Now that the race for the UUA Presidency has started, and the two candidates are casting their growth visions for our movement, I am mindful of an ancient story…
…about a mouse who was in constant distress because of its fear of the cat. A magician took pity on it and turned it into a cat. But then it became afraid of the dog. So the magician turned it into a dog. Then it began to fear the panther. So the magician turned it into a panther. Whereupon it was full of fear for the hunter. At this point the magician gave up. He turned it into a mouse again saying, “Nothing I do for you is going to be of any help because you have the heart of a mouse.”
This is a story for us to consider seriously. We can talk about “repelling fewer visitors” all day long–we can enumerate specific mechanical (magical) strategies which promise (although it’s really more presumption) to ensure temporary numerical growth. But the real issue has always been and continues to be: what is the state of our hearts? What is the inner dimension of Unitarian Univeralism that connects people with the sacred, heals relationships, and changes lives? What is the courage and conviction that will make us mice unafraid of cats, dogs, panthers, hunters, and all else that gets in our way?
There is a huge distance between “repelling fewer visitors” and people being swept up into a way of life that is adventurous and transformative and healing. With the latter, people are guaranteed to stay a while–rather than being initially excited but then eventually discouraged and disappointed.
I want the next UUA president to focus on the heart of our “mouse” movement. The issue is not centrally about numbers or size; numbers and size are byproducts of something far more important, which is clarity of purpose, a sense of adventure, and the availability of effective practices that grow our souls.