Have you heard of The Sanctuaries? It’s an alternative form of Unitarian Universalist religious community for today’s world. Here is their latest update from Rev. Erik Martínez Resly…
THE CONTEXT | Each of us yearns to love and be loved; to share the celebrations and challenges of our lives with others; to find companions who care more about who we are than what we have (or do not have) and who we know. Faith shows us how. It helps us see that we are loveable amidst our fears and flaws. It calls us to love others amidst theirs. And it points us toward the very source of love itself: the mystery that many call God.
In centuries past, people gathered in a religious institution to nurture their faith. Recent studies suggest this is changing. The explosive rise of the religiously unaffiliated, especially among younger generations, foreshadows a growing shift away from organized religion as the locus of faith formation. Most of these ‘nones’ still trust in God, but few trust they will find God in a church, a temple, or a mosque. If religious leaders care to minister to this emerging demographic, they will have to create new forms of faith community. Nowhere is this need as urgent or this opportunity as great as in large cities among younger, more transient populations. The Sanctuaries is a new faith community for this new generation.
THE TRADITION | The Sanctuaries is rooted in the Unitarian Universalist conviction that we are most alive when we are in love. There are many names, many stories, and many experiences that connect us to the love of God within us, among us, and beyond us.
THE VISION | Social change requires soul change. The Sanctuaries, therefore, exists to make lovers, not converts. It seeks to open a sanctuary of divine love in each soul, every neighborhood, the entire city.
THE MODEL | The Sanctuaries will not be a product but a platform. It will comprise a network of smaller faith communities embedded in neighborhoods throughout the city. Each will gather at a convenient time throughout the week in a devotional style that is relevant to that specific context. The minister will equip and deploy others to lead these sanctuaries, while serving as an itinerant presence within the network through digital media. On a quarterly basis, all of the neighborhood faith communities will gather together for a larger event.
THE ADVANTAGE | The Sanctuaries exemplifies the three priorities that Rev. Peter Morales has identified as critical to religious vitality in the twenty-first century:
Get Religion: The Sanctuaries will be devotional. It will focus more on experiencing than explaining religion, so that people encounter the holy in a whole-bodied way.
Cross Boundaries: The Sanctuaries will be contextual. It will experiment with new expressions of Unitarian Universalism that speak to the real needs of diverse populations.
Grow Leaders: The Sanctuaries will be exponential. Its small, flexible, and replicable model will empower more people to take more risks in more leadership roles.
THE CORE VALUES | The Sanctuaries is rooted in five core values. It will be:
Simple: We will keep it focused.
Authentic: We will keep it real.
Diverse: We will keep it inclusive.
Creative: We will keep it original.
Bold: We will keep it adventurous.
THE CORE PRACTICES | The Sanctuaries will adopt a fractal model of leadership that identifies essentials rather than prescribing methods or forms. Each faith community will work with the minister to determine what shape the following practices will take in their context:
Opening: Expressing our yearning for divine love through the arts.
Deepening: Exploring the nature of divine love through story and speech.
Overcoming: Examining our personal barriers to divine love through prayer.
Transforming: Experiencing divine love through spiritual practice and social justice.
THE NEXT STEPS | The formation of The Sanctuaries will proceed in five stages:
The first phase of Discernment has three objectives:
Context: Gain a better understanding of the hopes, concerns, and lifestyles of the target population through interviews, surveys, and participation in community events.
Relationships: Assemble a core group of committed participants through social networking and one-on-one conversations to populate three pilot sanctuaries.
Awareness: Meet with local clergy and denominational officials to identify shared purposes, available resources, and members of a soon-to-be-formed Advisory Circle.