Friday, November 27, 2009

selling Meadville by the pound

I am saddened that we must sell the buildings and land currently occupied by the Meadville Theological School at Lombard College. I have a deep and abiding emotional attachment to the people whom I've met in those walls, and therefore to the walls themselves. I hope we keep a UU presence in Hyde Park, but I am more concerned that we keep alive UU theological education and research, wherever that might work best. I also hope we keep Starr King School for the Ministry alive and well; it's just as a Meadville grad, I am more aware of (and concerned for) its path.

Elsewhere in the UU blogosphere, folks are explaining and decrying the high cost of theological education.

This is part of a larger trend, of course. Seminaries from all kinds of traditions are experiencing financial woes, all around the USA. Yet I think our UU-ness makes us more susceptible to this crunch--and it might present a unique salvation.

Professor David Bumbaugh taught me that UUism is defined less by its liberal theology than by its middle class -ness. And "Middle Class" is defined by "anxiety about losing that 'middle class' economic status." I think the reason we UUs do not fund our seminaries (or our seminarians) adequately is directly related to the fact that we UUs do not fund our congregations very generously. In general, UUs donate less to their congregations than do people in the vast majority of religious traditions. Anxious about appearing--and feeling--"wealthy enough," we must spend on ourselves, and thus give less to our churches, and even less to our seminaries.

However, this class-based Achilles Heel might also save us. If we openly address this shadow, if we engage it with the same courage and openness that we've used on other justice issues, then we'll not only defuse our anxiety, we'll soothe it. This is the true salvation we offer--liberation from our deep (Calvinist) fears of sinking into a lower economic class. Our members and friends will feel so much joy at this liberation that they will support each other--and our congregations, and our seminaries--with much more generosity than they were able to feel previously.

And in the current economic climate, there are many millions of other people who are feeling a similar anxiety. Our salvific message would appeal to them, and swell our ranks. And it might just dovetail with our work on racial justice, too--rather than doggedly addressing race as separate from class, we could finally engage both issues, from a whole spectrum of approaches.

It's too late to save 5701 S. Woodlawn Avenue, but we might save 25 Beacon Street.


At 12:22 PM, Blogger Robin Edgar said...

25 Beacon Street is already "lost" in more ways than one Chip. . . AFAIAC it is very much in need of some salvation. A little bit of repentance is in order, in fact it is long overdue. . .

At 10:15 AM, Blogger Cynthia L. Landrum said...

Yes, the selling of Meadville Lombard's building deeply saddens me, as well. I'm particularly concerned because ML has the ONLY UU library in the country, and that library needs a home.


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