This ministry is vital to our faith is because the fastest growing religious group is the unaffiliated, the “nones.” We all know that more and more people are defining themselves as spiritual but not religious, and we know that our UU congregations lose about 90% of our youth as they age out. Moreover, Pew Foundation surveys show that there are three times more people that identify as Unitarian Universalist than there are members of our congregations (~450,000 vs. ~150,000). Lastly, we know that there are millions out there that share our values and our vision. Who among us hasn’t said, “My friend so-and-so isn’t into church, but they’re pretty much a UU!”?
People seek personal and spiritual growth, communities of belonging and care, and opportunities to do the transformative work of justice building. Huge numbers are thirsty for what Unitarian Universalism offers, but they aren’t seeking a congregational model through which to do it. If this model is all that we offer, then we are letting go of all those potential relationships and all of that potential beautiful work. To be in relationship with them we must create alternative forms and expressions of our faith; for they are our people, and we are theirs.
Sacred Fire UU creates covenanted communities to build just these relationships. The goal of the ministry is not to create more UUs, just as the goal of Unitarian Universalism is not to make more UUs, but rather to build the Beloved Community. The model that we have developed is a way to bring the values and vision of UUism to those that seek depth of spirit, authentic community, and a foundation from which to engage in social justice work. It is a way of working to build a better world alongside those who resonate with our content, but not our current forms. While many people will not identify as Unitarian Universalists, through building these relationships they will identify with UUism.
This work is vital to the world because in this age of separation our lives are fragmented from one another’s and we are unfulfilled within ourselves; we are starved for truth, meaning, and purpose. Only from the foundation of deliberate communities can we transform the world into a more just, sustainable, and compassionate place. In the words of the UU minister John Haynes Holmes, if our work is that of social salvation, we must make religion “coincident with life.” Our ministry truly seeks to give life the shape of justice.