of days and wondering how I felt about it. I certainly have worn a collar on occasion. Mostly when I’m about to get arrested…and I realized that I was wearing it for the ‘photo op’ or the visual impact and I began to really question my authenticity in wearing it. 

While I’d like to say that my next comments are about my relationship with the collar, I know that some of my relationship with it comes from the religious environment - Unitarian Universalism - that I recognize as my community. 

I’m reticent to say that I will never wear the collar again because if there is one thing I have learned about my life is that I have had to take back the word ‘never’ on several occasions. But, for today, I am not interested in it. That said, I would like to participate in the world as a recognized religious professional. I have toyed with the ideas of different ‘uniforms’ that would establish me as clergy. I believe very much in the idea of the body as a sacred instrument for praise and witness. 

But the collar is for Christians and I am not Christian. And while I think Unitarian Universalism has space for people who follow the life of Jesus as their primary spiritual story, I don’t know if wearing Christian religious clothing is all that appropriate. On a couple of levels. One, I think it identifies one as Christian, which is something we have heritage with but denominationally we don’t actually claim as an identity. Wearing Buddhist robes, while not equally as close since we don’t have heritage with Buddhism, would also seem strange to me.

But secondly and most importantly, I don’t wonder if the use of the collar is a somewhat desperate attempt by UUs to appear legitimate. I have heard this out of the mouths of some of our colleagues. There exists, even within the clergy, a sense of inadequacy and inferiority, that we are not a real religion or we don’t have a real relationship with the Divine, with God. The appropriation of Christian clerical clothing, to me, feels like the desire to appear “real,” but this actually, in my opinion, has the opposite effect. We perpetuate the idea that there is a real religious movement…that we left.

I do understand the desire for clothing that recognizes the calling we follow. I want that too. And I want it to authentically represent who I am. 

I don’t mean to offend anyone drawn to wearing the collar. I actually don’t have any problem with colleague’s decision to wear it. I just wanted to share why I don’t and why I don’t think we should wear it.

Person 2: I think Person 1’s comments are good ones to explore, especially for non-Christian UUs, and it is important for us overall not to make missional and Christian synonymous within the UU circles we might inhabit.

Part of the dialogue for the non-Christian missional UUs might though include how the missional aspects of wearing the collar trump symbolically the identity aspects, as part of the missional stance is to call identity into question by raising the missional core of connecting with others in need as ultimate over identity.

As a Christian who finds the best home denominationally as a UU I don’t have the same struggles others might have about wearing a collar, though as a Christian I don’t have problems with non -hristians wearing one either, so take all this with that caveat .

Person 3: I read Person 1’s post and thought to myself: “Hmmm. He has a good point. I don’t identify as Christian, or even theist. Maybe I shouldn’t be so enthusiastic without thinking more about this.” 

And then, after about 30 seconds, I realized my gut was telling me something very different. It said: Person 3, you wear a stole as a symbol of ordination. That comes from the Christian tradition. You wear a robe that signifies the educated clergy but if you go back it also is a Christian symbol. I don’t see any reason why a clerical collar could not be the symbol for a missional ministry. Particularly as its roots are much less deep and were originally simply a way for clergy to distinguish themselves. 

So I am still on board. Maybe even more so.

Person 1: Yes, Person 3, we do have stoles (and robes) from that tradition. And we legitimately use them all the time. We really don’t use the collar. And the vast majority of us who have used the collar do so when we want to be seen as clergy by “outsiders” (choose your outsiders: press, other clerics, etc.). And I do think clerical clothing is important. But honestly, I think it would be much more authentic if we wore stoles out in public, not the collar. Obviously, they would have to me smaller, less cumbersome stoles but it would be something that is legitimately in our faith tradition.

Person 3: I can’t help but wonder why we COULDN’T make it more of a part of our tradition. It is not totally outside the tradition, as evidenced by the Humiliati and how it is utilized in contemporary times in particular social-witness events. Wikipedia says that the collar was original designed for just the type of separation you are talking about. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clerical_collar I see room for claiming it if one feels comfortable doing so.

Person 1: It’s not that we can’t. And it’s not that it’s people shouldn’t. Please, go ahead and wear it. However, it will always be Christian clerical clothing. And people’s first identification with the collar will always be seeing you as a Christian minister. The wikipedia article you link to says this in the first line. And it is a tradition we derive from, so I don’t think it would be misappropriation in the way that Buddhist robes would be. However, I can’t help but shake the feeling that we’re trying to attach ourselves to “legitimacy” when we wear the collar…in addition to trying to find clothing that marks us as people witnessing for the spiritual life in our communities. The latter reason I am all for, the former reason, however, I think is more present than we are admitting to when we wear the collar.

Person 2: I think location is probably important, too, and a factor in how people see it, etc. All areas are trending in different paces secular and/or pluralistic but it is still probably different perceptions and effects between North Tulsa and Brooklyn, for example.

Interesting that I wear it as public witness, even protest, but very rarely go to rallies. Here it is public witness that “the church” is present even when the churches are closed during the week. I rarely wear it on Sundays for worship gatherings, though I know others among my UU Christian church colleagues do.

It is very much a ministry just for my neighborhood ministry or for public appearances when I am representing the neighborhood. I like the idea of stoles, (though I suspect they are a bit more universal attire than the collar) though the stole symbols would help signify.

I realize the original post was also more about a regular kind of public correlation between the sacred and support for lgbt presence, and that’s a little different focus than the abandonment/presence issues that spur my use of the collar.

I think if legitimacy issues are what spur people, then they really ought to think twice — or stop. I think that has been a UU dynamic. It is ironic, because I wear it precisely because there are fewer and fewer clergy in public here to relate with in any way during the week.

Good missional conversation; will enjoy listening to more.

Person 4: Good conversation. I wear the collar for different reasons, and in different areas. 

* I wear it at social witness events because in my state, there is an assumption that religion is wholly on the conservative side. I think it’s important to show that there are religious people at a reproductive rights rally, LGBT issue, etc. 

* I wear it in the community to identify me as clergy, and with my rainbow flag pin, to represent LGBT welcoming religion.

I can point to the Humiliati, but the big thing for me is the pragmatic: the collar identifies me as a religious leader. Context is everything. I’m in a very conservative area, and I’m a woman. I elicit a different reaction than I would if I were in a liberal, Northern area. It would also probably be different if I were male.

I wouldn’t try to talk anyone into wearing a collar - it totally depends on why you’re doing it, and where you’re doing it. I’m just appreciative of the encouragement I got here to follow my instincts and to experiment. 

An interesting blog post from a Buddhist who wears the collar:http://www.hackwriters.com/dogcollar.htm

Person 5: Person 1, I hear you describing UU-ism as a non-Christian tradition that has room for Christians in it. I see the opposite. By my lights, the entire grammar of our tradition is Christian—everything (roles, ways of gathering, of occupying time) is structured as, or in reaction to, the Christian tradition. I’ve been accused of megalomania, but I don’t feel inadequate or illegitimate. I feel many of the liberal faith are living heirs of Jesus’s ministry; just because our tradition has sought orthodoxy of spirit while others have sought orthodoxy of form doesn’t distance us from claim to the church. In fact, I understand anyone living in the missional spirit of self-sacrifice, mercy, and justice as bearers of Christ, patiently waiting all who have loudly said, “Lord, Lord” all these years to repent. I should disclose that I don’t consider Unitarian Universalism a religion in its own right. It’s a denomination, a system of habits, and my larger community. But I think a religion offers a coherent vision, analysis, and prescription, and UU-ism is currently content to be a mere container of as-yet unresolved diversity in all these things. My religious identity—my primary identity—is Christian. My institutional outlet for that religious identity is UU-ism. I think my very Christian context informs my view—I’m surrounded by Baptists, and I think I offer a better strain of Christianity then they do. You’re in a secular/pluralist setting, so starting from scratch may make more sense. I do agree that wearing the collar only for photo ops at public events has felt manipulative to me lately, more than if I wore some outward sign on a regular basis. How’s all this for a ramble! Eh?

Person 5: In my writing, I see that Person 2 and Person 4 both also posted, noting cultural context. So, that may be a theme here…

Person 3: I think y’all hit on it with cultural context, says this Kentuckian. I can see how, in places where there is more fluency with liberal religion, it might be perceived differently than it is in more southerly regions.

Person 6: so my next question—to myself—as I think this through is: Do I feel that I’m appropriating a symbol that is not mine in order to gain legitimacy OR am I uncomfortable that people will likely assume I am Christian? Or more specifically, a straight, white, Christian man?

Person 2: Person 5, that’s one of the main dilemmas, I think, and even for example for Roman Catholic priests: does it open up or shut down connection and then conversation; experimentation over time, and again context; as we learned in CPE — our feelings might only be part of the picture.

Person 4: Living where I do, people will assume I’m a Christian no matter what I wear. If I wore a yarmulke, they’d assume it was a Girl Scout beanie. 

I don’t wear it to gain legitimacy; I wear it to admit what I already am: a minister. I have different privilege issues, and wearing the collar has surprised me — I think that in some ways, it “de-sexes” me. As a white, middle-aged, middle-class woman, I am unapproachable to many, especially Mexican and African-American men. As my friend John says, “You’re the most dangerous thing to me.” (He’s tall, big, and black.) In this area, the collar says, “It’s okay to talk to me.” 

In regular clothes, it’s also assumed that I’m conservative. That’s the norm. In the collar, that goes away. Most people in my particular part of town are either Baptist or Mormon. So a woman in collar? Wellll, she’s gotta be a liberal. 

Frankly, I feel more authentic in my collar, in a lot of ways.

Person 6: I suppose my feelings are only part of the picture. And the picture is probably extra-complex because so many people like me are condemned and hated by folks who call themselves Christian and assert that rejection of LGBT folks is some kind of central tenet of their faith. And then there’s the hate LGBT folks receive from our own community for sticking with religion….more context.

Person 1: I’m very much enjoying this conversation.

Person 7: As am I!

Person 5: My identity also informs my sartorial choices. I identify intentionally as white, straight, masculine, male, middle-class, conservative, and Christian minister—all identities aligned with the oppressor in dominant culture. Out of those identities, only “white” is simple and unmixed. The others I choose intentionally, with the hope of being an ethical ally. In my twenties, I romantically imagined myself to be on the margins. But I’m not. So, it’s most helpful to overcoming oppression if I identify publicly in the clothing (metaphorical and literal) of the dominant culture, so that I can use the power that accrues to that position to serve liberation. The danger is that I forget my obligations, and instead simply get off on the privilege, and I try to keep mindful of that every day. When I was in ministerial search, I saw another candidate—a person of color—who was more qualified than me, get zero pre-candidating invitations while I got more than I could handle, and I realized then that it was because I was a straight, married white man. So, I try to remember how I got the power I got—not through my own awesomeness, but through the habits of oppression, and my place in it. One ethical option would be to reject that power. Another is to learn how to sit effectively at the table of power. Staying at the table means I can’t be an idealist, but must be a politician, with the long-view—not a Dennis Kucinich, but a Barack Obama—suffering short-term losses and compromises every step. One of my best friends—a gay man who worked hard to come out of the closet and be out, thinks that when I talk like this, I’m confessing that I’m inauthentic and a liar. He believes each of us has an essential self, and the work of life is to realize that and integrate it into our relationships. I get that. But I don’t believe we have an essential self. I believe we contain multitudes and contradict ourselves constantly. (He and I mostly drink beer and wax philosophical these days, so this is only one of our three endless conversations) I think life is one long game of dress-up from an infinite costume box. So, if I dress up in a clerical collar, it is all part of a larger role-play.

Person 3: And then I wonder, too, what are the factors that determine if we are Christian or not? I used to think that was a simple cut-and-dried answer. Not anymore. I don’t identify as Christian, but my Presbyterian, super-devout Grandmother constantly told me (after she knew I had fallen away from the church) that I was one of the best Christians she knew, and God would know my heart. In seminary, many of the other students and I would have the exact same universalist mystic theology but they would choose to identify as Christian and I would not. Would it bother me to be mistaken for liberal Christian clergy? Not really. Once upon a time it would have, but not anymore.

Person 2: This part of the topic (at the risk of being too UU centric for the non UU folk here) is one I dwell in constantly through my work with the UUCF and surprisingly, it is one I have been all over the spectrum on during these past 10 plus years talking and thinking about it around the country and world. Now I’ve come to a place where I say our past doesn’t define us as a tradition, and neither does our present, but what does is that we live in a tradition that has openness to the future at its core, which is a very scary place to be. Not only individual communities among the UUA might become very different than they are now (or in some cases have been for hundreds of years), but because of that, the shape of things to come for the UUA itself might be very different (both theologically, and I am even more so certain they will be more specifically ecclesiologically).

I ask people to contemplate their church becoming one that is overtly rooted in Christian liturgy and tradition, or if it is one of ours already in that place, then I ask to contemplate it becoming rooted in a very different, more pluralistic or decidedly humanist (or pagan or Buddhist for example), and to sit with that possibility and think about where we have come from to where we are and how our journeys have mirrored such radical change in many places and ways.

We have seen great change theologically and yet we tend to think it should, or will, end with where we are now. People often tell me that they will leave if it changes in this way or that way to such a degree, and I tell them that I think it is fortunate that our ancestors, many of whom are still living among us, didn’t do that — even though in some ways it has made my own theology much more marginalized among us.

So I have come around to thinking of us not as a heretical wing of Christianity like I once did, or as a separate from Christian tradition like I once did, or anything in between those. Maybe, I guess, if anything as a Deep or Hyper Protestant, or as the Free Church Tradition that can be seen as more than any one or more particular faith manifestation. I replace identity theologically-wise with missiology theologically-wise. 

Because we are rooted in that openness to the future and could go in any number of identity ways, I want to reposition our tradition toward the missional, which can be done from any number of faith practices and traditions. What kind of identity and practices do we need to create communities to be able to respond to the missional needs of both our neighborhoods and the poorest ones also if they aren’t one and the same? This way we try to hold the past, the present, and the future, and the current us and current others all together on equal footing.

Person 8: Great conversation. I believe ministerial leadership and authority is derived from the authenticity of your spiritual journey. As it relates to the collar question, my feeling is that if you use it authentically within your congregation, then I think it would be very appropriate to use it in the broader community, whether or not you “qualify” as Christian.
I don’t use it, I preach in jeans, so it would feel strange to wear one in my case. It wouldn’t fit spiritually or missionally my ministry. In a different context though I could imagine a different response.  But like Person 1, I definitely wouldn’t wear one to a protest to be seen as real, because that wouldn’t be authentic at all.

Person 5: What if, after an intense holiday season, I’m staggering around in a bathrobe, holding a near-empty jar of peanut butter and a big spoon, and just preaching like that? Is that how you all want me to show up on the news?

Person 4:  Well … that would be authentic, Person 5.

Person 3: Funnily enough, I am JUST this moment realizing that my fb pic has me speaking at a rally in a collar. And the folks in my congregation, who don’t usually see me in one, all said they were very glad I wore one. So I guess that is where the rubber hits the road for me! I do wear them to public witness events, because, well, for me it is a form of witness - that clergy can fall on a particular side of an issue. And if I wear one with a flag pin on Fridays to Coffee House, that will also be a form of public witness. For me, that is the point of the collar. My church folks know I am clergy - they don’t need the visual cue.

Person 2: I was just thinking how as a white man in a highly mixed or predominantly black area, the collar has facilitated questions with black neighbors that probably wouldn’t have happened otherwise; a common ground or safety symbol perhaps; and it didn’t when I was here before going missional.

Hmmm.  Thanks for the insights from the conversation; hope Person 4 will find a way to share this convo wider maybe without attributions? I think others might benefit?

Person 9: Okay, just catching up with today’s conversation. My, we’re passionate about this.

When I wore my clergy collar yesterday, it was not for a public witness, nor because I had any internal need for legitimacy. I just needed the staff at the psychiatric hospital to let me in the unit, to visit (well before visiting hours) with my church member who’d been admitted the night before (suicidal ideation). As Person 1 puts it (quite well, I think), I was “trying to find clothing that marks us as people witnessing for the spiritual life in our communities,” which the staff apparently accepted. They took one look at my neck as I said I was there to meet w/ a church member, and did not hesitate to start letting me in. (And it turned out to be one of the deepest, richest pastoral visits of my ministry career - I’m so grateful for that.)

But I didn’t tell a soul which church I was with, because it was not relevant to them in that context. No insecurity about being UU -v- Christian (granted, I’m one who’s both), just needing access to serve my pastoral role with my congregant, which the collar provided.

I’m with Person 3 that the collar could become more prevalent among us. Not saying it should - I’ve no strong opinions either way ‘bout that. The thing about the Humiliati (R. I. P., Gordon), is that, as I understand it, before they adopted the stole, no one in either the AUA or the UCA wore them. Now damned near all of us who’ve been ordained wear them. These things change. And I think it’s no more misappropriation for UUs to adopt the collar, than for UCCers or DOCers, or even Catholic priests - the tab collar was originally a Church of Scotland invention.

Plus, I’m with Person 5 that, for all of our Buddhist, humanist, Transcendentalist, etc. influences, our church collectively is still Christian in form and in history.

Person 10: I wear my white coat when making rounds on the weekends on patients I have never met before and will never see again. It’s a quick short cut to “Yes, I am the doctor this weekend.” When I wear it with patients I have known for 10 years, they just laugh at me.

Person 7: Obviously I am not a member of the clergy so there may be much that is out of my own experience/context. However, I do know that choosing to wear or display symbols that are highly associated with power and authority is particularly complicated for individuals who see themselves as allied philosophically, emotionally, or spiritually with those who have been oppressed or subjugated by the power those “markers” represent. 

By choosing to display said markers when other immediately overt and identifiable markers show one to NOT be one of the powerful can be a particularly compelling subversive act. To me, this is what the original post highlighted: the subversion of a fact-based narrative that those wearing a collar are accomplices to oppression. 

I saw in her reporting a reclamation of religious thought and value and the exploration of how provocative it is, being a middle class woman MINISTER in a land where (usually) only men can be called. How that cracks people open who might otherwise shut down at the sight of a collar. Because does.not.compute… reassessing. 

For a man to wear the collar in the same context (just sitting in Starbucks) might connote a very different meaning. The addition of the rainbow flag pin or presence at an equality protest while wearing the collar add layers of contrasting markers that may make the collar subversive even for a person we expect to see as minister (a guy). 

The way we manage identity and presentation of self, particularly in light of the missional requirement that we go out to the highways and byways, where the people are (outside our churches), and place ourselves in positions where we can relate to and are relatable to them, is fascinating and I suspect will be/look somewhat different for each person, given their own cultural or counter-cultural identity and their own standpoint. 

Would I wear a collar if I were a minister and wasn’t Christian, just to help dismantle the historical narrative of exploitation? If I could reasonable expect that my actions or other identifiable markers would create a juxtaposition in the minds I those who observed me, thus opening the door to questions or approachability …Yes.

Person 11: I love this conversation. I’m with Person 5 and Person 9. I think we are a Christian denomination. No other designation for us makes sense, and I’d like us to be identified with the Church Universal and get over our “unique” “special” status. We are neither, and thank God for that. Therefore using Christian symbols is like, yeah, duh. What else would we do? We don’t have other symbols. Even the chalice (especially the chalice) is Christian. I haven’t worn the collar yet. I’m gonna go ahead and admit its because I’m worried it’ll look weird on me as a super femmey woman. I’m worried people will laugh at me. Yes, I know this is my internalized oppression speaking. There it is.

Person 3: I need to think about this more, but at this point I disagree with Person 5, Person 9, and Person 11, about UUism being a Christian denomination - both about the Christian piece and about the denomination piece, but I will only deal with the Christian one here.

I would say we are Post-Christian: I think UUism is broader than Christianity but undeniably comes out of it and incorporates elements, just as Christianity came from Judaism and incorporated elements. What I see is that much of liberal mainline Christianity is _slowly _becoming universalist and accepting of other theological views and perspectives and traditions that it will eventually be almost UU in spirit and practice, if not in name. We already see the blurring of lines between the denominations and people don’t hold the denominational loyalties they used to. I imagine that we will start to see denominational mergers more frequently, until there are only a few, and then there will be the Evangelicals, Catholics, and a few post-Christian religious organizations. Of course, this leaves out a whole lot of other World Religions, but we are connected to Christianity in a way that we aren’t to them.

If UUs were to embrace a Post-Christian identity (which would include Christians, of course) we might actually become the religion for our time (or my kids’ time) rather than just talk about it. We can help demonstrate to struggling denominations that you don’t have to think alike to love alike…

Yeah, yeah, I am a bit pollyanna-ish, but I think it is possible.

Person 3:  Let me add, that needs a WHOLE LOT of editing and finessing, but I think the point is solid: I think we are Post-Christian, so our relationship with Christianity is very similar to the relationship between Judaism and Christianity, and it is just too early to tell what is going to happen.

Person 2: LOL -  or maybe like pre 70, or perhaps pre-Chalcedon ecclesia.

Person 3: I am getting visions of cell mitosis- like we are in the late stages of telophase…

Person 11: I don’t want to be successionist, which is more like the relationship between Judaism and Christianity. And we aren’t our own world religion. I think saying that we are post Christian means we are in reaction and relationship to Christianity. That’s accurate. But without our own symbols and narrative, we haven’t become our own religion.

Person 12: I LOVED your post about it. I frequently think about how I wish I had a very loud visual way to show that I am a Religious Person while I’m escorting on abortion day at the clinic. 

Person 5: I tell my scientists and Pagans to get busy, because I suspect a new world religion could be formed from natural religion, using nature as a text. Like “the Great Story,” which I think is smart to use evolution as its chassis. But it lacks the fleshy intimacy and humanity of other traditions. Anyway, they always tell me to pipe down, because they’re busy trashing Christians .

Person 12: The Great Story + Peter Mayer = flesh, intimacy, and humanity. Holy crow, that’s the album I play to drown out protestors, and whenever I need a boost. Humanistic religious naturalism at its best.

Person 11: Hahahaha, Person 5. Yes.

"…when I started my St. Arbucks ministry, my only thought was about presence. And I still think that’s important. It’s not about me being there. I am merely representing something — church, God, religion, spirit. With a message of inclusion.”

Read More at Me and My Collar.

from Rev. Robin Bartlett:

We know its our job to destroy hells so that we can help make a world worthy of our kids’ promise. But that job is hard, friends. It’s hard…

…Hell is all around us; even, I suspect, in the Metrowest suburbs of Massachusetts. Hell is in our separation from one another, our loneliness and isolation, our fear of losing our houses and jobs in the economic downturn, our credit card debt, our panic, our drug addictions, our shame, our secret alcoholism, our secret domestic violence, our SECRETS IN GENERAL, our cancer diagnoses, our mental illnesses, our need to consume, to buy more, to one-up and keep up with the Joneses. Hell is in our depression and our inauthentic relationships with the people we are trying so hard to impress. Hell is in our lack of trust of our neighbors; the way we cover up the bad things. Hell is here, and we live in it.

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From Lori Stone Sirtosky: 

I was asked to sit at a table and “be the church” in the neighborhood. I was given some money and food/clothing vouchers and a page full of guidelines and rules. The church ran a homeless shelter, but the shelter also had many rules and guidelines I was supposed to follow. My guidelines instructed that no family could stay in the shelter for more than 2 weeks. There were limitations on the amount of money I was supposed to give to any individual, and I was supposed to document in a ledger all the referrals to other agencies I made. …

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We began by brainstorming the things we wanted to talk about. Patterns emerged, and from them, we were able to come up with break-out sessions where people interested in those topics could talk and share ideas. Notes:

Brainstorming

Discernment

Community as organizing tool

The HOW of sharing gifts

Build community with integrity

Relate to multigen

Also, uplifting the communities already present

Expect/display community

Live/uncertainty/faith

Honor history + momentum

Gaps – Good idea/no participation + participation unwilling for new ideas

Spiritual practice to sustain mission

Big Mission – 3 Rs: relocation, redistribution, reconciliation – a Wabisabi kingdom

Living in intentional community

Networking as sustenance

Fuel/renew purpose/Rediscern

Integrity within differences

Listening to difference with humility and compassion

Why

Culture shift – missional in attractional. Influence. Both/and

Build/maintain/share

The Church v A Church

Breakout Sessions

Discernment – What is my/our mission and why? What about doubt/uncertainty/faith?

How? Now that I know the direction, resources, techniques, funding, etc.

Relationship – w/communities I serve, serve with; maintaining integrity of missional group, all gens. What about relationship when we are different?

Sustenance – spiritual practice, networking with other servants, types of fuel.

Institutional – tensions between past/future and stasis/momentum.

Meta-Mission – philosophy, theory, abstract ideas, theology

Take-Away –

Black = forward energy

Gratitude

Permission

Integrity of process

Trust-building/cohesion/patience

Worthiness of service/servant

Yes. And ….

Process of co-creation

Trust/Acceptance of self

Risk!

Ancestors – Humiliati

Growing in self-awareness

Stay on the path. Collect Communitas

KISS – Keep it Simple & Silly

You have a Tribe (PLAY!)

We amplify each other.

Red = Blocks

Wearing many hats/limited

Recall we are all human

Forget to listen.

Struggle to be who we claim

Risk Aversion

Song:

Let us go out ….

… and light up the dark

… bring joy to each heart

…. with indifference destroyed

… with joy!

 

Opening Worship from Life on Fire 2013

The Church With Heart has a heart full of love for not only its members, but for the people outside its doors. Because this is what Unitarian Universalism is all about — it’s about having faith that love is infinite, undying, and there’s plenty to go around for all of us, so we need to love one another within the church, and then take that love outside the church because Lazarus is right outside our gate, starving for our crumbs, and even our crumbs are valuable because the Lazaruses outside our gate are starving for acceptance, for nourishing food for their minds and souls, for a listening ear, for relationship, for purpose.”

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A defining characteristic of a church with a mission is that it adopts change as a spiritual practice.  Congregations on a mission, that develop the communitas I discussed in my last post, understand themselves to be on a journey of faith together that by its nature implies risk and uncertainty.  Instead of fearing this risk and uncertainty, missional congregations see it as the natural terrain for serving the needs of the world.  Because missional communities adopt change as a spiritual practice, another benefit of the missional shift is the creation of a community with give, flexibility, and the ability to bounce back. Communitas is resilient.   A spiritual practice is something done with depth, regularity and intentionality.  When we understand that constant change, at least gradual constant change, is the spiritual playing field, we approach the challenges of change – such as dealing with loss and the sense of insecurity as well as new opportunities for growth and learning – as a deep, intentional, regular practice of what life in a faith community is all about.  Developing change as a spiritual practice helps us bounce back when conflict or difficulties arise.  Change as spiritual practice makes us resilient.