I introduce myself nearly 7,314 times each week. Well, that may be an exaggeration, but I do announce myself and introduce the Congregation a lot. Something significant happened last Thursday afternoon. I was participating in a small group meeting of stewards and we were asked to introduce ourselves, our role in the Congregation, and why we remain involved with the Congregation. Many of us have been asked these questions. We usually don’t hear what anyone else is saying because we are busy forming our own response in our minds. This time that didn’t happen for me. I didn’t think about how to answer those questions. I simply stated my name, my role and said, “I am here because I want be.”
I didn’t feel the need to give a laundry list of reasons why I love the Congregation. This simple statement was very meaningful to me and from the heart. I wonder how many places we occupy because we want to versus having to. I wonder what happens when we feel the need to be somewhere else. Unitarian Universalism is a chosen faith. Most of us have arrived here from other traditions. We choose this faith because it speaks to our love of community, justice, and the tent of Unitarian Universalism is large and holds many traditions, free thinkers, and theologies.
There are times when some of us feel the need to be somewhere else. The large tent can become an illusion for some of us because our differences in thought and spirit are not part of the dominant theology of our community. You may have heard me say that one thing that concerns me about Unitarian Universalism is that we are at risk of not walking the talk. That is, we claim we are inclusive but our practice is to judge and sneer at thoughts and beliefs we think are not part of Unitarian Universalism or are not our own. I’ve experienced this in other congregations and here, along with others, at 1stUUPB. My use of Christian scripture, readings and hymns that are outside the comfort zone of some is sometimes abhorred. My use of readings and hymns that are outside of the more Christian spirituality of others sometimes receives the same reaction.
In fact I was asked to say “Amen” after the benediction on Sundays instead of “Blessed be.” Unitarian Universalists, including myself, claim we are inclusive yet talk of other traditions and faiths sometimes excludes our own UU brothers and sisters who hold those other traditions and faith dear. This leads to questioning their choice to be here. They feel they’ve fallen victim to a bait and switch. They arrived here with the promise of acceptance and encouragement but received the opposite.
I’m holding this up not because I wish for everyone to change what they believe and hold dear. I’m hoping for the opposite. We should hold tight to our beliefs but simply understand we need to be respectful of what others are holding. How very Unitarian Universalist that would be. Our tent shelters many people, stories, traditions, beliefs, and thoughts are plentiful and diverse. We don’t have to think alike to love alike.
This is the talk we must walk saying “I don’t share your beliefs but I honor you, thus honor your beliefs.” None of us own the truth and need to live and love one another in a way that demonstrates we understand that. My heart aches when one of us feels left or cast out for what we believe. At our core that is not who we are. It is a conscious practice to honor one another as we are called by Unitarian Universalism to do. If we believe in freedom, our hearts and speech will encourage versus disparage. I want to be here. I love you, I love this place. Whoever you are, wherever you are on your spiritual journey, you are welcome here. Let these words not shallowly fall from our lips. Let us live them.