Letter from the New AEU Executive Director, Bart Worden
I fell in love with Ethical Culture in the winter of 1985 on my first visit to an Ethical Society. It was love at first hearing. Members of the Society spoke of their passion for social action that flowed from commitment to ethical ideals and their urgency to act to make those ideals a reality. I recall feeling exceptionally excited and exceptionally relieved: excited by finally finding a group of people who shared the need I felt to work for a better world, relief that the effort was grounded in humanist principles and ideals. From that first day it felt almost inevitable that I would join the Society and become an active member.
If you are reading this, I imagine you, too, have been impressed by what you have heard or experienced at an Ethical Society and that you, too, were moved to make Ethical Culture your religious/philosophical/spiritual home. What commanded your attention on your first exposure to Ethical Humanism? What drew you in to the community? What went into your decision to join, to stay on, to get more involved?
I was reminded of that first visit to an Ethical Society when I attended my first public function in New York City as Executive Director this year on June 21st. The event was the Police Reform Organizing Project (PROP)
First Annual Citizen of the City Awards Benefit and I was at a table with fellow Ethical Culturists Anne Klaeysen, Lisel Burns and Dror Kahn, along with a number of young Latino women and men. Dror initiated introductions and soon the topic of conversation was "What is Ethical Culture?" It was a pleasure to watch the faces of our new acquaintances as they took in what we were saying and smiled appreciatively.
There's something about the first hearing about Ethical Culture that can be positively magical in its effect on people. I've seen it over and over againólisteners often have a somewhat quizzical look at first but that look transforms into a look of happy surprise as understanding grows and the message becomes clear. At those times I feel very connected with the listeners and sense that they would be happy to join the Ethical Movement and would be terrific people to have as members in our Societies.
And so it does puzzle me that the number of listeners who actually become involved with Ethical Culture is not higher than it is. I see the passion for good, the recognition of common ideals, and the respect for deed above creed. All that is missing is the person actually crossing the threshold and getting involved. How can we be more successful in drawing these individuals, who clearly have strong affinity for what we are about, into our communities?
I am certain I am not alone in wondering what it takes to reach people in such a way that they feel impelled to become active participants in the Ethical Movement, not alone in wanting to see more people engage with us and support us in our work. I am also not alone in my belief that we can and will realize success in our efforts to grow in numbers, in effectiveness and in vitality.
In my new role as Executive Director for the AEU I will be focusing attention, especially in this first year, upon what it takes for member Societies and affiliates to flourish and grow. Toward that end I plan to visit each Society over the next twelve months and on these visits to get a deeper understanding of the successes and challenges each Society is encountering.
I am truly looking forward to visiting our Societies and hope to see you when I visit yours!