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Recently a member of our congregation shared with me an article criticizing mainline American faith communities for their timidity. Too often, the author complained, even progressively-minded churches and synagogues, fearing internal controversy and a concomitant loss of financial support, refuse to grapple with issues roiling the outside world. But by “playing it safe,” as it were, these faith communities have become, in the eyes of a younger generation, more or less irrelevant.
I am proud that the First Unitarian Society of Madison has, over the years, chosen a different route.
Whether the cause was reproductive and marriage rights, the interests of public sector workers, reform of a draconian criminal justice system, protection of Wisconsin’s precious natural resources, finding solutions to the homelessness scandal or partnering with communities of color to close the equity gap, FUS and its members have repeatedly stepped forward.
I have seen little evidence of institutional decline as the result of such involvement. In the greater
Madison area, we are widely regarded as a church that cares and one that is not afraid to “walk its talk.” I have to think that the steady influx of Gen-Xers and Millennials into the FUS community reflects well on the priorities we’ve established.
The recognition we enjoy and the respect we have earned ought to be for us a source of both pride and gratitude. So too, the sterling reputation of our own music program and an innovative children’s religious education program, both of which continue to attract significant interest in a challenging environment. From the standpoint of participation and engagement, FUS is more than holding its own.
But that is not the end of the story. From a financial standpoint FUS has been losing ground because member giving hasn’t kept pace with rising fixed costs. We’re not exactly rolling in dough, so please consider the forgoing as you determine your level of financial support for the upcoming 2016-17 fiscal year.
For this marvelous faith community to continue making a difference in the world and in our individual lives, the principles we espouse have to be supported by our pocketbooks. There’s really no clearer or more honest way to put it.
Rev. Michael A. Schuler, Senior Minister