"Whose Are We”: Spiritual Discernment and Theological Reflection
In her sermon during the June 2008 Service of the Living Tradition, Victoria Safford quoted the Quaker teacher Douglas Steere:
Douglas Steere, a Quaker teacher, says that the ancient question, "What
am I?” inevitably leads to a deeper one, "Whose am I?” – because there
is no identity outside of relationships. You can’t be a person by
yourself. To ask "Whose Am I?” is to extend the questions far beyond
the little self-absorbed self, and wonder: Who needs you? Who loves
you? To whom are you accountable? To whom do you answer? Whose life is
altered by your choices? With whose life, whose lives, is your own all
bound up, inextricably, in obvious or invisible ways?
Similarly, as a collective body, we Unitarian Universalists have
expended a great deal of energy talking about the enduring core of our
identity. "Who are we?” "Who are we really?” And this has led to the
deeper conversation "Whose Are We?” which points to the idea that we are
a part of something larger, which both includes and transcends us.
Some of the major discussion points we hope to spark are:
Why don’t we share our own spiritual journeys more with one another as
colleagues? Could we allow ourselves and others to be more vulnerable
and talk about our experiences of the holy/our sense of God, or our
sense of belonging to something beyond the "self-absorbed self?”
How do you answer the question "Whose Are We” theologically? Relationally?
How do you integrate your theology into your practice of ministry? What obstacles have you encountered?
What spiritual disciplines do you practice in order to stay grounded in
your knowledge of whose you are? What are you wrestling with in your
It seems that there is deep hunger among us for this kind of
interchange. Some chapters have already formed small spiritual
discernment groups – we’d like to share these models. Some have already
held retreats on theology or spiritual practice. Now we would like to
see what transformative potential there is, both personally and for
Unitarian Universalism, when we take this on as a whole ministry. May
our bonds be strengthened in service of the whole.
Attend your UUMA chapter’s "Whose
Are We?” conversation, tell your congregation and your colleagues about it and
help your chapter win $3,000!
What? UUMA chapters will begin engaging
in the "Whose Are We? - A Theological Conversation” program this coming
fall. This program will provide UUMA
members a chance to reflect and wrestle with the theological, vocational,
collegial and personal implications of this and other related questions. The UUMA Executive Committee, with thanks to
the Panel on Theological Education and the UU Funding Panel, is awarding $3,000
each to the three UUMA chapters who participate most fully in this
conversation. These awards may be used
for future spiritual/theological programming or retreats so that the
conversations and connections can continue.
Why? The UUMA Executive Committee
has created a vision statement for chapter health by 2014 that states, in part,
"We gather in a covenant shaped by a culture of vulnerability, intimacy, trust
and accountability to one another in which leadership and learning are
embraced.” The Whose Are We program will
give us a chance to speak intimately and deeply about that which we are called
to serve and what nurtures our ministries.
The chapter awards will give us the chance to learn more from each other
and provide more opportunities for us to share with the larger Unitarian
How? Participation will be
determined by the number of chapter members who attend the Whose Are We
conversations and who then preach or write an essay on their experience and
share it with their UUMA colleagues.
When? Your chapter leaders and
Whose Are We? chapter facilitators will be scheduling the conversations
soon. Sermons and essays will be
collected from April 1, 2011 through October 31, 2011. Awards will be announced by December 31,