What kind of scripture study does your UU congregation offer?

I recently hauled out my trusty Oxford Annotated Bible With the Apochrypha (Revised Standard Version). I’ve re-read the introduction, the preface and the introduction to the Pentateuch (the Hebrew Bible).

Yeah. This ain’t gonna happen. Not as a solitary pursuit, anyway. But do I want to join a Christian Bible study group? Do I want to “come out” as a Unitarian Christian who has fallen in love — again — with Jesus’ sermons on the mount?

I don’t know.

Just a few weeks ago, I was having brunch with a Unitarian Universalist minister, and we were talking about the UU movement’s way of addressing holy scriptures of all stripes. We agreed that UUism in general isn’t making a concerted effort to teach the holy scriptures of the sources. (To review the sources of UUism, visit http://www.uua.org.)

I’ve only attended two UU congregations for any length of time – both of them in the American Southwest. Currently, I’m a member of a small fellowship that has never had the resources or consensus to offer full-time ministry. Before that, I attended a UU Church with a full time minister. (That’s the model I prefer, by far, but I don’t want to be on the road an hour round trip on Sundays to worship.)

My experience tells me this:  UU congregations don’t offer anything in the way of sophisticated scriptural study. No in-depth Bible study. No in-depth study of Hinduism, Buddhism, Humanism, Judaism or Islam. (My fellowship has a solid, lively pagan covenant, but I don’t know if they teach a particular “brand” of paganism.)

I can understand why. Churches that teach one faith and one collection of holy writings spend just about all their time teaching that one faith. In general, it’s a small group of members who meet regularly for a guided study of the text. Credible, deep teaching on the sources that feed UUism would be herculean, to say the least.

But that doesn’t mean congregations shouldn’t try to do something. Right?

Two years ago, I joined a leadership conference for advanced lay leadership training. One conference student asked our district executive why the conference didn’t offer more teaching about UUism – beyond “the 101 stuff.”

“It’s like once you learn the 101 stuff, that’s it. Unless you go to seminary.”

Every head nodded. Seminary is expensive and exhausting. It’s not meant for the serious student of UUism who wants a deeper grasp on his or her faith. It’s meant for people who want to serve a parish.

I’m still reading manageable bits of the Bible every day, along with support references. But I need more mentorship before I go much further, and I don’t think I can count on getting it at my fellowship.

So, UUs, tell me what your congregation offers in the way of scriptural instruction? How involved is your minister? And does your congregation engage guests with credentials to teach a holy scripture?

Finally, do you think UU congregations are obligated to give members this kind of instruction?

I think it’s imperative for UU congregations to either A) connect their members with credible spiritual leaders who can advise on matters of scripture and discipline, or B) make basic scriptural literacy more of a priority than it is now.

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