I like being a Unitarian. Like many converts, I’m Unitarian because I am. I found out what Unitarianism was, realised that it fitted me, and then I turned up to a service. I didn’t come as a blank slate. I came with expectations.
Expectations of Unitarianism are formed online
I happen to be an atheist. I knew when I first attended a service that proper Unitarians were comfortable with atheists. I just assumed that the nice friendly people at my local congregation had read that memo.
I also expect Unitarian congregations to be fairly comfortable that Wicca, paganism and new age stuff is no actually devil worship. I expect this because CUUPS the Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans exist, and can easily be found on the internet.
People that have a narrow view of Unitarianism have already lost the information battle. Given that Unitarians with wide open views exist vocally online, not accepting ‘other’ spiritual interpretations just makes you look closed minded and out of touch. There’s no way to put the genie back in the bottle and go back to a Victorian Unitarian church or chapel.
New people coming to a congregation will probably have read stuff about Unitarians online. Given the somewhat limited British Unitarian presence online, they will probably have read UU stuff online. And the UUA is more radically inclusive and plural in its literature than Unitarians are on this side of the Atlantic.
People have less of a Christian centred background
Not only is the Unitarianism that people encounter before they meet a congregation quite diverse, so are the people themselves.
For a long time, like at least 20-30 years, children have mostly not been going to Sunday school. Most schools these days do not teach the Lord’s Prayer, but they didn’t teach it 25 years ago either.
What does this mean?
Most people under the age of about 40 do not have the same religious cultural background that older people have. For Gen X and Gen Y (born after around 1960):
- bible stories are not familiar.
- traditional Christian doctrine is not well understood (nor is it easy to understand).
- just because a hymn uses an old tune, doesn’t mean anyone will know it.
- reciting the Lord’s Prayer from memory is not a skill people have
We need to take this into account and more when designing our worship, when welcoming new people. And it can be a good thing. Being made to look at familiar things with new eyes gives us insight.
Adapt or die out
Adapt or die out. That is the over-riding message of evolution.We have to be relevant, because if we aren’t then we will cease to exist. And being relevant means taking into account changes around us, and adapting to them.
It means embracing the borderless online world, and the wider varieties of Unitarians and Universalists.
It means embracing the lack of cultural Christianity in society at large, and the space that provides for vibrant Unitarian religious communities.
It means embracing the present and being really here, now.