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What is 'UU culture'?

Does UU culture embody our deepest values? Or does it express narrow assumptions about who truly belongs?
By Christopher L. Walton
Spring 2010 2.15.10

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Last June, as the UUA’s General Assembly got under way, ministers were buzzing about a provocative series of lectures they had attended the day before. The Rev. Dr. Paul Rasor, a Unitarian Universalist theologian, had asked why Unitarian Universalist congregations are only slightly more racially and ethnically diverse today than they were when the Unitarian Universalist Association committed to becoming an antiracist, multicultural movement in 1997. “Do we reflect the pluralistic and multicultural reality of our time, or have we fatally linked our brand of religious liberalism to a culture that is disappearing?” he asked.

In her response to Rasor’s lecture, the Rev. Rosemary Bray McNatt suggested that UUs often become anxious when discussing racial and ethnic diversity because they sense that, if our congregations truly welcomed “different” people, Unitarian Univer­salist culture itself might have to change. “Consider who many of us are, and who we are pretty proud about being, no matter what our race or ethnicity,” McNatt said.

Rasor’s lecture and McNatt’s response appear in this issue on page 33. Think of them as posing a series of questions: What is “UU culture”? In what ways does UU culture embody our deepest values? In what ways does it express narrow or exclusive assumptions about who truly belongs? UU World welcomes your brief essays in response to these questions and other aspects of Rasor and McNatt’s essays. Send your reflections to “UU Culture,” UU World, 25 Beacon Street, Boston MA 02108 by March 15.

This issue also features a profile of the Jericho Road Project, an innovative approach to social justice developed by members of the First Parish in Concord, Massachusetts, who wanted to find ways to combine their professional skills with their UU values. Working with nonprofits in a nearby struggling city, Jericho Road volunteer architects, web designers, P.R. consultants, bankers, grant writers, and other professionals have helped more than 125 nonprofits improve their services—and now the program is being introduced in other cities, as well. It’s an inspiring story (page 26).

Do you get UU World in the mail four times a year? Or do you also get it every week in your email inbox? If you are not already signed up for our weekly email newsletter, you are missing out on timely news (which gets abridged for later editions of the quarterly magazine); online-only columns by Meg Barnhouse, Doug Muder, and other contributors; “Unitarian Universalists in the Media” and “The Interdependent Web,” our blogs that track mentions of Unitarian Universalism in the news, pop culture, and elsewhere online; and links to great articles from UU World’s archives.

This spring, be sure to visit uuworld.org’s new “UU Parenting” blog, where Michelle Richards, author of a new Skinner House book on the topic, will be leading the conversation.

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