Continuing Conversations: UUCLV February 2022
The Rev. Gordon Clay Bailey
Theme for February 2022- Widening the Circle
— Yuri Kochiyama
Indeed our survival and liberation depend upon our recognition of the truth when it is spoken and lived by the people. If we cannot recognize the truth, then it cannot liberate us from untruth. To know the truth is to appropriate it, for it is not mainly reflection and theory. Truth is divine action entering our lives and creating the human action of liberation.
— James Cone
The world around is different than it was a generation ago. Or even three years ago. The question is, how will our Unitarian Universalist faith keep up with the times? What choices will we make—or fail to make—and how will that affect the relevancy of UUCLV and the survival of this congregation as we approach our 70th anniversary?
Here are some of the realities which our faith exists in as we entered 2022:( Info from the UUA)
Our nation is moving away from institutional religion. According to the Pew Research Center:
Fewer people are participating in religious communities.
Emerging generations report higher rates of people not affiliated with institutional forms of religion, especially Christianity (those known as the nones because they have checked the “none” box when asked about religious affiliation). 
Increasingly, younger generations are the ones exiting religious institutions. While Unitarian Universalists often look at the slightly increasing number of people who identify as atheists and those who identify as not religious as an opportunity for us, some of the reasons appear to be tied to the nature of religious institutions as much as changing beliefs.
Unitarian Universalism is not immune: we too are losing congregations and have many teetering on the edge of collapse.
While we typically refer to 1,000 congregations, in truth we now have 819 congregations that would meet the standard to become a congregation today.
As institutional religion declines, more who enter our doors are not refugees from other faiths but are experiencing faith communities for the first time through our faith and are seeking spiritual ground.
The demographics of our nation have changed, and with them expectations around cultural competency:
We have seen an increase in the percentage of the population that is non-white. In California, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, and Texas, white people are already not the majority. A US Bureau of the Census report that showed non-Hispanic white people as a minority by the year 2044 has been thought to lead to a dramatic political reaction. 
A growing number of people marry outside of their racial group, so the percentage of people who are multiracial is expected to increase significantly by the next Census count.
The globalization of economies and these demographic trends means more people are exposed to cultural competency expectations in schools and in the workplace, with many seeing competency as a necessary part of doing business in the twenty-first century. 
So dear UUCLV what does this mean for us? Shall we retreat and go back to the good old days? Shut our eyes to the realities around us? Maybe we can continue as we've been going and as our population grows older, and older we will die off? No harm, no foul, no widening of the circle? Or maybe, just maybe we are on to a new and exciting journey of discovery, deepening spirituality, civic/neighborhood engagement; dare I say the beginning of building of the “Beloved Community”.
So, this is Black History Month and as a Black man/minister I feel obligated to speak from my center and I feel it is necessary to bring a few of our other groups into the conversation. Maybe even centering those groups as the demographics may more clearly call us to attention here in Las Vegas/Clark Co to young adults and families, Latinx, GLBTQIA+ and Asian/Pacific Islanders in our midst.
Widening The Circle is more than a song, a phrase, or idea. It is what is right. How can we offer the words about inherent worth and dignity of others when we are not fully engaged with these other communities, ethnicities, age groups or theologies and the followers of them that are not typically found in our UU congregation.
This month let us open our hearts and minds, bodies and spirits to others. Let us finally get to working on the RENEWAL of the WELCOMING CONGREGATION. The time is now!
Let us commit to working with the Latinx communities in some tangible way. I heard a wise UUCLV person say recently that they would like to see a Spanish class offered here and I quipped that maybe along with that we could offer an English class as a second language offering. Meeting, greeting, engaging one another… what a novel idea. The time is now!
How about our connection to the fastest growing segment of Clark Co.? What can we do to ensure we are open and inviting to the Asian and Pacific Islanders in our midst? How do we say we see you, we honor you, we would like to be in relationship with you? The time is now!
Lastly, it is Black History Month and I'm going to use this opportunity to bring more of my cultures, both African American and Caribbean American, to the forefront. Look to our Facebook page every day in February for an offering from the many and diverse Black peoples of this nation and world as I share an insight from communities far and wide.
Widen the circle of concern. Share the beauty of our UU faith everywhere you go. Keep coming back to UUCLV in person when it is possible and until then join us in the virtual community as each and everyone of you is valued and treasured; for without you who are we?
The incomplete work on race within Unitarian Universalism as a denomination has marred our ability to move forward at a time when accountability, multicultural awareness, and inclusivity is becoming the new normal in the larger world. Engagement in this type of development is deep spiritual and faithful work that allows for growth and change. We need change at the personal and interpersonal levels. Most of all we need to make systemic changes that can be ongoing and lasting.
The newer generations in our nation are increasingly at risk according to many reports, including the 2019 World Happiness Report, which singled out a dramatic and disturbing decline in health and happiness, especially for younger US citizens. 
The deliberations to date by the denomination have convinced many of us of this: What is at stake is nothing less than the future of our faith.
In peace and love,