All that was said in the comments of the last post (and thanks to all who participated in the discussion) seems to confirm my suspicion that there is no religious center in Unitarian Universalism. And this small sample size seems to be quite OK with that.
I shouldn’t be surprised. When I look around at other denominations, I don’t see much in the way of religious centers there either.
The Episcopal Church is currently in the middle of a nasty schism precipitated by the consecration of an openly gay bishop. If that’s important enough to split over, is the center of Episcopalianism a commitment to heterosexuality? That’s a silly thought. Is it a commitment to Biblical inerrancy? I’m no expert on Anglicanism, but I don’t think that’s been a key part of their doctrine in many decades, if ever.
In fact, about the only group I can confidently say has a religious center is the Southern Baptist Convention. Historically, Baptists were a pretty non-conformist group, emphasizing the priesthood of the believer and the autonomy of the local church. In the 1980s, a group of ultraconservatives decided that “Baptist” needed to be defined more narrowly and began the fundamentalist takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention. Today, if you want to be a Southern Baptist, you have virtually no leeway in what are acceptable beliefs and practices. They have a religious center, but at what cost?
If we don’t have a religious center, is it possible to have a distinctively UU spiritual practice?
I still come back to the “seekers” who walk through our doors every Sunday. When they ask about spiritual practices, what do we have to offer them? We can point them toward CUUPS or the Zen Group, but if Paganism or Buddhism isn’t their thing, we have nothing – and we have nothing that is distinctively UU.
Whether we have a religious center or not, I think it is possible to develop a unique spiritual practice, something that draws on our Unitarian and Universalist heritage, that borrows from the world’s religions, and that (like Buddhism) could be practiced from a theistic or non-theistic standpoint.
I just don’t think I’m the person to do it. Not only do I not have enough historical and religious knowledge, I already have a practice.