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May302017

June 2017

The longer I serve as a minister in the Unitarian Universalist Association, the more I wrestle with the question of how to explain Unitarian Universalism.


Since I’m in my 22nd year of service, you might expect that answer would be easy at this point.  Well my friends, you’d be wrong and I would be telling a falsehood if I could give you a simple answer.

You see, the theme this month is: “Living Our Faith” and I for one am determined as I ever was to know myself, my theology, and my faith as it stands or moves in me and around me.  I am excited and renewed by the efforts I must engage to make this reality come to the front of my conscience mind.  I, in fact, live for love, knowledge, family and this faith.  It means everything to me and I am hoping it is more than a passing fancy for you. 

So my friends, the questions around your understandings of UUism and how it impacts, directs, informs and fulfills you, are coming your way.  This summer I’m asking each of you to consider deeply what this faith is and what you want it to be.  I’m asking you to practice your creed, your personal theology, your UU values so that without a question or too much doubt you might tell a friend, stranger or any soul what you believe.

I’d like to start by saying that we UU’s are not as unique as we sometimes think and say we are – progressive people all over the world for instance, encourage others to think and explore and search their own lives in coming to understand God and the universe around them.

We UU’s are, generally expansive in our encouragement of that search and it is in fact one of our greatest gifts that we actively search. I would also note, that I do not believe that “spirituality” is about what someone passively “believes” but, instead, how a person actively engages their inner and outer worlds.  It’s more than lip service.  It’s a paradigm for living.  

That being said, there is a line in the hymn, “We Laugh, We Cry” (#355) which says that we believe, “even to question, truly is an answer.” An important part of the spiritual grounding of our faith tradition, as I understand it at least, is precisely this encouragement to seek for truth and meaning. This is not the same as saying, “UUs can believe anything we want.” That’s way too simplistic and not at all what I think we are about.

It is to say, however, that our faith encourages us to challenge ourselves to look into our own lived experience with dedication and deep longings to understand the insights of religion, science, and the arts as sources of knowing “the twin realities of being born and having to die” (as the Rev. Forrest Church put it). This is no small thing. Ours is, at its best, an active faith that calls on us to examine, work on, re-examine, and to keep on examining our understanding of the universe and our place in it. One way to describe the spirituality of Unitarian Universalism is that it calls on us to become comfortable in the discomforting place of being human and having to live and ultimately die.

So no, you can’t “believe anything you want.” In the first place, “belief” is not, for UUs, the core of “spirituality.” In the second, we are encouraged to actively engage ourselves and the world in a free search for meaning; to then engage with others in open, dialog about what they have discovered in their search; and to then to arrive at a place of our own beliefs.

Unitarian Universalist spirituality and faith ought to lead us to the place so many of our youth model for us during their Coming of Age service – “this is what I believe now, but I know my beliefs will change over time.”  This is almost foundational to being UU.

Another aspect of our faith tradition’s spiritual core – it is not enough to engage in this search for truth and meaning. We then must strive to apply our discoveries to the way we live our lives in the world.  This isn’t to say, that just by affirming another’s inherent worth and dignity is enough.  No my friends, we’ve got work to do.  Potable water, housing, food, shelter, equality, racism, immigration, war, disease, incarceration, and need I say more?  We as a liberal faith and as UUs are called on to change the world for the better.

One more observation – this is not, in my experience, the way a lot of UUs understand and experience our faith. Far too many, it seems to me, come to UUism having already decided on the “answers to life’s big questions,” and have no real interest in looking any further.

We come, many of us and maybe even the majority of us, to have our understandings affirmed rather than challenged; we want our established biases reinforced instead of re-examined. In this we are absolutely no different than the majority of other religious traditions we humans have ever created.  Despite our saying we are so very different.

So dear friends I will share a line or two from a song we sing at Sophia Fahs Religious Education camp.  I’ve been going there for many years now and I believe this will be my last but for the rest of my life I will recall with gladness and great heart the song that simply says-
 
Dear friends, dear friends you have given me so much, I love you so. 
 
UUCVH, UU Verdugo, thank you for another year.  Thank you for the many kind words and deeds, thank you for being you (UU)!
 
In faith,
Gordon

 

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