I have to confess that when Mike and I first became members of a Unitarian Universalist church in 1988, spirituality was not top of mind. We were looking for a broad grounding in ethical thinking for our young children and a group of like-minded people we could socialize with. We found both.
For me, for many years, that was enough. But as I became more deeply involved in leadership activities, including at the state and regional level, I felt an increasing need to be able to explain what made this faith so compelling to me, why I was convinced it was life-saving for so many other people.
An opportunity to do that came about a year ago, when Natalie Briscoe, who is a member of our UUA staff, reached out to me and about a dozen other people from all over the Southern Region, asking if we wanted to be the pilot participants in a covenant group she was developing called Braveheart. We would read one book a month related to theology or spiritual practices, then discuss through an online video conference call, with each of us taking turns leading the discussion and also sharing our own spiritual practices. I said yes, without really knowing what I was committing to. It was one of the most fortunate unintentional yeses I have ever said.
I don’t have time in this short talk to go into everything we have discussed but as one example, we just finished reading A House of Hope written by a former president of our UUA and a former president of a theological school that educates people for UU ministry. Here’s a little bit of what I learned about covenant, a topic top of mind for our congregation right now:
Hope is key to every covenant. And covenant is not only about commitment to a particular community. Because of its connection to hope, it is also about a community’s connection to a vision without which we all would perish. Hope is global in vision and local in realization.
That explanation of covenant gives religious purpose to the work our congregation does to help immigrants, to advocate for income and racial equality, to care for our earth.
Our faith calls us to understand how we put our beliefs into practice, including the work we do individually, privately to ground ourselves. That’s why we also share spiritual practices in our covenant group.
I have a morning ritual of opening my email to read a daily message from Daily Compass, which is produced by the Church of the Larger Fellowship, an online Unitarian Universalist community. And I try to take 30 seconds, a minute, 5 minutes to reflect on that message, to think how it relates to what’s going on in my life, the challenges I might face or the opportunities I have to make the world a little better.
On January 6 – this was the message from Daily Compass - If you are thinking it’s the end of the world, you might be forgetting just how many worlds there are. What possibilities engage your imagination?
I thought about all the worlds I am a part of – my family, the newsroom and the publication I work for, this congregation and my friends within our UUA, even my Facebook and Twitter connections – and pondered how I could use the gifts I am grateful to have – to write and to speak clearly – to help others find hope in the face of despair, courage to stand up to bullies, love that can overcome hate and fear.
Do I have an answer? Not completely. This talk is one small part of what I can do, and why I make serving as a worship associate my top volunteer commitment. It lets me live an ever-expanding call to serve our faith, to translate my gratitude for those who have come before me in Unitarian Universalism into a welcoming table for those who are just finding us.
I know that by addressing the hunger in my own spirit, I have plenty left over to feed most everyone else in all my worlds.