Tending to Tradition* A Practice of Spiritual Leadership

watering plants

While choosing Unitarian Universalism freely as a home spiritual community may be an individual act of religious freedom, it also means moving away from ME and into WE. As the current generation of Unitarian Universalists, we have inherited our faith from those who came before, and we will hand it on to those who come after. Yet this inheritance is not static. We do not pass it on unchanged. Rather, it is like a garden. As a living tradition, it changes over time while also keeping a connection to its earlier self.

Like a garden, our living tradition requires continual tending. When we claim Unitarian Universalism, we are taking up that task of tending our tradition. Specifically, we are accepting the responsibility to do two things:

  1. build on the gifts and wisdom of the tradition, especially to carry them forward toward what is yet to come; and
  2. learn about and work to repair the damage our religious ancestors have caused or perpetuated over time.

As we do this work, we remember that the very same practices can contain both gifts and harms. The practice of covenant, for example, can be practiced in truly liberatory ways, but the people who brought this idea to New England from Europe thought of the covenant as between only themselves and their god, neglecting to bring the same spirit of mutuality and reciprocity to the indigenous people of the land. So, we need to repair the harm of that oppressive understanding of covenant, even as we explore the liberatory potential of covenant. Being a people of faith means we need to continually tend our tradition, bringing nourishing seeds to harvest, weeding and pruning that which is harmful, and making repair where it is needed.

*We have used a different name for this practice in the past, and have recently shifted our language away from words that might cause harm, especially to people of African and Asian descent.

"Tending to Tradition" Posts From Our Practice Makes Possible Blog

Tending to Tradition

  • Ring Out The Old

    Wren Bellavance-Grace

    From New England Region
    It’s the waning days of 2022 as I write this; it will hit your inbox in early 2023. The turning of the Gregorian year begins with January, named for the...
  • Revision as a Faithful Practice

    Erica Baron, Meck Groot, Joe Sullivan

    From New England Region
    In 2020 General Assembly delegates voted to begin a review of Article II of the UUA Bylaws. Article II is the covenant between and among UU congregations.
  • When Practice and Awareness Meet

    Meck Groot, Joe Sullivan

    From New England Region
    The point of a community of practice is for people who want to get better at something to learn from each other through regular interaction. Even people...

More from Tending to Tradition