Crowd Funding a life of Ministry

In the last few years, what started as an attempt to clean up my Facebook feed for the benefit of my non Unitarian Universalist friends has become a personal ministry that reaches thousands of people a week. My desire to live up to the support I was getting has lead me to learn the basics of graphic design and to deepen my own faith and connection to liberal religion. Now, each week, the things I write, design, and research are shared by dozens of individuals and congregations to be seen by their communities and shape the way people think about Unitarian Universalism.

It is a job that I never dreamed I could have, and I am honored to have the kind of community that has built up around this work.

That being said, when you start something like this as a personal project, you do it for free. When you follow it and let it grow organically based on personal effort, you end up with a full-time job that doesn’t pay anything at all. I put a lot of work into original content, and part of what makes this project so valuable is that the content is freely available to the people who need it the most: excited individuals and small congregations that need to make an impact in their communities. I am proud of having done so much to help share Unitarian Universalism with the world, and more so to know that there have been a few people who learned about us through my work and chose to start visiting their local congregation or the CLF (to which I owe so much!). I am proud, but I am also human, and I have needs that cannot be met with spiritual growth.

So, I am working on building a crowd-funding campaign to fund my life, so much of which I have given over to this work. I am hoping that Unitarian Universalism will express the value of my work in dollars, which I can turn into food, shelter, and opportunities for further education and development. I am inviting people to let me know what they think of the goals I have worked out, and will follow the progress here on my blog.

I appreciate you taking the time to read this, and I look forward to reading your thoughts.
Thomas

Unitarian Universalism is a Strange Religion, Pt. 3

I have a Twitter account that is largely about Unitarian Universalist news and thought. I have a Tumbr account which is dedicated to Unitarian Universalist ideals and Principles, as I see them. I moderate a Facebook page devoted to Unitarian Universalism. As you probably realize, reading this now, I post a lot of my thoughts about Unitarian Universalism here on A Material Sojourn. I am also more than willing to discuss my faith and the Unitarian Universalist movement in real life.

It might not surprise you to know that this leads to a lot of challenges. Atheists questioning my theology. Christians asking me to defend my humanism and my factual-but-unflattering statements about mainline Christian denominations and groups. Pagans asking me to defend my concept of divinity and my panentheist view of the universe. I am literally challenged almost every week by someone who doesn’t like some aspect of my world view or some idea I hold about God and/or religion. Rarely, I have even made a single post somewhere that has both Atheists and Christians upset with me. I don’t know what I would do if these challenges weren’t almost always coming from other UUs!

The fact is, in being a vocal Unitarian Universalist, well over half of the people who attempt to call me out on my presumed heresies, fallacies, and prejudices are fellow Unitarian Universalists. I face much more criticism for my embrace of the 7 Principles from those within the movement than from outsiders. Almost every atheist who has ever denounced my personal brand of theistic humanism has been a UU (though the UUs have not actually been the loudest or most belligerent by a wide margin). Our liberal Christians seem every bit as likely to be offended by a comment as any evangelical Christian. Pagans, I have learned, are just more likely to be contrarian and love to explore the faiths of others. UU Pagans, obviously, have a double dose of that spirit.

We have so many UUs who feel that they have been slighted in the past, either by people of faith or for being a person of faith. We have so many differing views on what the future holds for our movement and for religion in general. The core of what it means to be a Unitarian Universalist is being debated and it is in flux. We need to find that center, wherever it lies. We need a theology that speaks to us, and a vocabulary with which to discuss and share it. We cannot do that until we try harder to embrace each other, each in our own search, so that each personal revelation can inspire us all. Ultimately, we cannot be all things to all people. We should not make that our goal, either. We each are on a personal search for truth, that moves some to pray, some to mediate, some to read, and all to create a spiritual practice that fulfills us. We cannot, then, deny that some people will be more at peace in a monastery, a pristine glade, or a library than in our churches and fellowship halls. That doesn’t mean that we don’t have something to offer the world.

Ultimately, it is good that we have these discussions; when they are civil, they can be very enlightening. At some point, though, we need to establish a core, or we will loose the hearts of our members. People are tired of standing against things. People are tired of being defined by what we reject. That was the core message of one of my recent critics (more on that in the next post). We understand this, and people on the far ends, the more traditional who still relish Christian themes and vocabulary and those humanist who feel that our future lies in a rejection of all things supernatural, fear losing their place within the movement. The fact that both groups identify as strongly with Unitarian Universalism as any UU deist, UU pagan, or UU Buddhist, means that there must be a way to keep everyone in the family. What I can promise is that it is not going to be done by being spiritually timid. A religion that isn’t transformative is a religion that has nothing left to offer except a label, and our label isn’t impressive enough to stand in place of foundational teachings and transformative growth.

(For other thoughts on why this is a Strange Religion that I have embraced, please see the Strange Religion tag below)