A number of years ago, the Prairie Star District Board proposed Vision 2010, a vision for what our district could look like by 2010. The fourth goal was “a world which lives by UU principles.” One of the points under that goal was that “UU congregations are recognized as centers of learning on ethical issues.” While we have yet to see “a world which lives by UU principles,” we are making progress on the subpoint. Several congregations in Prairie Star District sponsor lecture series for the public, raising their profile in the community and inviting people into conversations about ethics, current events, and community life.
Iowa Lakes UU Fellowship in Spirit Lake, IA, one of our emerging congregations, has just announced “a series of penetrating lectures and discussions called The Leading Edge Forums.” The first speaker will be Ms. Rekha Basu, op-ed columnist and essayist for the Des Moines Register, who writes on human rights, racial justice, gender equality, and immigration.” The lectures are being held in a public place, the Pearson Lakes Art Center. Tickets for the event are $12. A news article in the local paper announced the series. The congregation is also paying for advertisements for the lecture in four regional newspapers.
First Unitarian Church in Omaha has sponsored the Holland Lecture series for a couple of years. Their most recent speaker was Dr. Richard Dawkins, well-known author of The God Delusion. All tickets were gone before the event occurred. Previous lecturers’ topics have included stem cell research, the changing ethics of life and death, nuclear terrorism, climate change, and more. Tickets are free. The church received a generous gift that supports the lecture series. These lectures, too, have taken place in public settings. This is a smart choice on the part of the congregations. Going to a public place might be less intimidating than going to a church where you’ve never been before.
The Unitarian Church in Lincoln, NE, is well known in the city for its winter lecture series, held annually. The church is on a well-trafficked street and attracts many non-church members for the lectures.
The UU Fellowship of Mankato, MN, has offered an occasional speakers’ series, with funding from the UU Funding Panel. Highly advertised in the community, the series has had a good response from the public. Unity Church – Unitarian offers an annual Samuel Morgan lecture.
With these public events, I think we can say that our congregations are on the road to being recognized as centers of learning on ethical issues.