The following is a response to a common question we get in the Growth Strategies Office. It is written by Intern Stefani Rupert who is working on an Asset Map of Congregations & Beyond. If your congregations makes an impact beyond your membership, we want to hear from you. Please send your story to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Some of you might be asking “What is this Congregations and Beyond stuff?”
- Is it all the stuff that congregation do in service of the larger community?
- Is it all the practices and community gathering outside of traditional, physical congregations?”
Congregations and Beyond, I believe, comprises all that. This is because the initiative is a broad one, a visionary one, and a spiritual one. It digs at the very nature of our hearts and our love, and it asks us to think about how we want to and how we can best live spiritually in the contemporary world. Congregations and Beyond asks of us: “How do we conceive of ourselves as Unitarian Universalists? What is the core of our spirituality, and what are our aims, relative to our position in the wider, evolving world? How do we want to practice our faith?”
Congregations and Beyond encourages UUs to continue to find delight and solidarity in their congregations, and to guide Seekers to congregations insofar as that may benefit them. Congregations will forever be central to Unitarian Universalist spirituality, as these are places of community and joy and covenant. But in today’s evolving world– in a world full of new possibilities for service and travel and diversity and connectivity and conversation– UUs may find different ways to practice and to connect. Some of these UUs may not regularly attend church, and some may go every weekend. That does not matter: each of them is being invited to think deeply about her practice, how much she might live inside congregational walls alone, and how much she may wish to expand her spirituality to different realms.
The point of Congregations and Beyond is to recognize the vast depth and potential thrumming beyond congregational walls. We UUs may reach into that world however we desire. Certainly some of us may be(come) home church or small group ministry practitioners, but others of us may remain in our home congregations. Regardless, all of us may decide to reach out to the wider community in new and bold ways.
Congregations and Beyond of course acknowledges that this kind of service already occurs in virtually every congregation. What this initiative aims for in these cases is solely to highlight the importance of these efforts, to demonstrate that UUs are already significantly engaged beyond congregations, and to encourage even more radical engagement outside of congregational walls. One congregation might always provide day care for local youth, but what if it decided to host spirituality discussions at the public library? To open new doors as a community center? To network among immigration justice advocates on Twitter? Or to publicize podcasts to the broader community?
The Congregations and Beyond initiative is, when it comes down to it, the simple endeavor to explore UU spirituality beyond congregational walls, however that might be appropriate to each individual’s life, spirit, and mission. This may be through new forms of UU connectivity. It may also be through new forms of connecting with the wider world. Or it may even more likely be (based on the bold aspirations and life and love of Unitarian Universalists the world over) a synergistic endeavor to engage and to live faithfully both.
Guest Blogger ___________________________________________
Stefani Ruper is a UUA Intern working on a Congregations & Beyond Asset Map. If your congregations makes an impact beyond your membership, we want to hear from you. Please send your story to email@example.com.