Is your church a photograph or a movie?

For some folks, church is what it is the moment they joined it. At that moment they agree to accept it and it accepts them. Very few people join a church for “where it is going.” People join a church for “where it is” socially, culturally, theologically, spiritually, and physically at that moment. From that point on, any change, difference of opinion, or adaptation to circumstances means a derivation of what they agreed to on the day they joined. And if all parties don’t agree, then obviously they have the option of leaving. No one is forced to stay. That includes the fact that as church culture, doctrine, or social issues change over time, they resist that change.

I like to think of that moment as a photograph. A beautiful photograph capturing a special moment when you joined the church. A moment now locked in time and not able to be changed. And a picture is further limited. You can’t look just outside the frame or see what is going on behind the camera. You don’t see what else was happening or people who weren’t in the picture. Nothing comes or goes from a picture.

 We need to stop dwelling on those photographs. We need to change this mentality. The memories are beautiful, informative, and fun to reminisce about but their limitations put limits on us. We need to think of our church as a movie. We need to start filming movies. We need to tell stories over time with actors. There may even occasionally be a plot twist. Your opinions of characters, ideas, and sub-plots change as the movie goes on. A movie is constantly full of new revelations about characters, places, and sub-plots often from places outside of the view of the first camera angle. And new characters, new scenes, and new issues come into the script.

Our goal should be that the church is constantly moving. Our members are all actors in the story, not bystanders or extras. We all need to take a role and help work on the plot and work towards a happy ending. Use the photographs to reflect and tell the backstory in the movie but don’t spend the whole movie staring at them.

 Pictures are worth a thousand words but they are words locked in time. When we constantly try to keep only that first photograph as our view of the church, we not only limit the church, we limit ourselves and our own opportunities for growth.

The dogmas of Unitarian Universalism

For people unsure of many thing and rarely fans of absolutes, UUs are sure convinced of a few – the way the order of service should be laid out, how the chairs and tables “must be” arranged for coffee hour, and even the type of materials used for religious education classes can all be causes of debate and consternation.

For a people unconvinced that anything happens after we die, we are convinced that the font used on our name tags is part of the world’s problems.

For a people unsure what should be taught in the religious education program we do know there is a “right day” to start the RE program. 

For a people unsure what to say to newcomers, we are sure that the people talking to them should use special coffee cups when talking to them.

I think our uncertainties about many things lends us to focus on minor attributes associated with them. It gives us a feeling of comfort to know that uncertain things are handled with certainty. We don’t know where the path leads but we know that we must take certain things with us on the journey. 

Worse yet, at times, we fail to convince others of our certainties. And though we tout democracy, we are unable to comprehend and handle when we get outvoted. The cattiness that comes from these discussions is rather heated at times. Folks even get mad and leave the church over them. It is as if we have replaced dogma with catma. 

We struggle to journey together when we realize others aren’t handed where we think we want to go.