A new experiment in Unitarian Universalist diversity... [View all]
Some of you may find this interesting. The world's largest and fastest-growing UU congregation, All Souls Unitarian Church in Tulsa, OK, (my former church when I lived there) has begun a "third service" -- a humanist/naturalistic one -- to complement its more traditional (religiously eclectic) and "praise" (more God-centered, hand-raising, Universalist gospel format) services. They're experimenting with this new, more pluralistic approach to tackle various monthly themes from very different angles and perspectives. The first explicitly humanist service was held yesterday, and drew a large turnout. All three services are being Livestreamed.
I personally see this as a potentially breakthrough moment for UU, as an explicitly pluralistic approach to religious community and the general seeking of ultimate truth and meaning. Unlike many Unitarian congregations in Europe, and a few in New England, there is a growing movement toward this more inclusive model for several decades now. In the 1980s, we added a "covenant" (a sort of mutually agreed upon promise on how we want to be and behave together) to the UU Association's bylaws, in which that diversity is affirmed and the methodologies of science and humanism have been acknowledged among our primary sources. The large Tulsa congregation has taken a step to try to embody that larger conversation under one roof, and to tie it all together in an exploration of various themes and questions.
All Souls Church is well-known for its risk-taking, for standing up (sometimes alone) for various social reforms, and now they're blazing new trails once again. It'll be interesting, I think, to see how this all works out, and what kind of messages it may offer to the rest of society. I wouldn't bet against them, though. That "gospel" of radical inclusion and mutual respect (in an ever-shrinking world) is resonating and their influence is growing: This year they were voted by Urban Tulsa magazine as the city's "Absolute Best" church.