Monday, November 17, 2008

We're Not in Kansas, Anymore...

A new article from UUWorld came out today. It contained the following paragraph:

This urgency comes from major changes in the make-up of the American population that are on the horizon, [Rev. Peter] Morales said. “Of Americans who are 70 years of age or older, three-quarters are white, European-extraction, Anglo.” he said. “Of Americans who are 10 and younger, one-quarter are. If not a single immigrant crosses our border for the next 20 years, three-quarters of young adults in America are going to be African American, African-Latino, Asian, or some mixture thereof.” If UU congregations fail to welcome and include this changing American face, Morales said, Unitarian Universalism faces a strong possibility of becoming irrelevant. He also stressed the need to recruit more ministers to lead this change because it is possible that half of all current parish ministers will be retiring in the next eight years.

This floored me. I don't mean that it scared me or made me worry that I would have to move somewhere else. Having just finished Building the Dream, it struck me that the work we're embarking on is truly the work we need to do to revitalize our churches, congregations and fellowships and that this course came out at the right time because we're going to need it something fierce. This is rebuilding our world.


There are two parts to Morales' quote. First the demographics of our society is changing and our congregations need to meet that challenge and change, too. Second, our Unitarian Universalist ministry will undergo a significant changing of the guard in the near future.

Embracing the Change

Our society is changing - it's always changing, duh! - but it's usually hard to see. We can read the news about demographics but the reality of its short- and long-term impact has a hard time breaching our impervious complacency. I believe I read recently that last year fewer than half of the children born in California were born to white families. It made a bit of a splash when it was announced but Morales' claim is even more radical than that.

Proactive Leadership for a Multicultural Society

Morales says that we will have a turn-over of up to half of the Unitarian Universalist ministers in the next decade. This means that the pulpits of our congregations will be filled with (relatively) younger ministers. As pointed out in Reverend X, these ministers will take us in new directions and I believe they are being trained to work in a multicultural world. God, I hope so!

Hitting Home

This demographic reality must start driving everything we do in our congregations if we are to remain relevant. California, and especially Southern California, is going to be one of the places we find out if we can do this. Each congregation will (as is our UU wont) approach this challenge differently. This is the strength of diversity: first, because our congregations vary quite a bit in outlook, constituency, history, and size and second, because the more ideas we - as a collective - attempt the more ways we will find to succeed.