Fellow Fairbanks blogger Discontinuous Permafrost writes about the Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship in his latest post, “Organizing unorganized religion,”
While unorganized religion has its benefits, it also has its challenges. I suspect the only thing we might agree upon is that we should have service on Sunday.
It’s veering a bit away from the thrust of the piece (which is about the challenges and opportunities of a non-credal religion), but let me sow the seeds of disagreement over the UU’s one point of consensus (i.e., having service on Sunday).
All congregations from culturally Christian roots — mine included — seem to default to Sundays as their day of meeting. Yet Sunday is the day of the week when people without a car will have the hardest time getting to church (or what you may call it). The Borough buses in Fairbanks run a regular schedule from Monday to Friday, a much-scaled-back schedule on Saturday, and not at all on Sunday.
In addition, many congregations — DP’s and mine included — deliberately locate some distance from any concentration of human population, which means that the chance of many congregants’ walking to church is practically nil.
These two practices, of locating churches outside of any neighborhood and of meeting on transit-free days, has the effect of making church accessible only to those who can afford a car. The care and feeding of private automobiles takes up 15 to 25 percent of our personal income (across all income groups, incidentally), which poses a tremendous burden on the poor.
A requirement of car ownership seems to defy some of the “seven principles” that DP credits to the Unitarian-Universalists, particularly:
- The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
- Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
- Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations; and
- Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.
By no means do I wish to single out the UU’s. My own religious body, like theirs, has a strong emphasis on equality, community, and social justice. Like theirs, mine is not accessible by public transit on Sundays. (Theirs, at least, is marginally accessible on the Yellow Line; mine is far away from any public transit.)
By requiring car ownership as the gateway to church participation (or, indeed, any civic participation), don’t we effectively weed out the involvement of the poor, the very people to whom the religious ought to reach out the most? Don’t we block, rather than encourage, their spiritual growth?