In the last few weeks as I've met with our members around the United States and attended Wisdom 2.0 (a conference on the integration of technology and wisdom practice and tradition) one word has taken hold of me - sustainability. It’s reminded me of how things were when I had we had a new baby or my first new car - everyone seemed to have one too. Every meeting I have attended, whether it be with seminarians, UUA staff or colleagues in different chapters, the challenge of sustainability is never far away.
The challenges of sustaining life on this planet in the midst of climate change, economic restructuring and globalization aren't what have been living with me lately (as if those could ever go away). The sustainability I've been focused on is the future of liberal religion and the organizations and institutions that support it.
Why have I been musing on this topic? Maybe because I've been working on the UUMA budget and am recruiting our first Stewardship Development team. Maybe it’s because I recently learned that it takes, on average, 15 millennials to give the same amount as one baby boomer to charitable institutions. Maybe it's because I sat with a roomful of seminarians who shared the financial challenges of answering their calls and becoming a minister. Maybe it's because I know how difficult it has been for so many of our members who are having their professional expenses cut or who have part-time or community ministries where professional expenses are only a dream. Maybe it’s because I've been reading more about the toll ministry takes on our bodies and spirits. Or maybe it is simply because I am painfully aware of how challenging it is for so many to make ends meet and dreams come true.
When I'm not traveling to meetings to meet with our members and partners and, hopefully, to further the cause of the UUMA I am often invited to preach and teach on stewardship and abundance. I started doing so when I first entered seminary and despite not really having the time now, I can't seem to stop. I know that for many the sustainability challenges facing our world and our religious tradition can be frightening at best and paralyzing at worst. How will our planet survive let alone our congregations, seminaries and ministries?
Forgive me, but I think the answers might lie in our UUMA mission. We aim to nurture excellence in ministry through continuing education, collegiality and collaboration. Perhaps we can meet the challenges of tomorrow the same way. Learning, connecting and thinking with others, creating new ways to fund and practice our faith, in partnership with people and organizations inside and outside our normal circles. Like you, I don't know what the future holds but I do know that when two or more are gathered the holy is present. That is an eternal truth that will not change. When we invoke a spirit of passion and creativity, of collegiality and collaboration, answers come and magic happens. May our ministries, wherever and whatever they be, offer the world both sustenance and holy possibility.
UUMA Executive Director