Thursday, March 20, 2014

Negotiating Space in the Fridge of Unitarian Universalism

When I have houseguests, I do my best to be hospitable. My parents are here right now--we had to make room in the fridge for Dad's beer and their homemade sausages. My mother rearranged the shelves to make room, and nothing is in its usual spot. A little unsettling, but it's probably good for me. If nothing else, we uncovered some intriguing mysteries and combined jars of spicy olives. And in a couple of weeks my parents will head out and a bunch of real estate will open back up (for more olives, most likely.)

When we deliberately share our lives with others, whether roommates or partners or family, territory can be a bigger deal and there will probably be times when negotiating is needed--hopefully before a big blowup over the two pickles taking up their gallon jar of space, or why anyone in their right mind needs to save thirty-two ketchup packets when there's a perfectly good squeeze bottle of organic ketchup on the door.

Sometimes churches can be like my fridge. Each of us has our own things we need--those things take space and time which are quite finite. We might need to get creative to make it all fit.  What if we need to make tough choices and take something out? What happens when people have different and sometimes opposing values?  Can we talk through it and assume that we'll find a fair solution? Do we leave their disgusting cilantro* out on the counter to rot? Possibly with a snide note about how disgusting cilantro* is and how you better not find that touching any of your food?

(Apologies to my gluten-free friends
and those with tomato allergies and
aversions. The fridge pic refused
to load. And the green stuff is basil.)
Beyond our congregational walls, as people of faith we have negotiating to do.  Unitarian Universalism is known to be non-credal, so there is no required statement of belief. Hypothetically, we could be open to anything showing up in our faith fridge. And yet there are personal preferences, style differences, and giant chunks of culture. The way things are in Houston, Texas may be quite different than in Canton, Massachusetts. Some of our congregations are vocally humanist, while others are far closer to the Unitarian and Universalist Christianity of our heritage.  Some services feature a harpsichord AND a historic organ, while others don't get their spirit on without a stirring refrain from the ukulele chorus.

What faith staples do we all keep on hand?  What deliciousness can we make together? What do some of us adore and others find to leave a horrible aftertaste? Is there anything SO anathema that we would call for another UU to remove it from the shelves entirely? How might we frame these conversations?

*I love cilantro. It's a metaphor, dagnabbit!

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