Background: UU Cultivators Collaborative

In the past three years, The Unitarian Universalist Association has been diligent in its commitment to being responsive to the widening the circle of concern report.

As we continue the journey, we will be launching a new initiative called the Unitarian Universalist Cultivators Collaborative which will provide comprehensive programmatic support and coaching to our UU spiritual innovators.

This Cultivators Collaborative will follow the recommendations from the UUA Commission on Institutional Change’s 2020 report Widening the Circle of Concern, which proposed investing in leaders of new spiritual communities serving BIPOC, LGBTQ, disabled, and other historically marginalized communities within our faith.

Our goal is to create thriving faith communities, grounded in models of shared leadership and mutual accountability, that are designed to nourish spiritual growth, liberation, and healing for all.

Supporting Spiritual Innovators

Over the last several years the UUA and partner organizations have experimented with ways of supporting these innovators.

From the original Beyond the Call: Entrepreneurial Ministry program for religious professionals to the five-year Black Lives UU grant, to the ongoing work of the UU Funding Program and the launch of the UU Religious Innovators Network, we have learned a lot about the current landscape of religious innovation and the largest challenges innovators face in creating and sustaining new forms of community.

The UU Cultivators Collaborative is designed to support those innovators and teams who are ready to realize their wider vision for Unitarian Universalism with tailored support at critical junctures along the way.

Understanding the changing religious landscape and urgencies before us, we are eager to support the spiritual innovators working in congregations, affiliated communities and new start-ups who are rising to the challenge of transforming Unitarian Universalism into a faith that more closely embodies the Beloved Community we envision.

These courageous UU spiritual innovators are developing new forms of UU community that meet the spiritual needs of people from cultures and life-stages that have been underserved in the past.

These communities may center on ministry with those who are Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC), youth, young adults, disabled people, queer folx, families with young children with special needs, LGBTQ couples and nontraditional families, multilingual and immigrant communities, people who seek virtual faith connection, and many more who are seeking a community that offers a sense of belonging, provides spiritual nourishment, and honors dignity, equity, and liberation.

UUA Partnership with Beloved

The Unitarian Universalist Association is partnering with Beloved to support spiritual innovators who hunger for advancing our UU values of Love and Justice in the world.

Beloved is a national network of spiritual leaders spanning denominations, locations, and leadership styles. Their mission is to inspire, support, and nourish spiritual leaders as they create and sustain new faith-full spaces of sacred belonging.

Beyond the resources for exploration that we have provided through the UU Religious Innovators Network and related programs, we have been looking for ways to provide more spiritual sustenance, connection, and practical support:

  • For innovators actively developing new spiritual communities
  • For new communities with the potential to spread, grow and do faithful movement-building

In partnership with Beloved, The UU Cultivators Collaborative program will provide customized support, encouragement for innovators from historically underserved communities through a cohort model. Participants will be part of a cohort of mutual support that builds collective knowledge, connects them to expert mentors and resources for developing and testing prototypes. It will guide them throughout this critical stage and beyond.

To inspire, Beloved provides

  • trainings led by peers and outside presenters
  • peer mentorship
  • 1-1 coaching

To support, Beloved offers

  • meaningful organizational and operations assistance including
    • email & donation platforms
    • CRM (database)
    • liability insurance
    • discounted fiscal sponsorship
    • accounting
  • a regular opportunity to gather as a cohort, for reflection and support, all in a liberatory framework

To nourish, Beloved convenes

  • robust spiritual leader communities of practice, where we
    • offer one another emotional & spiritual support
    • share big ideas & best practices
    • build collective power to transform Unitarian/Universalist faith life
    • grow and flourish supported by a multiplicity of understandings about time, rituals, and wisdom

Beloved Values (adapted for a UU audience)

  • Divine Image: Our north star is that we are each inherently worthy and divine. We value each other simply because we are, not for what we can produce. We are called to practice this radical notion for ourselves & our beloveds and strive to imprint its far-reaching implications onto everything that we do.
  • Listening: We strive to listen well to ourselves & our beloveds. Such deep listening sits at the center of creating authentic experiences of belonging.
  • Small is all: What we practice at the small scale sets the patterns for the whole system. The spiritual growth we are seeking & offering for ourselves & our beloveds have profound effects on our world.
  • Beauty: We hope to inspire awe and gratitude through turning our attention to the beauty of art, music, food, space, and the natural world. We aspire to live our lives as if we are creating a work of art.
  • Embodiment: We emphasize embodied spiritual practice, such as singing, meditation, and movement, especially because much of our U/U religious life (in the U.S.) has over-emphasized intellectual knowledge at the expense of heart-soul-body experiences.
  • Leaderful: We hope to cultivate leadership of all kinds, at all levels so that our beloveds thrive in reciprocal relationships.
  • Liberation: We believe that the liberation of all people is intertwined. We are committed to building feminist, anti-racist communities.

Cohort of Spiritual Innovators

The UUA and Beloved expect to host a cohort of UU spiritual innovators (both religious professionals and lay leaders) starting in March 2024 for a one-year intensive followed by a co-created alumni experience.

Cohort Application

The current application period has closed.

Funding

Initial seed funding has been provided by a $500,000 grant from the UUA to address the recommendations for innovator support outlined in the UUA’s Widening the Circle of Concern report.

  • The program was also the recent recipient of a $200,000 bequest restricted to projects in Florida.
  • UUA’s Stewardship and Development department will invite additional contributions from individual donors who have a particular interest in new community innovation and plans to include support for the UU Cultivators Collaborative program in future UUA campaigns.

10 Year Outcomes

  • There are many proven and replicable forms of UU-connected spiritual community that meet the needs of people who have been underserved in our typical congregations.
  • Existing congregations are partnering with and supporting new types of ministries by and for BIPOC, LGBTQ, and disabled UU’s.
  • Dozens of multicultural congregations and affiliate communities are being led by BIPOC and other previously underserved religious professionals and lay leaders.