RE NEWS: “Don’t Make It So Difficult”


Joanne Dingus (Director of Religious Education)

Joanne Dingus
(Director of Religious Education)

submitted by Joanne Dingus

“Don’t Make It So Difficult”

“So where do you go to church?” Someone asks. And you say, “Oh, I go to the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Peninsula in Newport News.” And even while you’re saying this you can tell they are never going to remember what you said and if they haven’t heard of Unitarian Universalism before they probably have no idea what being a member of our church means. But if they are brave enough to continue the conversation and ask “Uni what? What’s that?” Then you may go into a state of panic trying to come up with the perfect description of what being Unitarian Universalist means. You may fall back on the horribly inaccurate idea that “it’s the everyone can believe what they want church,” or “the church where we learn about other religions.” Or you might want to recite a list of all the things we’re not or don’t have. No creed, no dogma, no heaven, no hell. You might go on to try to give some sort of history, that it comes from Judeo Christian roots thinking to yourself that this will make them think we’re kind of like them. You may go on to brag that there are Christian UUs or better yet, Buddhist UUs because everyone likes Buddhists. Or you may start spouting off famous names like Channing and Emerson or throw in a President or two. You’ll probably avoid sharing any reference to Pagans unless you have seen them hugging trees or wearing a pentagram. And you may also avoid introducing the concept of Welcoming Congregation and LGBTQ. Did I get all the letters? And you will most definitely steer clear of any talk about Jesus or God. None of these are great choices but the worst thing may be to say well “it’s kind of hard to explain.” Because it’s not hard. It’s really quite simple. The essence of it is or should be in every UU church’s mission statement.

Richmond often shortens their statement to just three words, grow, care act. Three words, you can’t get much simpler than that. In the preschool class we do our chalice lighting each week with the words We are the church of the open mind, loving heart and helping hands. Again pretty simple.

Andrew and I recently created a song about being UU, “We celebrate all the joys of our lifetime, we search for truths with our hearts and our minds, learning together, helping one another, honoring our past as we journey along. This was a combination of our mission and vision statements.

If you need more to pull from, look to our hymnal. #298 Wake Now My Senses: feel the deep power of being in all . . . giving, receiving as love shows as how . . . “God’s love embraces the whole human race.” (See, we can use the G-word!) #466 Let it (religion) be to us hope and purpose.  #471 Love is the doctrine of this church. . . and service its prayer. #683 Be Ours a religion which, like sunshine goes everywhere. . . heart, truth, love, divine living. These songs and readings tell us exactly what Unitarian Universalism is and can be for each us.

So, my advice? Don’t make it so difficult. We may have a long name but our message is short and oh, so sweet.

See you in the RE!


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3 Responses to RE NEWS: “Don’t Make It So Difficult”

  1. Lehni says:

    Thank you. You have distilled it down to its essence. I will use this.

  2. Joanne – that is a meaningful, comprehensive review. I spend too much time in the “elevator” wondering about my speech. Now I’m going to copy this and carry it and BE READY. Thank you for taking the time. A most thoughtful piece. -Mason

  3. Lydia Disney says:

    Joanne, this is wonderful. As time slips by, it’s easy to forget what to say “when you’re on the spot.” My favorite hymns are “Wake Now My Senses” and “Be Ours A Religion,” which I keep in my purse. Thanks, ever so much. Lydia

    Date: Fri, 25 Sep 2015 13:39:08 +0000 To:

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