It doesn’t matter if it is from the pulpit or in the classroom, Faith Development is all we do. Ministry is to challenge the people to continue their faith development. We are all works in progress.
In her book, Fashion Me a People, Maria Harris, talks about the three ways in which congregations teach. She calls them the three expressions of a congregation’s curriculum.
The Explicit Expression is the clearly stated or visually representations of beliefs. We teach explicitly with the curricula we buy, the congregational visions, missions and covenants and the values we teach and openly uphold. The Seven Principles and Six Sources are an explicit expression of curriculum.
The Implicit Expression is the norms and practices of the congregation that are not articulated fully or openly. They can be silent but they are strong and deeply embedded in the culture.
Examples: children and youth involvement in the worship or social time, how leaders are developed, lay pastoral care practices, levels of giving, expectations of membership, how the minister is expected or allowed to relate to the children and youth. This expression is also found in what is allowed such as disrespectful, inappropriate or toxic behavior, sabotage, gossip, not allowing leaders to lead etc.
The Null Expression is the paradox that exists because it is that which is omitted; what is absent but communicates much about the congregation. For example: some words are just not used. A congregation with no classes on Christianity, no wheelchair access or sound system, no room for people to park, no seats left in worship, no children’s programs.
Frequently these three expressions of congregational curriculum can be in direct conflict with one another. Here is an example; a congregation that fights for fair wages for farm workers but does not pay fair compensation to its staff. Or a congregation that says it wants growth but then sabotages all effort toward growth. This conflict in values becomes a great problem for newcomers. The congregation does not walk its talk.
We will never be perfect and that is all right, but while perfection is unattainable we should be trying to be the very best Unitarian Universalists we can be. If you don’t know what I mean by this then the curricula of your congregation has not done its job. Because the congregation is the curriculum and Unitarian Universalism is all we teach.