As I’ve traveled around the United States, visiting and serving Unitarian Universalist congregations, there’s one thing I’ve noticed that troubles me: how invisible our values are.
Many of our buildings are set back from the road, sometimes with only a sign to signal their presence in the neighborhood. Usually it bears the name of the congregation. Usually that name includes “Unitarian,” or “Universalist,” or both. Usually the name includes the word “congregation” or, sometimes, “church.” Sometimes there’s a tagline like the one on our sign on Weisheimer: “All Are Welcome.”
But almost uniformly these signs don’t make visible to passers-by the values we cherish. There’s often nothing to indicate anything about our covenant-based, values-centered invitation to create a life with meaning and purpose. In a sense, our exterior signs and signals say: “You decide who we are.”
The absence of information about our UU values means that passers-by bring their own assumptions to the question of who we are. If the word “church” on the sign, experience with other forms of “church” informs people’s conclusions about what happens inside. In essence, we allow random impressions of “church” in America to become the meaning people receive from our signs.
I’m curious. Is that what we intend? What we want?
Why allow our buildings and signs to convey so little information about our open, welcoming, values-based faith? Why don’t we signal the love beyond belief that welcomes newcomers and has saved so many lives with its message of hope? Why don’t we signal our conviction that love moves us to create community, work for justice, and engage diversity—both inside and outside our walls?
Are we afraid to take the risk?
This month, when our worship theme is “Risk,” we embark upon small-group “Banner Conversations” to consider what, if any, values we might display on the outside of our building. Join the conversation.