Ponderings of our Spiritual Life Director 11-16-22

I am currently in the midst of writing my final research paper for my Unitarian Universalist History and Polity class. I have decided to dive into the UUCL archives that live at our Lakeland Public Library, and to investigate what was going on in the days of our beginnings. UUCL was initially called the Lake Region Unitarian Fellowship. It was one of seventeen fellowships that was started in the state of Florida as a part of what they call “the fellowship movement” of 1948-1967. We officially became a fellowship in 1955. Fellowships are considered different than churches and congregations. They were generally small in number, were started and led by local lay people, and not led by a minister. Some grew into congregations (like ours, and we changed our name to reflect that in 2007), and some have remained lay-led fellowships.

No matter what, many fellowships/churches that started during this time are known to have a “fellowship culture”. This is unique to Unitarian Universalism, and it has certainly had an effect on the growth of our church culture denomination wide. As Holly Ulbrich writes in her 2008 book, The Fellowship Movement, “Unitarian Universalism today has been not only challenged but also enriched and revitalized by the unique phenomenon of the fellowship movement.”

Fellowship culture shaped change in a few key ways, and I certainly see how these ways remain with us at UUCL today. In a fellowship, the laity are empowered, and this aspect of culture can be advantageous when creating a shared ministry. I have certainly worked hard to share the pulpit and share power in leadership. The members of this church have worked hard beside me. I see how this deepens our relationships and we’ve cocreated some amazing things together!

One of my favorite things about a fellowship culture is that experimentation is encouraged! I call this “spiritual play” and we are pretty fantastic at doing this together. When I was DRE, in about 2009, a few of us brought back the idea of intergenerational worship services from the General Assembly in Ft. Lauderdale. We were full of excitement about the idea of having one once a month so that we could teach our kids about worship and about our faith. Now, don’t get me wrong, there was pushback! We experimented (sometimes we failed), but in the end we succeeded and we changed the way we embrace children in our community. I can tell you that 13 years later, we are still ahead of the curve on this one! (And yes, the children will be in the worship service with us this Sunday. Oh, and next month, it’s finally here… the Milk and Cookie Communion! I can’t wait!)

I look forward to sharing my research with you some more after I am finished. In the meantime, I uncovered some old photo books! Here are some pictures for you to enjoy. Does any of it look familiar? (You could totally do a scavenger hunt with these pictures!)