I wanted to share some thoughts/concerns I've had on Ethical Culture and ESWoW as an isolated Ethical Culturist in southern/central California. For many years, I have considered myself more in line with the emphasis of Ethical Culture rather than UU (even though I live in an area where UU is more prevalent). These are simply my thoughts. I welcome feedback and corrections.
Increasing participation in ESWoW - It seems that ESWoW is having some difficulty in getting online participation (it's probable that you are getting more response with the monthly teleconferences). From my perception, it seems that the ESWoW is fairly difficult to navigate which is a disincentive. I'm just wondering if a bulletin board format such as at http://www.freeratio.org/vbb/index.php may be easier to navigate. Typically with this software you can have newbie areas for non-members to ask questions and get info about Ethical Culture as well as restricted areas for members.
There is also a lack of good introductory material on Ethical Culture on both ESWoW and the AEU site. I would put up easy to read introductory essays (including descriptions of what a platform service is like) as well as online audio and video files (movies) giving an introduction to Ethical Culture. It is too difficult to navigate the Library section of the AEU site for most people. Put that info up front.
AEU would also do well to consider a complete revamp of their website to be an easily navigatable repository of online info about Ethical Culture and linkages. An online introductory video on Ethical Culture could also be posted on YouTube (conclude the video with the AEU and ESWoW website addresses for more information) for example. (I'll copy the above 3 paragraphs to the "Website Works" section of this site as well).
I would also focus on what I would consider the "practice" of Ethical Culture - the Ethical Axiom and mindfulness of the Ethical Manifold (which I would expand out to include the larger environment). Platform presentations and discussions thus flow to assist with the parctical application of Ethical Culture "practice" to real-life issues. I would consider this a form of naturalistic spirituality.
In addition to that, in my opinion ESWoW would be very helpful if it had a page with online audio and video files of platform services and talks for use by members of ESWoW - representing isolated individuals and groups. I'm hoping to get a small house-based group up and going myself and I would find that to be a useful resource. I would also increase linkages to online RE materials and RE assistance for ESWoW members for those of us with children especially. A section of the ESWoW newsletter should be devoted to RE at home.
I would also greatly increase ESWoW and AEU presence on the greater WWW especially the networking sites such as MySpace, Facebook, and MeetUp. Some members are there already and this may be a good place to attract new folk to ESWoW who may otherwise be unaware of Ethical Culture. For a small fee, MeetUp could be a good resource for EsWoW people to also organize regional events while also attracting potential new folks to these discussions.
To me, the future of Ethical Culture will be more in the direction of smaller home or community based small groups rather than larger formal societies as much. Younger generations under 60 are drifting in this direction which is why small group ministries have picked up in the megachurches and even UU. Online resources to help facilitate meetings with less individual effort could be a big assist with these groups.
I do think that Ethical Culture can have a good future in filling the vacuum for many folks who view ethics as their religion and are not comfortable with traditional religious expressions if it moves more into this small group, "MeetUp" style format. Ethical Culture can more easily make this switch rather than UU, for example, because of Ethical Culture's small size and mostly regional scope. This means there is untapped potential out there. This might bring new, young blood into the movement. ESWoW should become the feeder resource to help this transition.
Your thoughts would be welcome!