Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Amid All The Noise In Our Lives

This is a UU meditation written by Rev. Tim Haley that I absolutely love:

Amid all the noise in our lives,
we take this moment to sit in silence --
to give thanks for another day;
to give thanks for all those in our lives
who have brought us warmth and love;
to give thanks for the gift of life. 
We know we are on our pilgrimage here but a brief moment in time. 

Let us open ourselves, here, now,
to the process of becoming more whole --
of living more fully;
of giving and forgiving more freely;
of understanding more completely
the meaning of our lives here on this earth.

Source: 1997 UUMA Worship Materials Collection

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Grounded in the Community that is the Congregation

A Short Testimony 
For those of us who are fortunate to do so, we see our UU congregation as our Tribe. That is the term I refer to when I speak of my UU family at Pathways Church in Hurst, Texas. I was at Pathways for a little over a year and then when my spouse and I bought a home in another part of the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex I began attending another UU that was just up the street from our new house. I was at the other church for about a year but it was really hard to connect with the people there - just from my standpoint despite how lovely many of them are. I was really missing the connections that I made at Pathways. I made the decision to return to that congregation and have been so happy ever since. 

I tell you this because it really does matter where you claim your community. Not everyone is fortunate is have more than one UU congregation as an option in his or her geographic location. Theoretically, I could attend any 9 of the UUs in the Metroplex. Some of them I have visited. It is Pathways that has called me back and has allowed me to graciously call home. I refer to the lovely people therein as my 'Tribe' (which I have lovingly borrowed from a dear friend who also attends Pathways). 

Grounded in Community
I admitted today at Pathways before a group that the people there keep me grounded. I am grounded by their stories, their unique experiences, their individual beliefs, the functionality of the community. I am grounded by how much care and concern they place into every service and into the attention they give to the children and children's programs. I am grounded by how the people at Pathways intentionally see the sacred in each person who enters into the physical structure as well as those we come in contact with on the street. It is something that calls me to rejoice in time and time again. 

The great social activist and journalist Dorothy Day once said "We have all known the long loneliness, and we have found that the answer is community." I am a strong believer in community. I am a strong believer in the ideals and values that each community imbues among those who are both members of and receivers of such. It is in community that we learn that we can overcome our struggles through teamwork and build bridges to hope and trust where canyons of despair may lie. 

This long loneliness that Day speaks of may resonate with several of us where our religious lives are concerned. I can say that when I was a minister in another denomination I did feel lonely - not truly able to speak the way I wanted to speak or share belief as I did/do believe. Even in other UU congregations where I just didn't "fit" with the already existing congregants there was loneliness. When we find our community, our Tribe, we see the ray of hope and the clouds begin to pull away. 

Coexisting in the UU Community
The joy of coexisting in a community that the Unitarian Universalist Association has created is that there is no judgement inside the walls. You will not be (or should not be) judged for your individual beliefs or non-beliefs. And while we have all known a few people in congregations who are quick to put down others or groups for believing certain things or in certain ways, our first principle calls us to see and value the "inherent worth and dignity of every person." That principle calls us to see all people as valuable - both inside and outside of the UUA - even that conservative, evangelical Christian cousin of yours that causes your face to tighten at times. 

In this same vein, the third principle bears just as much importance for those within the walls of each UU congregation. This principle which calls us to "acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations" is reminder as free-thinking people and members of a liberal religious organization we do have a commitment and responsibility toward each person. As a spiritual counselor and vested member of the UUA, I have always seen Principle 3 as one of the most important. This is a principle that truly brings us together in the community. It's that principle that reminds me time and time again why I am even here. Why I continue to return. Why I continue to promote the UU faith. Just as I am working hard each day to be true to my personal religious/spiritual beliefs, so too am I working hard to uphold and support and advocate others within my Tribe as each are on his or her journey - and that includes those individuals who float in and out of the congregation's life. 

Getting grounded in a community that has spent years shaping itself and finding a way to help shape others' lives without intrusion not only warms my spirit but reassures me of my personal choices and understandings of my path. This is not to say that the congregation I belong to has not had its share of struggle. All organizations and communities see this as part of the natural order of things. It is because of these struggles and because of these obstacles that have made this community I belong to strong and so able to provide for the spiritual needs of those within its walls - even the transient seekers. 

Your Role in the Equation 
What is it that you are seeking from your UU congregation? What can you provide from your skillset or spiritual path to others there? Is your local UU providing you with the tools to enhance or build upon your path? Are you helping others locate resources as they are seeking such? Are you living into the principles of your UU faith? 

As we ask ourselves the necessary questions that help us to shape community and build upon our spiritual paths, I find that it is important that we allow this to flow very organically and over time rather than insisting it occur all at once. There is more appreciation to the overall construct and mechanics of the very ideas and intentions that are poured into that which makes up community. By this realization, it helps each of us shape ourselves and our spiritual lives as we coexist with others who are doing the same things or striving for such. 

Leverett Saltonstall, the 55th Governor of Massachusetts and U.S. Senator, once said, "I personally have always found the Unitarian faith a source of comfort and help in my daily life." While Saltonstall came from a generation of Unitarians he understood that need and benefit of community that this organization does and can provide. I believe this level of comfort he speaks of is not something that occurs overnight but through living the UU experience and allowing such to take form over time. 

I invite you to that place of stillness where you may reflect on how you are grounded in your community, your faith, your congregation. I invite you to inquire of yourself what opportunities do you seek that may or may not be present at this time. I invite you to be a person of principles and help shape a community / congregation of principles where all people are respected, loved, welcomed and honored - despite each person's personal beliefs, backgrounds, baggage, or even where any person may be headed. I invite you to learn from another and see that truth is found in many forms and truth that is identified by one person may not be the truth for another but we can coexist and build this community of love and service for one another and those who have yet to find us.