Great news! I got asked the question, "What is Unitarian Universalism?" by a seeker. While I was working (getting paid actual money) as a church administrator, someone telephoned to ask that. Yes! And, I wasn’t in an elevator, so there was time for the conversation. You know what I found out? Answering the question is much less important than listening to the other person's reply.
All this business about having a short stellar speech leaves out the fact that those who might want to join with us need us to listen to their stories: their struggles and hopes, their fears and their sense of the holy. And we need to be prepared to listen with our full attention and compassion!
The crucial part in my interaction with the caller, a young woman, was my validation of her. I only said two sentences about UUism, after which the young woman told me a little about herself, her religious background, her spiritual outlook and what she wants in a church. She lives a block from the UU congregation where I work. I told her about the next two Sunday worship services and that she might really like it. Before we hung up, she expressed her enjoyment of the conversation and said that she would check us out on Sunday.
Here is what I said: UUism has its roots in Christianity, but now we’ve broadening into a liberal religion where our individual beliefs are not that important. What is important is that we are seekers on a spiritual journey who come together to help each other on that journey and help make the world a better place. See, not at all stellar.
That conversation made my day! The only hard part was telling the young woman that I won't be there Sunday, because the next step after such a conversation would be to welcome a seeker in person at church. Except on Sunday, I'll be across town at the UU congregation where I'm a member.
Compassionate listening, everyone!