My FamilyMinistry Team is using the book Full Circle: Fifteen Ways to Grow Lifelong UU's by Kate Tweedie Erslev as a study book. We are going to discuss one chapter a month, during our regular monthly committee meeting, and last night was our first go at it.
The first of the 15 ways in the book is "Embrace Our UU Identity", which was a wonderful place for our discussion to start. People brought up how hard it was to get a straight answer when they first started attending a UU church, when they would ask "so what do you folks believe?" and just be answered with the question "what do you believe?". Others talked about having trouble answering the kids's questions without taking an hour to go through a list of "and now some people believe this, and other people say this, and still others say ...".
One father on our committee had a very useful example of a conversation he had with his daughter, where she started by asking him what the UU church believed, and he got wrapped up in one of those long explanations. His daughter stopped him and reframed the question: "Well, how did the church get started?" And by reframing the question, he was able to give a grounded explanation.
That perspective is what helps me also. My UU Identity is not your UU Identity - the idea of a single UU Identity seems as far-fetched to me as the idea that there is only one way to be a woman with a female-identity. But we all share a heritage, and in that sense our UU Identity is like being in a family. We share roots, we share characteristics, and we share a certain "family culture" that we may not even notice but that affects us a great deal.
It is helpful to be able to tell your children explicitly what you stand for, and where you have come from, what heritage you are handing to them. This is different from telling them how they have to be.
Yes, children need the freedom to find their own path, their own truth. But just because the road ahead has many possibilities doesn't negate the value of looking at the road behind us, and knowing where we have come from. Embracing our UU Identity should include heritage, history, and an appreciation of what has led us up to this point.