If you had a faith community that you could feel excited about being a part of, what would it look like?
Members of all ages, races, abilities, orientations, walks of life, of course, but moreover... Plenty of active members of my age group (20s-40s) from all walks of life and all relationship statuses, some with kids, some without. An active young adult ministry. A singles group! A good choir. (Maybe even multiple choirs/music ministries.) Some afternoon/evening Services (instead of all services being Sunday mornings... some of us have issues getting to church at that time, esp. those of us who don't have cars & rely on public transit). Active study/discussion groups (covenant circles?) A small group for Kinky/Leather/BDSM/Fetish UUs. A ritual & holiday celebration group that organizes services influenced by various faith backgrounds & their holidays. (ex. Jewish High Holiday services, Pagan quarter & cross quarter services, a communion service based off of the Roman Catholic Mass, a hymn sing, etc.) Teaching of the Adult OWL curriculum. Excellent, multiage, multigenerational RE that fosters education, sharing, and learning for people of all ages to learn from each other. (including adults learning from children and young adults… we're all in this together, regardless of age.) Opportunities for non-traditional worship and spiritual growth as well as traditional worship.
What do you think you and your family most need from a congregation or faith community to feel prepared to face the moral/ethical/spiritual challenges of the future?
Accommodations and adaptations for my psychiatric challenges so I can be an active member of said community so that I can even be a part of one at all. I've been looking for YEARS to find a congregation that works for me. Even though there are many in my area, I haven't found one I can reach easily at a time that actually works for me, and that really clicks & resonates with me.
Also, understanding and knowledge of the various cultures and communities I am/I'm a part of so that we know where we're coming from and can communicate better. So that worship, sermons, and RE can reach me better, reflect me and who I am and my values better, and challenge me spiritually & ethically more.
I mean, yes, I have a number of psychiatric challenges: some severe untreatable mental illness (I also have some treatable mental illnesses) which affects my life on a minute-to-minute (literally) basis. I'm also omnisexual Queer (who's politically bisexual), somewhere between monogamous & polyamorous (I subscribe to polyamorous theory as a part of my feminism), genderfluid transgender person who was assigned female at birth (and sometimes identifying as a woman), and I'm kinky & a fetishist (with 1 fetish I consider to be a full blown sexual orientation). But even beyond those identities, I'm also a big geek, and for me, that's as much of a cultural identity as the fact that I'm half-Western European ancestry & half Eastern European ancestry and was raised with awareness of both sides of my cultural history. Geek is my culture, and seeing it as a culture & treating it as such and, most of all, having geek cultural competency is important in today's day and age. In fact, geek informs who I am more than some of the above identities. I'm a geek before I'm queer, or before I don't fall into lockstep with society's ideas of monogamy, or before I'm gender-non-conforming, or before I'm of various European ancestries. Culture doesn't just come from ethnicity or religion (Jewish, Catholic, etc.) anymore... cultures are being formed along different lines and they need to be seen as cultures and treated as such within multicultural programs. In many ways, they are no less or more chosen than any other culture one is a part of. Heck, one could even argue that one chooses their religion but one can't choose to be a geek; they either are one or they're not.
Also, discussion of what moral/ethical/spiritual challenges may befall us in the future. Some of them may be theoretical at this point (robot/alien/non-human sentient being civil rights, for example) but the development of ethics surrounding these issues will build greater morals & ethics for today. (I mean, if we respect an alien or a robot as a person deserving of equality, how can we not respect all humans as people deserving of equality?)
Reach me where I am as who I am and see me for all of me and see these other (some may say "new") cultures otherwise we'll say "ok, that's great, but these people don't GET me. They don't understand me, they don't get where I'm coming from, and they don't understand the unique challenges that my life in ___ community (or with psychiatric challenges) is bringing to me. Their lessons are either insufficient or don't apply or are too reductionist for the nuanced life I have."
In your opinion, how does the Welcoming Congregation Program need to adapt to meet the challenges of the 21st century?
It needs to include ALL sexual minorities or alternative sexualities and not just gender-based sexual orientations and gender identities. The program needs to include the entire sexuality spectrum, including relational orientations (monogamous, polyamorous, open relationships, swinging, power exchange relationships (Dominant/submissive, etc.) etc.), minority sexual expressions (BDSM/kink/Leather/fetish). And it needs to see "new" sexual orientations that are based off of people's repeated desires and not just off of their gender(s) & the gender(s) they're attracted to. This includes BDSM/kink/Leather but also can include fetishes as orientation where applicable, as well as recognizes orientations like sapiosexuality (attraction to intelligence), fat admiration, geeksexuality, etc. It needs to have definitions broad enough that when new issues come up in the future, we don't have to go back and redefine it yet AGAIN.
As you look toward the future, please share additional thoughts you have about what UU congregations and communities can do to be welcoming and inclusive to people with disabilities.
Services at different times, not just Sunday mornings.
Include mental illness in pastoral care & outreach. (ex: If the committee would send over a casserole after a surgery, they should send one over after getting out of a mental health facility or diversion program. Or how about before it when someone's sliding towards a breakdown? These things can be prevented sometimes if given enough help and care at the right time.)
Some kind of "welcoming congregation" style program for education surrounding mental health/mental illness/psychiatric challenges. Maybe call it "understanding congregation"?
Mental wellness support groups (ones for just people with psychiatric challenges, and ones for family & friends of folks with challenges. And maybe some for people just going through a rough time in their life or at work (stress level support groups, anger management help for everyone's anger, etc.))
More mental health visibility, awareness, workshops & training for ALL people, not just ones with psychiatric challenges. Mental wellness is for everyone, not just people with psychiatric challenges. (ex. taking EVERYONE's stress levels seriously, teaching classes not just about psychiatric challenges, but also about good mental hygiene tips & tricks that everyone can use.)
Awareness around language & how it can add to stigma ("lame", "crazy", etc.) (Not policing of language, but merely building awareness. Freedom of speech means people get to be offensive if they want to be... it's everyone's choice. But many aren't even aware of their language and how it may be offensive.. they can't even make the choice to not use it because they don't even know.)
What is your greatest fear/apprehension about the future of Unitarian Universalism?
That we continue to remain a religion that merely gives lip service to such concepts as equality and social justice instead of being willing to go the extra mile and roll up our sleeves and get metaphorically dirty and really DO something to meet people's actual needs. That we will sign petitions for better health care from the gov't, but not establish a hands on, grassroots society that solves people's immediate medical needs. (like helps pay for people's medical bills caused by un- or under-insurance/medical needs not being taken care of because they can't afford to pay them and don't want to rack up the bill) That we will continue to sit in our place of privilege and stay blind to the realities of what it's really like to be poor/disabled/etc. Or that when we see the realities, instead of vowing to DO something about it, we say "there's nothing I can do, sorry, try someone else" instead of saying "if not me, who? if not now, when?" and then asking "What can I/we do?"
What is your greatest hope for the future of Unitarian Universalism?
That we don't shy away from hard work, either literally or spiritually. That we actually live up to our Principles and Purposes. That each person sits down and realizes their duty to do the hard hard work of being a truly good person.
That we affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person by ensuring that everyone has economic justice on a grassroots, individual level as well as a legislative level and a societal level. That we work to make sure everyone has the healthcare they need at all levels, as well as work to get rid of poverty on both a grassroots as well as a legislative level. That we work hard to bring about equality and
That we do the hard work of getting over our bigotries, including ones that seem to be acceptable or popular amongst liberal religious. (ex. hatred/distain towards Christianity.)
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