— The NewUU Isn’t New Anymore and Thinking of Closing Shop

November 7, 2013 at 5:44 pm | Posted in Online Ministry | 8 Comments

Dear NewUU friends, I’m considering ending this blog. I’ve enjoyed writing it and learned from your comments. It houses REACH: A UU Digital Ministry program. I will keep the REACH information on this url for several more months and let you know when it’s coming down. You can download all of it for your files.

I’m proud of the work, and I think it’s helped some of you. I hope it’s helped the faith. Really, though, only one person, Rev. Meg Riley, told me two years ago that I had contributed something very meaningful to UUism. And she was able to articulate why and not just utter platitudes.

Certainly words of support and encouragement came from lay leaders (Larry S. you’re in this bunch), but Meg really understood, from the beginning, the potential of REACH.

Rev. Nate Walker’s ministry benefited from some of my ideas, and he was very supportive. I learned a lot from both Nate and Meg. I asked Nate if he thought I should convert REACH into a book. He took the time to look over the material and give me several action steps to do just that. Thank you again Nate. But I just cannot muster the enthusiasm to spend inordinate amounts of time jumping through what I believe to be unnecessary hurdles for the sake of getting a UU imprint interested. I can self publish if I really want to. But I don’t because the enthusiasm for the work just hasn’t been strong enough.

I  haven’t heard from too many others. However, someone new has emerged and she could make a significant contribution to the faith:  Susan Intriligator, the UUA’s new online strategist. She’s terrific. She’s a former editor at Ms Magazine and a Harvard Divinity School ordained UU minister. I’ve given her names of people I recommend she talk to. She’s reached out to several. Some have responded but, alas, others haven’t. Perseverance, Susan! And readers, if you hear from her, please respond.

She recently spent a day with me at my home on Cape Cod. As far as I can tell, she is the only person who has completely absorbed what I created, understands what it took to do it, and has all the necessary skills to take from it what she needs to do her job and to advance the REACH ideas. I’m grateful for her and will help her anyway I can going forward.

I hope she is listened to and allowed to be a strategist and not just another body in an office to throw work at. All too often in this digital age, people create strategy jobs but don’t really know what it takes to create something meaningful and so the effort gets hijacked for short-sighted reasons.

I titled this blog TheNewUU for all the double entendre reasons you can think of.  One of which, was to try to illustrate how someone completely new to organized religion took it all in. I figured I was in the demographic that Rev. Peter Morales and others discuss as the “nones” or the people “with our values” who should be involved with organized UUism but aren’t. In all the research cited by the UUA about “nones,” I didn’t find any stories or profiles of a “none” that spoke for itself. Perhaps those accounts exist in the research. I didn’t aggressively seek it out. I thought, instead, I’d share parts of my journey online to throw a face into the mix of anecdotal evidence.

I don’t feel that I can authentically continue to blog about digital ministry or my UU experience because I haven’t been able to find a new church in which I feel comfortable.  After all, I believe all digital ministry should be intricately tied to an offline religious experience. How can I authentically continue to talk about this if I don’t belong to a church?

The other realization I had about 2 years ago, is that I have no interest in being a lay digital minister at a congregation. I create and invent at a high level. I then carry out aspects of a first implementation (or launch) but collaborate with others to hand off the work for an institution or company to internalize the project’s operations and make it stable for the long haul. I found that people in churches assumed I’d want to lead or do digital ministry at other churches I occasionally attended or considered joining. Nope. 

One of the problems of digital ministry at the local level is, that few people want to do the work. It’s assumed to be hard. A few people assume that the retirees in the church don’t use the Internet. That’s a laugh. Our older generations are among the heaviest users of all things digital. Other aspects of congregational life, though, pose challenges. Constant turnover in volunteer help, for example. Part-time staff doesn’t have time, even to drop wasteful practices in favor of more green-like digital tasks. Then there’s the issue of the interim minister and the notion that a congregation has to go through four years of preparation for a new senior minister. There are the multi-million dollar capital campaigns going on to repair and expand 40+ year-old physical churches but next to no money to properly be present online. I summarized a strategy for the faith to approach digital ministry in a way that would nullify most of these challenges.

I now have a new local community, to be sure. And it’s full of potters, painters, quilters, photographers, poets, authors, retired academicians, musicians, teachers, athletes and shop keepers. None of these people attend a church. We talk about faith sometimes but not one of them feels comfortable in a “religious” environment. I find this very sad. I am grateful to my new friends for introducing me to Brene Brown. Brown’s definition of living “wholeheartedly” is what I think the UU Journey Toward Wholeness is about. I had come to the conclusion that one key aspect of wholeness is to live without unecessary fear. I think, though, that Brown has it right about vulnerability.

At it’s core, Brown says, wholeness is a willingness to be comfortable with vulnerability. That rings so true. I have practiced vulnerability and it has opened doors, slammed others shut and lead to threatening situations. I’ve learned from those experiences and continue to draw new meanings from them as life goes on. I think many UUs have a major problem with vulnerability. I think it can be prayed upon in congregations, not nurtured. One of the most vulnerable things an interested party does is to walk into a congregation for the first time. One of the most vulnerable things a newcomer or visitor can do is to talk earnestly with a few congregants who are total strangers.

Here’s a thought that I’ve had and have had too much evidence in its support: The opposite of a famous UU citation seems to be true in many places: We think alike but we don’t love alike. — No one seems to be considering whether the reality of what we say in church community is actually the opposite of what is transpiring.

Early on, a minister told me that people go in and out of church communities throughout their lives for many reasons.  I understand that now.

I’m a UU but I’m wandering. And for this reason, this post is most likely the last for a long time if ever again.

I wish all of you happiness and courage and am grateful you took interest in what TheNewUU had to say. If you’re ever on the Cape, look me up. Let’s grab coffee and head out for a walk on the beach.


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  1. What do your stats look like? Is it costing you money? I understand about time, but I think if something is useful to people (like people are finding out about UUism from this resource), then it should stay up. Just post where people can find new information.

    • The stats are very good as I noted in the post. Now nearly 12,000 times people read the blog and 670+ are intentionally following it. There’s a core group of about 100 people who read whatever I post. I will keep the blog up for 6 to 8 more months – at least the Digital Ministry, REACH, program.

      The number of times I’ve heard that people are actually using or benefitting from it has been a total of 10 times in two years. Although some people refer others to the blog, only one person said how his congregation used the info: It used the copyright policy I wrote to create one of his own. People comment on my New UU journey related posts, in which I have tried to share vulnerability and also be provocative.

      The post that literally went around the world and had hundreds of readings is the one on the nude quilt by artist Annabel Rainbow. The quilting world spread it very quickly. Meanwhile, people who search for “nude women 50+” on Google end up landing on that post. I love that. People expecting to see pictures of naked women are, undoubtedly surprised when they land on that post.

      The blog costs me about $150 annually. But that’s not the issue.

      Creating REACH and writing the New UU have been major components in my journey. I’ve practiced (and continue to) vulnerability, compassion, courage, creativity and radical hospitality – regardless of whether it’s returned in kind. To grow that practice, I think I need to move on and let go. Not 100 percent sure, though, and it’s why the headline to the post says “thinking about closing shop.”

      • I understand your frustration. Blogs can be like informative web pages, too. People are not always interactive. I just don’t have time to interact with everything I read. I don’t blame you for moving on. I think you should be able to do this for a cost of a lot less than what you’re spending, though. I appreciate the effort.

        • the cost includes ad free, custome design, video storage and other things I use that are not necessarily for the New UU. So I don’t mind it

  2. I’m sad I won’t be getting your posts any longer in my inbox, but I understand that our passions and energies shift. Thank you so much for your work on REACH (our congregation has used parts of it as a resource), and your honest and well articulated thoughts on the blog. I wish you well!

  3. My story, too. Thanks for articulating.

  4. This makes me sad that I never really took the time to comment here. I have appreciated your blog–and your perspective–very much. It’s been informing my experiment with Cabaret Church, which I hope might speak to some in your community. I would love to have a long conversation. 🙂

    • Thanks Sean. Happy to talk to you. How do you want to connect? I’m jherold06 on skype, if that works for you.

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