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We want our movement to change

A letter from the newly elected president of the Unitarian Universalist Association.
By Peter Morales
Fall 2009

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UUA President Peter Morales

The Rev. Peter Morales was elected UUA president at the 2009 General Assembly in June. (Nancy Pierce)

Ah, deadlines! I am writing this at my home in Colorado on the afternoon of July 4, less than a week after being elected your new president. Tomorrow I leave for Boston for meetings and apartment hunting. There is a poetic justice in a former journalist facing a deadline a few days into his term.

I have been reflecting on the election and what it means for all of us. This presidential campaign, though long and arduous, did what an election campaign should do in a democratic faith. It created a space for discussion and reflection about who we are and where we are headed as a religious movement. This election was not about which of the two candidates for president was more competent. The Rev. Dr. Laurel Hallman, my opponent, is a revered minister with a distinguished record. Happily, this campaign did not descend into a popularity contest. It was not about which of the candidates is a better person or which is more likable.

Our delegates did not so much decide between two people as between two futures. I founded my campaign on the conviction that Unitarian Universalism has the potential to become a religious movement that includes far more people and that we can have far more impact in the world. I spoke repeatedly about growth as a moral imperative akin to feeding the hungry. Our campaign laid out an ambitious vision of embracing a multicultural future.

The message of the election is clear: We Unitarian Universalists want our movement to change. We want to embrace the possibilities inherent in these uncertain times. We are not reconciled to being a declining part of American religious life. We have too much to offer. The world needs our prophetic and compassionate voice.

As your president, I hear your desire for an Association that is a more effective partner with our congregations. I hear your longing for leadership that builds on Bill Sinkford’s legacy of public witness. I understand your hope for a movement whose cultural diversity matches our intellectual and theological diversity. I pledge to work with our Board of Trustees and our staff to create the Association you voted for.

The challenges before us are daunting. These are difficult economic times. Our Association staff, in Boston and across the country, must become more efficient, agile, and effective. The organizational challenges are great. However, our organizational issues are not what will determine our success.

The true challenges before us are spiritual. The first great test for us is whether we are willing to let go of those things in the past that no longer serve us. We must learn to “do church” and our associational life in new ways. Change can be hard. The familiar is comfortable. In the coming months and years we must remind ourselves that we are the spiritual heirs of people who were willing to leave the past behind in order to embrace the future. We must not let fear paralyze us.

The second great spiritual test for us is relational. Can we open our hearts, our lives, our doors, and our congregations to the millions of seekers looking for a religious home? Ultimately, the test is whether there is enough love in our hearts. Love reaches out. Love is vulnerable. We must dare to love.

During the campaign I kept saying that “We can be the religion for our time.” It was not just a slogan. I believe it passionately. Together, together, we can transform and revitalize our faith. I am filled with joy and anticipation. Give me your hand. Let’s get busy.

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