As you all know, since June I’ve been serving as president of the national board at the American Ethical Union, and it is high time that I report back here at home what I’ve seen and what I’ve learned while occupying that lofty station.
During the two decades I’ve been a member of our Society here in Westchester, I came to visualize and sense Ethical Culture as the community of friends and colleagues whom I know here and appreciate. Now that I’ve spent some time meeting people from other Societies — at national Assemblies, seminars, and at meetings of the AEU Board — my perspective has clearly changed.
Focusing, as we generally do, solely on one’s own, individual Society, we see Ethical Culture as the embodiment of a community. We see it as a theme around which to congregate and an identity that we share. But by staying here within the home Society it is hard to see Ethical Culture as the Movement that it has always been at its core, and the Movement that it can be in the future.
What always strikes me upon meeting people from other Societies is how much we share and how well we already know one another. There is a common sensibility I detect in the others concerning many things, and a kind of language that I may have thought unique to me, but which that person knows, too. It was a revelation to see that the tiny community of my own Society was not the only island in a world of chaos — but that there are other, similar islands scattered across the dark seas as well.
Of course, Ethical Culture is a small — well, tiny — Movement, when measured in numbers of active members. But it is national in scope and its century-and-a-third-long history is becoming deeper and richer. The world of Ethical Culture has a vibrant core and a wealth of ideas that continuously percolate from one Society and then another, from one member, from one Leader, then another.
Let’s strive to be open to the whole world of Ethical Culture. There are ideas circulating about issues that arise in the day to day operation of our own community as well as over issues of the day. For Sunday School, there are lesson plans, projects, books and programs that were assiduously collected from the several Societies and made available to everyone by the Religious Education Committee. There is a new website, linked to the aeu.org website, that offers a key to that material. Let’s tap into that.
The AEU Membership Committee collected and organized a tremendous wealth of membership resources in a book called “Great Expectations” which is online and available to draw from.
Each Society, just like our own, has been engaged in ethical action. Inspiration and ideas for these projects can be shared. Each society can do more to broadcast what it is doing to the rest of the Ethical Culture world, and to the rest of the world.
Each year at the national Assembly, there are workshops on ethical action, community development, membership growth, as well as on purely Ethical Culture themes. Last year, the Assembly was held in Albany. This June, the Assembly will be held in Northern Virginia on the campus of George Mason University. While the full program runs for four days (five if you join the groups visiting Capitol Hill to spread the message on separation of church and state), the workshops will be run over two days, Friday and Saturday. The Assemblies offer a wonderful opportunity to meet others from around the country and to build networks of mutual interest.
We all know that Ethical Culture finds expression in the pot luck dinner, but it is more than that alone. Ethical Culture is an attitude towards a wholesome life, a conviction that with an ethical foundation humanity can achieve perfection, and a faith that through curiosity, imagination and a spirit of sharing we can build a rich, just, equitable and sustainable world community. This is the creed that enriches us and, what’s more, it is the message that the whole world needs right now.
— Richard Koral