Handout 2: Signs of Membership: A Self-Reflective Exercise
Conrad Wright writes, in Congregational Polity: A Historical Survey of Unitarian and Universalist Practice, that in the Unitarian Universalist tradition of congregational polity, "it is left to the individual to decide whether he or she belongs within the covenant of a particular local religious community, and power is not assigned to ecclesiastical authority to decide whether the applicant is to be allowed in." (p. 206).
What questions might one use for discerning whether or not one is prepared to join a Unitarian Universalist congregation? Here are some suggestions:
- Am I prepared to identify myself as a Unitarian Universalist to my family and friends? Do I both know enough about this faith tradition, and feel secure in my identification with it, to "go public?"
- Am I committed to developing my understanding of my own personal beliefs? Do I understand that the Principles and Purposes are not a creed, and that my formation as a Unitarian Universalist does not begin and end with these broad statements?
- Am I a Unitarian Universalist locally and globally? Do I recognize that the congregation that I am joining is (most likely) a member of an Association of congregations, and that our collective participation in that Association strengthens our influence in the world?
- Am I prepared to participate in the lay leadership of this congregation? Do I accept that the essence of congregationalism is willing participation in the determination of how we will "walk together," and that my supportive voice and loving action are necessary to this congregation's health?
- Am I prepared to share the financial responsibilities of this congregation? Do I understand that Unitarian Universalist congregations are self-supporting, and that I have an obligation as a member to assist the congregation in meeting its commitments?