Two seemingly related worlds sharply diverging from each other.
Purple Martin World: UU seminary/ministerial world. Here, everyone I run into – UU seminarians, UU ministers, UU professors – would agree that the number one mission in a UU church should not be community. It should be a result, not the raison d'être.
Penguin World: small minister-less UU churches who agree that their number one mission is community.
(Yes, there may be UU ministers who don’t fit Purple Martin World and small minister-less UU churches who don’t fit Penguin World. But these are what I have had experience with.)
On Facebook, I reposted a quote I saw on Peacebang’s status:
"Transforming Congregational Culture" by Anthony B. Robinson: "Too many churches have adopted as their implicit purpose the maintenance of a congenial community for their members."
A member of Penguin World posted:
“And this is wrong because …………….?”
Ms. Kitty responded:
I think "Community" is only one of the reasons for being a church. Without a common purpose that is larger than "community", a congregation will be hard-pressed to really be a community. Our churches need to be striving for something larger, like feeding the poor or housing the homeless or working for justice.And more folks responded, the majority of them revealing whether they live in Penguin World or Purple Martin World.
At the same time, I was talking to someone helping a Penguin congregation figure out their values. Their top 3 values are all permutations of inward “community.”
Two different understandings about the purpose of church.
Sad Story.Love that!
These poor penguins did want to fly but they didn't have the wings...
And poor Rev Purple Martin who now has a mess on her hands....
Can the Association of Birditarian Birdiversalists do a better job of preparing Rev Purple Martin to understand and navigate congregational dynamics?
But I have to argue with point 1 … the penguins didn’t want to fly, not for some selfish reason, but because in their world, that’s not their purpose. Their purpose is to swim.
So I think that in answering the greater issue: what do we do about these penguins and purple martins? -- we have to address both sides.
- Yes, the Birditarian Birdiversalists need to prepare Rev. Purple Martin in understanding the difference between a Penguin church and a Purple Martin church, and how to better navigate, teach, work with, etc, her beloved Penguins.
- AND, the Birditarian Birdiversalists need to discover how can they affect the evolutionary process of the birds. Because it’s an evolution. In this metaphor, the penguin and the purple martin both start as the same thing, but they evolve in different ways. Is there a way for new church start-ups, the ones who say they want to be minister-led, to evolve with wings? Wouldn’t that work better than try to figure out how to retrofit them with wings later on?
Now, I am revealing what world I identify with, in that there is an assumption on my part that it is better to "fly" than to "swim." Yup, I'll own that.
But you often can live for a long time just swimming and eating fish. Might not grow the flock much, but they could be content in their penguin-ness.
So I think we need to figure it out all around, own it, and move on. During search, don't tell the minister, "Sure, we want to fly!" if you want the benefits of flying, but don't actually want to fly. And minister, if you see that they are swimmers and don't want to change, are you sure you want to play the "I can change him after we get married" game?
But hey, I don't know. I'm still a Lizard Eater.