For about a year beginning in late 2017, I contributed to a blog. I no longer do, but I learned a lot from my time there (and it’s one of the reasons I wanted to transfer what I was doing in the church eBlast to here). It gave me a chance to think and reflect on some topics that I felt were under-explored. And it allowed me to realize all that I was learning while at UU Cleveland.

One of the biggest things I’ve learned is why communities matter, and what goes into making communities that matter. “Voluntary associations” was the term used by James Luther Adams, and when I had a chance to reflect on what those exactly were, I realized why UUs had such a strong sense of ownership and participation in community building. It occurred to me that:

There’s only one problem with voluntary associations. You have to actually join them. There’s no workaround for meaningful social interaction. There’s no hack. There’s no way to do this while in your PJs. And its not always easy. Sometimes that old guy is a racist windbag who won’t shut up, and sometimes that young person is a narcissistic jerk who doesn’t want your help. Sometimes it means going to meetings after work when you’re tired. Sometimes it means talking through issues that don’t seem worth the time. But that is what it costs to know people and to be in relationship with them. The thing that is certain is that you will get much more out of knowing people through voluntary associations than you put into them. They are a cure for loneliness, they are a model for what democracy in practice entails, and they are a mechanism for making our entire social system more conscientious of the people that make it up. It is a way of being that matters to the world.

Here’s my full reflection. But as I learn more and more, I know there’s so much more to say.

Dr. Georgia is the D.R.E. at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Cleveland, OH.

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