What’s the Message?

This week, I attended the North Atlantic chapter of LREDA (the Liberal Religious Educators Association) retreat. We learned together, conversed on hot topics and of course joined in worship. I always learn so much at these gatherings, but the chance to attend worship- to attend to my own spiritual needs is very welcome.
This year, we enjoyed two music rich offerings of worship whose themes meshed beautifully.Wednesday evening, the theme of Roots and Wings made me think about how our faith roots us to reality and connection with others in an increasingly virtual world. How we are sometimes in free fall and need to remember the wings of our faith to guide us when we are doing something new.Thursday morning, Robin Barraza expanded on her timely and popular blog post, musing on how Unitarian Universalism is poised for great relevance in this time of change in American religion.

as Unitarian Universalists, we are increasingly finding that our method is no longer particularly unique in the secular or religious worlds. Schools, social justice organizations, liberal Christian, Buddhist and Reformed Jewish congregations (among others) use similar methods to teach morality, justice, and the tenants of their traditions. … So, Unitarian Universalism finds itself struggling to answer the question: what is our unique, bold message?

So many of us are unable to describe what Unitarian Universalism is – even if we have attended RE classes and services for years. We are so concerned with casting a wide net, of not alienating anyone, that we lose sight of what binds us together. Barraza challenges us to find our common theology, the beliefs which unite us.

I see this era of Unitarian Universalism as an incredible opportunity for growth, if we are willing to be bold. Our historic theological traditions make bold theological claims. Our Unitarian tradition reminds us that we derive from one sacred source, therefore we are connected to one another and to the earth, and are capable of committing Godly acts of love in the world. Our Universalist tradition reminds us that we are fated to the same destination, and that our liberation is bound up in one another’s. We believe in this-earthly salvation. Therefore, it is imperative that we love our neighbor as ourselves, and that we work for justice in human relationships—that we help save one another in Love.

What is the central message we want for our children, youth, and adults at Channing? It is a discussion worth having, and one to have soon since we are witnessing a migration away from the traditional Sunday School model, and organized religion becomes a less important cultural focus. Let’s look our common Unitarian Universalist beliefs, articulate an inclusive message that, “says something about life, death, creation, human unity, interconnectedness, God, suffering, Love.” (Barraza) Let’s create a message that engages our bodies as well as our minds. A message of action. A message of hope. This sort of message will inform our choices and direction as a religious education program, congregation, and Association.

When Hope Is Hard To Find

Last Friday the world came to a stop. Too many children’s and adults’ lives ended senselessly. We are stunned, scared, and sad. For days we have cycled between tears and rage, bewilderment and determination for change. All of these feelings are right, and normal, and need to be felt. It may be a while before we find our balance, before we can turn to the lawmakers for action, before turn to each other for a shift in our culture of violence. Before we look to how our own community is punctuated with similar, yet smaller scale, events nearly daily.

(Look here for resources on grief and talking to children about tragic events.)

Yes, the past few days have been hard. The only thing that kept me going was knowing that we have so many good people in the world. We gathered on Sunday to look into each others eyes and see the spark of light that resides in us. We sang together and lit candles and hugged. We gathered online to share messages of love and caring, comforting our grief and shock. These are the days when we rely on our strength together to hold each other up. As the Carolyn Dade hymn says:

10561_484476871585771_634101886_nI am grateful for every one of you who lives your generous and outrageously loving life – you who share that life and love with the world. It makes a difference. We are building a world of peace. We commit ourselves to this hard work, of facing fear and anger and sadness because we have hope. We have hope because we have  love. May love guide us as we heal our grief and work for change.



Thank you to UU Media Collaborative Works for these images.