Appendix B: Glossary: A People So Bold DVD Discussion Guide
Audiences will have differing levels of familiarity with many of the concepts referred to by speakers in the A People So Bold DVD. The following terms are defined for the benefit of all participants’ understanding.
Congregational Polity: “Polity” is a word related to politics. It refers to a social organization’s form of government. Religious organizations have many different kind of polity. In episcopal polity, the bishops govern the churches. In presbyterian polity, presbyteries (regional councils) govern the churches. In congregational polity—the form of polity embraced by Unitarian Universalist congregations—each congregation is largely autonomous. Our autonomous congregations covenant with one another to provide mutual services and support.
The Enlightenment: Unitarianism and Universalism took hold in the United States during a time known as “The Enlightenment” (18th and 19th centuries), during which American and European academics and revolutionaries emphasized such principles as freedom, reason, and tolerance.
Liturgy/Liturgical: “Liturgy” refers to patterns and traditions of worship. These can be weekly, such as a chalice lighting or a repeated song. Liturgies can also be seasonal and cyclic, such as special Easter rituals or annual altar-building for Day of the Dead. Unitarian Universalism is different from many religious groups because it does not prescribe particular liturgies for worship, weddings, funerals, or other events of import. However, each of our congregations has its own liturgical traditions.
Polity: (See Congregational Polity, above.)
Postmodernism: A literary, aesthetic, and social trend that began to rise in the latter half of the 20th century in Europe and America. To look at the world with postmodernist lenses is to critique hierarchies, certainties, grand narratives, and “objective” truths. Postmodernism sees the world as diverse, complex, and contradictory, yet deeply interconnected.
“William James’ Once-Born Types:” In “Theological Roots,” Dan McKanan refers to terminology of the late and legendary psychologist William James, who in The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902) wrote about the “once-born,” people who have experienced little friction between their mindsets, way of life, and religion of birth, and the “twice born,” those whose life experiences have led them to alter their religious beliefs and practices. McKanan states that Unitarian Universalism has few “once-born” types in it.