Tag Archives: sermon

Truly Deep UUism – A Lifelong UU’s Vision

(Here’s the download link to the audio recording of the the below sermon of mine. This recording is of me giving it at my home church the Universalist Unitarian Church of Halifax on March 18, 2012)

If the members of Unitarian Universalism were to engage with it in a truly deep manner, I believe this would change its very nature for the better. This changed nature would become visible in the shifted emphasis and different style that this truly deep engagement would bring about. This shifted emphasis and different style would be most apparently felt in what I believe is the central activity of its communities, its Sunday morning worship. This change of style and focus would not just affect UU Sunday morning worship, but all the community building undertaken by the varying UU communities, be they national organization or local church.

What do I mean when I say “engaging with it in a truly deep manner”? I mean not being afraid to delve into theological concepts such as God, heaven, hell and savour. We as UUs, I believe, would do well to rid ourselves of the need to have any sacred cows, i.e. things we will not touch for the fear of offending others. Some of the things we have avoided engaging with have been things like Christ and Jesus. Other things we have been afraid to really engage with have been our UU heritage of Unitarian and Universalist Christianity. We as UUs I belive would do well to heed these words from the Rev. Dr. Victoria Weinstein;

“We have thus far in our post-merger existence as Unitarian Universalists treated our theological legacy with white gloves: as fragile, faded archival material to be handled as lightly as possible and then filed respectfully away in an attic or basement file cabinet, or as historical curiosities to be peered at curiously over the top of our spectacles, smiled fondly over, and left in the church library to be studied by the few UUs who ask for a key to the locked stacks.”

I am not saying we UUs need to believe all the teaching and doctrines of the ancestors of our religious tradition, but to cut ourselves off from them, or only get them out when we want to smugly pat ourselves on the back and say to ourselves, “few thank goodness we have moved past these silly old no longer relevant beliefs and have become more diverse and open”, will serve us no good. Neither is I believe cutting ourselves off from the teachings of our ancestral religious heritage, which in my case is Anglicanism and Christian Science on my mom’s side and on my dad’s side it is Catholicism. I acknowledge that many of us have come here from other churches of the Christian variety and are in the process of healing. But what I am saying is this avoidance has become something that is crippling. Crippling us from learning from the past and from being open to seeing the truths that I feel are to be found in these heritages. Truths that I believe are still relevant here for us in the 21st centry.

I believe it is this renewed engagement with theological concepts and with our religious heritage that will become the new focus for us. That is, if we will have the courage to make it so. I pray we will find the courage to make it so. This new focus on theology in general and the theology of our ancestors, more specifically, will lead us to needing to embrace a new style or way of doing things. This new style of doing things I feel will be needed because this engagement with theology will awaken in many of us feelings and desires that won’t be well served by intellectually reasoned discussion alone. To further these points of mine let me tell you two storys.

This first story happened at the young adult pre-con that took place last May at Neighbourhood Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Toronto, just prior to the Canadian Unitarian Council’s Annual Conference & Meeting. We had all gone off to partake in our varying workshops. One group was a planning and information group for a young adult camp taking place later this summer, one was a knitting and light discussion group and the other one was a play group. It was this play group I opted to join. All of us in this play group went to the congregation’s playground to play on the play structure. But it didn’t take long for us to find ourselves sitting on the play structure instead and talking. What were we talking about? Well we ended up talking about theology, ritual and communion, more specifically Holy Communion. We were recounting our experiences with Holy Communion and how wonderfully spiritual and moving they had been for us. And for those of us that had grown up attending a UU congregation, which was most of us in the group, we were expressing how we wished we had learned more about these things in our childhood congregations. We all thought it would be wonderful if our churches did Holy Communion and actually discussed theology instead of avoiding it most of the time. I should note that most of us in this workshop were raised UU and we had nearly all the raised UUs at the pre-con, say for a few others.

Now here is the second story. This story took place in Montreal durning the 2011 Christmas session. It centres around the young adult group at the Unitarian Church of Montreal that was just getting going again after a period of downturn. As I was living in Montreal at the time I was a member of this group. We were all sitting in the youth room in the downstairs of the church. After we had decided on which days and how often we wanted to meet, we set about deciding what we ought to do for our first meeting and who should host it. As it was approaching the Christmas season we thought; wouldn’t it be nice if we had a holiday party. That is when one of our members eagerly offered to host the first meeting at her apartment. She had grown up with Jewish traditions along with attending a UU church and was eager to share here tradition of Hanukkah with her fellow UU young adults. She was going to make the traditional Hanukkah food of latkes and the rest of us were to bring drinks and snacks to share. On the day of the party we all trickled into here place staring at 6:30. The earlier arrivals helped her to make the latkes. Once we all had arrived and most of the latkes had been cooked we sat dawn to eat. After we had finished our meal of latkes topped with apple sauce we listened to a recording of one of the traditional Hanukkah prayers she had on her computer and we lit the menorah. We lit all the candles of the menorah as if it was the last day of Hanukkah and this would be the last time we would see most of us until the new year. After she had explained abit more about this holiday we all went and sat on comfy furniture for conversation. We talked about all kinds of things including how sharing of tradition like we had just done was something we would all like to do more of. After a little while our host got out a children’s picture book she had grownup being read to her by her parents durning her Christmas celebrations. It was a French book about Saint Nicholas’ evil brother Pere Fouetchard who punished the noughty children on Christmas be stealing their gifts and whipping them. She read it to us just like she would regularly read books to the young children she taught religious education at the church to. After the story we had a little more conversation. And when it was time for us to go, we all left knowing we had partaken in something really special.

What are these storys telling us? The first one has in it an expressed desire by my fellow UU Young adults and I for more engagement with theology and ritual in our local UU churches. The second indicates a wish again by my fellow UU Young adults and I to celebrate and explore our ancestral religious traditions more with our fellow UUs. These stories are, I feel, an indication, if only anecdotally, that this new focus on theology and our religious heritage that I am calling us to undertake will be first embraced by my fellow UU young adults and I as we are already expressing a desire and I would say a need for this in our churches and UUism more broadly. I also believe if this new focus on theology, our religious heritages, and their accompanying rituals is to be fully embraced, we as individual UUs and collectively as local churches, will need to embrace a new style or way of doing things within our local churches and more broadly at a national organizational level within groups like the CUC here in Canada.

What will this new style look like? It will be one that encourages and makes room for moments designed to stir the soul, move the heart and invigour the body, as much, but not more so than the mind. It will be a style that continues to value intellectually reasoned discussion as part of its offerings while, at the same time striving to offer more opportunity for us to add components geared towards experiential experiences into the mix. Where will we find what we need to help us shape and mold this style into being? I think we have to look no further than to our UU youth community and its more than fifty years of history. What are some of the things this community has to offer us that will help in this endeavour? The major thing I feel it has to offer us is what it has to say on worship. The style of worship that is most commonly done by our UU youth at their youth conferences and sleepovers is one that is known as “UU Circle Worship”. UU Circle Worship has at its core, feeling. Its aim is to get its worship attendees, through the use of ritual, to feel a topic, idea or theme, rather than to think on or analyze it, which is what is usually the goal we have for our Sunday morning worship. It has also been described as a kind of communion by longtime UU Sharon Hwang Colligan. And it is this communion that we need to embrace if this new focus on theology and the theology of our religious ancestors is to take hold and be come our saving grace. I will leave you with this poem of mine called Finally Time, that I wrote earlier this year.

Finally Time

Going to unleash the
Big one this time
‘Cause its finally time
For us to mature
This thing we’ve now
In this sacred space
We’re just being spiritual
Spiritually oh so adolescent

Going to unleash the
Big one this time
‘Cause its time for
Us to be able
To say this thing
In this sacred space
It’s our own spiritualities
That are now maturing

Going to unleash the
Big one this time
‘Cause its finally time
For us to mature

Finally time
For us
To mature
This thing
In our
Sacred spaces
And it’s
Our spiritualities

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