Because I didn’t grow up Christian, I have only the vaguest idea of what is in the Bible. And being a UU, it’s pretty easy to avoid the whole thing.
But that’s really not good enough. This is an incredibly influential and important book, whether or not I agree with everything in it or love it or dislike it, I should still know it. But how? I haven’t found any helpful study guides for liberal seeker and skeptics, although I did read John Buehrens’ Understanding the Bible: An Introduction for Skeptics, Seekers, and Religious Liberals. It was helpful, but not complete.
I really just wanted to read the whole thing, and have someone to discuss it with. But I searched in vain for a “Liberal Bible Study Group”. That was when I was complaining to my mother, and she said “Let’s start a Mother-Daughter Bible Study!”
A brilliant notion. We are meeting monthly, discussing two books at a time. Mom even bought The Old Testament from The Great Courses series, and that is enriching our understanding as well.
It’s not always easy. I don’t find much inspiration here, yet. But I think I’m understanding it better.
I copied this quote into the front of my study Bible. So far, it’s aspirational, but I hope that if I pay close enough attention, I may feel this.
I was really jazzed by the 21st Century Faith Formation training that I took last month, and so I was excited to try out some of the network design components with the Family Ministry Team of my congregation. There were many interesting things about new technology and cultural trends in the 21st Century Training, but what stood out for me was not the technology, not the internet and the websites – it was the idea of designing around People instead of Buildings or Programs.
So I tried that with the Family Ministry Team. We started by imagining our “Target Audience”, and to simplify we chose just one demographic – families with young children. We will come back around next year and imagine another network for families with teens, then for young adults, then for empty nesters, etc.
What are the Target Audiences Life Tasks? What are they doing at this stage in their life?
Once we had a handle on what our “Target Audience” – which I prefer to call our “Ministry Setting” are doing, we thought about what their Needs are right now in their lives.
After lumping and clumping those Needs and making some categories from them, we brainstormed how to offer programs to meet those needs.
We came up with a lot of good ideas. We can’t probably do them all, but our goal is to “Explore and Initiate some of the New Program Ideas” next year.
The process felt really useful. I think this is going to be good.
Through an accident of scheduling (when things were available for me, not necessarily when it would be best for me to do them) I am in my third week in a row of focusing most of my work time on continuing education. Ren Mods, the 21st Century Faith Formation training, and now a class at Meadville-Lombard!
I’m not used to this anymore, since I’ve been out of school for 7 years now. And I’m seeing it to be getting to a point that is counterproductive, to put this much cool stuff into my head but not have any time to follow through on the praxis and get to doing something with it.
I need to stop learning, brainstorming, and being inspired (for now) and take this learning, these ideas, and this inspiration and get back to church and make something real happen. It’s a good reminder that balance is good. Next time I’m sick and tired of only doing and not learning I’ll remember that the reverse can also be true. 🙂
“Everyone plays the philosopher out of the small treasures of his own fancy… the heresy of one age is the orthodox belief and ‘only infallible rule’ of the next.”
Theodore Parker, The Transient and Permanent in Christianity
I’m here in Meadville-Lombard this week (one of our UU theological schools) studying Liberal Theology. And one thing keeps peeping out at me from the history of liberal theological thought: each new thinker and generation is in some way reacting to what came before, and we have a tendency to swing back and forth as we note what was wrong with the ideas of those who came before us.
The cyclical nature of generations is fascinating, but I can’t believe that big “T” “Truth” changes in that same cyclical way. So maybe we are always reacting to those who came before, but where is the kernel of truth – the permanent – that carries through from generation to generation?
What will my children believe? What of my beliefs will they react against? Will they agree with anything I think is true?
These are the “souvenirs” of my weekend at a UU Identity Renaissance Module. (Ren Mods are the continuing education courses designed for religious educators that the UUA has published). The stones were on the altar for our closing worship, with the little chalices on the bottoms hidden away, and we were all asked to come up and say what we had brought with us and what we were taking away, and then choose a stone to keep. The surprise of the little chalice painted on it seemed to delight people when they noticed it on their stones. The wooden knob was what I selected from a basket of odds and ends to represent my UU identity – because it’s what helps me get a handle on the meaning of my life. Yes, I got punny with it, but what was I supposed to do when faced with a basket full of things like paper clips, plastic flowers, stones, dice, and Duplo men?
This module is all about the UU Identity: whether there is one or a core identity to being a UU, the stages of UU Identity formation, how we experience our own identity as UU’s, and how we as religious educators foster UU identity formation in others. One of the exercises had us sort ourselves into a line from the newest UU to those with the most years as a UU. I’ve been a UU for 20 years now, which actually came as a surprise to me when I did the math. 20 years!
All in all, it was a useful training and a fun weekend of sharing with colleagues. We don’t get nearly enough time to spend with one another, and as we are all somewhat isolated in the churches we serve because of our role as staff, this is where we can actually experience the sort of religious community most people get in their congregations.
I am in the midst of reading for a course in Liberal Theology I am taking at Meadville next month. It’s a lot to think about!
So far I’ve read:
Faith Without Certainty – a great general introduction to liberal theology with a real flair for stating complicated ideas in easy to understand ways.
On Religion: Speeches to Its Cultured Despisers – oh, those Enlightenment men. Sadly, they weren’t so enlightened about women and other cultures, but he still had a few new and cool ideas about the nature of religion.
Making the Manifesto – Schulz is a bit standoffish about declaring himself a humanist, and this is mixed view of the history of humanism.
Reason and Reverence – and then, a more sympathetic view of humanism, moving it forward into the future by wedding it with Religious Naturalism, thus giving it the “reverence” part.
Making a Way out of No Way: a Womanist Theology – the first question was ‘what is womanist?’, and the answer is that it is the study of the life of African American women, so often ignored by both feminist and African American (male) thinkers. This was a fascinating exercise in marrying process theology to liberation/womanist theology.
And now I’m reading Religious Naturalism Today and Proverbs of Ashes.
More to follow! My thoughts on all of this are getting sorted out.