The next Great Awakening has already begun.
Unitarian Universalist leaders are calling for our congregations to work together to "create the next great awakening of liberal religion" in New England. And the wild part is they mean it!
I was in the room with a group of our region's most invested religious leaders when this call to pursue a new Great Awakening was birthed. Those present felt a palpable upsurge of energy. We knew we were onto something powerful that evoked the religious history of New England, called for personal transformation, and hinted at a region-wide movement of people called to the same purpose.
For some good people, perhaps those who actually did their high school history homework, "great awakening" conjures the image of human sinners strung like spiders by an angry god over Jonathan Edwards' fiery pits of hell. To others come images of hillside camps full of revival tents and altar calls. Some believe that the three "Great Awakenings" in the United States were inherently conservative, and therefore are dangerous ground for religious liberals to stand on.
I'm no historian, but I know that these widespread religious revivals were radical. They grappled with the angsty zeitgeist of the day and helped seekers make meaning in the midst of it. They sought to counteract something in community life that disturbed them, and they sensed that new ways of understanding Spirit were essential to bringing about the world they dreamed of.
Our vision of a Great Awakening is indeed being born from this parent!
We envision justice-seeking people joining hands across traditional demographic silos and institutional boundaries.
We envision people seeking out religious communities to help them live happier, healthier, more purposeful lives.
We envision exuberant, joyful communities that worship boldly and prophesy loudly.
We envision extending Unitarian Universalism's welcoming theological embrace wide and deep in communities throughout New England.
This is the Great Awakening we seek. So you're going to keep hearing people talk about this brand of emergent faith. And if our vision is indeed worthy, some bit of your heart will look for the tents on the hill, and answer the call.