CHRISTIAN VOICES IN UNITARIAN UNIVERSALISM
Dave Dawson: “I share a desire for the freedom to test the outer limits of my Christian faith. Within my church I am not told I am wrong, just looked at quizzically when I say I have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ…I remain a UU Christian as a witness to those in mainline Christianity that, yes, universal salvation is alive and well, and it is a beautiful option for those people mired in shame-based churches."
Anita Farber-Robertson: “It was not, however, going to be enough to want Jesus in my life. I was going to have to claim him, and let him claim me. I was going to have to say, “Yes, this is my path. You are my guide, my teacher, and my savior, for without you my soul would get brittle, my mouth grow bitter, my heart hard.”
Terry Burke: “My baptism remains central to my religious self-understanding. As part of the confession of faith that Carl Scovel had me write, I said, “I believe that God seeks a loving, dialogical relationship with humanity, and that the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ calls us to reflect that sacrificial love in our lives. The cross and the faithful community proclaim that it is more important to love than to survive and that love is stronger than death.”
Victoria Weinstein: “Who is Jesus Christ to me? He is both a teacher of the Way, and the Way itself. For one who has always had a hard time grasping the concept of God, let alone developing a working definition of God, Jesus both points me toward a definition of God and then lives that definition. Jesus Christ is the freedom that laughs uproariously at the things of this world, while loving me dearly for being human enough to lust after them. He is my soul’s safety from all harm. He is the avatar of aloneness, a compassionate and unsentimental narrator of the soul’s exile on earth, and proof of the soul’s triumphant homecoming at the end of the incarnational struggle. He is not afraid to put his hands anywhere to affect healing. He mourns, and weeps, and scolds, and invites. He is life more abundant and conqueror of the existential condition of fear.”
From UUCF Online Communities
- I’ve been a UU for 20 years; preceded by 20 years as a Mormon; and 20 years as a Presbyterian. For family reasons, I struggled to be a good Mormon but the oppression of sexism and fundamentalism was strangling my soul. I took an 180 degree turn. Leaving was very disruptive on my marriage and confusing to my children and friends. I loved finding Unitarian Universalism where I was not required to ‘believe’ anything; only to question the integrity of my values and life. The questioning was from the pulpit by a wonderful minister. It was my responsibility to do my own follow-up and searching beyond that. While the minister might state his/her beliefs it was always label as such. I was not required to follow. I was not a bad person or failure if I choose not to.
A UU congregation is a reflection of its demographics, location, history and minister(s). This is particularly true in small congregations in areas that don’t match the normal UU demographics (college town, academics, suburbs). I’ve been a member of a small congregation for five years. It has not met my expectations (which were unrealistic given the location). I have had to face that I’m alone am responsible for my spiritual path and nourishment. God Language is not very welcome in my congregation. I joined UUCF because I needed a place where I could connect with God and perhaps Jesus, in a safe, supporting environment. Attending a revival encouraged me to form a small UU Fellowship within my congregation. There are six of us. (two are retired UCC ministers).
- We all do gravitate to what seems "comfortable" to us. Every tradition has a "natural constituency around them. Church growth experts and church planting professionals can often tell you just what percentage of the surrounding population is your natural constituency.
That being said, the challenge is for us all to extend our boundaries of what feels natural. The purpose is to enrich our journey by pushing out the invisible walls that keep different people at arms length. The joy is to find the common ground, the real-life human stories, the fundamental unity that lies just beneath the veneer of diversity. When a group looks at itself and sees a high degree of homogeneity, it behooves them to see that as a deficit, a deprivation, and a catalyst for shallow conformity. It is a challenge to find those walls and push and push and push them out until perhaps they even fall down under the weight of a passion for genuine community.
Official teaching? I go back to a marvelously insightful piece called Existentialist Theology by a Lutheran minister whose name I can't recall. But the REAL theology of a congregation is the one that they practice. Hell with the dogma! Let's take a chain saw to that dividing power! No, let's watch it fade into oblivion as we walk in the steps of the carpenter.
- ...I find myself relating to so much that has been said. I started out as a Unitarian in adulthood, coming from a background of atheism/agnosticism. I was not raised in any religious tradition. My neighborhood was heavily Catholic so I think I absorbed some of that by osmosis. After attending a UU church for a while I met my husband and was introduced to the Episcopal church. I wanted so much to participate in the communion and was baptized at the age of 32. I love the ritual and the liturgy but have much difficulty with the Nicene creed and just don't feel that I can recite it with conviction. Much of the time I feel that my personal theology is out of step with that and it feels awkward/uncomfortable. On the other hand when I attend the local UU church I feel that in spite of the "tolerance" being preached that it is not okay to use the word God and that Christianity is viewed negatively. It feels weird sometimes singing Christian hyms that have had all the Christian references edited out. So I feel that my theology is closer to what Unitarian theology used to be or perhaps could be if it was a Christian denomination again. Being a part, however small, of this online community helps me to feel that there are others out there who are searching for a way to follow Jesus freely.I long for the day, for example, when I can sit in church and hear a sermon about the Jewish roots of Christian spirituality. Thanks to all for keeping this going.
- My spiritual explorations started with my family as a child in a merged Disciple and Presbyterian church and as a student at an Episcopalian Middle and High School. As a child, I struggled with the stories of God in the Bible. God seemed jealous and manic/depressive/paranoid to me, based upon the stories I was read. I related more to Jesus and his stories, but felt awkward reciting the Nicene Creed at school as it seemed so "black and white" and literal to me. I did enjoy the traditions and the marking of the year by the celebration of Jewish and Christian holidays. I found Communion to be a very meaningful experience for me and throughout high school had communion about 5-6 days a week. I found it "cleared my slate" because I had been taught to forgive myself and others prior to the ritual of communion. However, I have always been a Universalist at heart. I believe God/Spirit is understood by different cultures in different manners and that there are different religions to address these cultural differences. I am uncomfortable with literal interpretations of the Bible and believe that when Jesus said "I am the way", he meant "The way I live my life is the way"…
- Throughout college, I tried many different churches and then just stopped going. I went to college and was told many times by evangelists that I was not going to heaven because I did not believe that the Bible was meant to be taken as literal facts. Then, I found UU'ism and thought that I had found where I fit. However, I find some of the atheist and humanist tendencies difficult because they seem to get angry when people express a belief system that included "God". Also, I felt that some of the church services were disrespectful to the Christian religion and I found the services often more like a lecture I would listen to at the library. Not much "to fill my cup" except for the music. Then, over the past couple years, my daughter and I have struggled with supporting a friend of hers during a battle with brain cancer. I did not feel that comfortable asking for prayers at my church because, other than striving to be tolerant, I did not feel a connection of belief system.
So, I am, once again taking a break from organized religion. I would like to try returning to an Episcopalian Church but fear that I have come full circle. My kids are attached to some of their friends at the UU Church and are reluctant to try other churches. If it was just me, I think I would try other churches, but am not sure what is best for my kids. Anyway, I do find the connection with UUCF helpful for me and am grateful for this fellowship.
- My spiritual disciplines as a Christian are eclectic and unique and varies from day to day or week to week but it includes-a nightly or close to nightly devotional with my beloved wife to be, a liberal Catholic, prayers before sleep, the recitation of the Lord's Prayer and the Prayer of St. Francis, doing Lectio Divina, walking the labyrinth, my beloved is teaching me to do the rosary. I also nurture my inner life by singing sacred music including but not limited to traditional liturgical pieces like Ave Verum Corpus, Panis Angelicus (Father most merciful), and the Gloria Patri (Glory be to the Father), African American spirituals- modern gospel in the tradition of Jeffrey Ames or Byron J. Smith, to innovative pieces like the Chichester Psalms/Bernstein Mas, to Catholic folk hymns like Gather Us In, Night of Silence, or You are Mine. From time to time I will also read theological works by the likes of Thomas Merton, Gene Robinson, and Carlton Pearson. When I need worship outside of a church setting I break out my copy of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer or Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordainary Radicals.
- For me, I have two quiet times per day, one for study and one for contemplation with my hubby at night. During the day, my study ranges from following a guided meditation from the Spiritual Formation Bible (made by Upper Room and printed byZondervan, not the one by Renovare which I found too cumbersome) to daily readings from Alcoholics Anonymous devotionals (I am a recovering alcoholic with 29 years sobriety). I usually quiet myself before the readings, then read them and meditate on them. Following that I journal any insights or thoughts I have. In the evening my hubby (who is a counselor) usually guides us through a 10-30 minute period of quiet and reflection. It really gives me a chance to breath.
- I think we do severe damage to Unitarian Universalism by denying that both have their "tap root" in Christianity. My favorite hymn in worship services is "Spirit of Life" and as the words say...."roots hold me close, wings set me free"......The root that holds me close is Christianity but the blessed wings that set me free is the realization that others in other faith traditions are earnestly seeking "The Way" to wholeness and Love. Too often, I believe, UUs have taken on a process of "revisionism" by attempting to say that UU is (fill in the blanks). Add to that those of us who (and I mean me) came to UU hurting terribly from the exclusiveness we had been taught, and you have a rejecting mindset that leads to irrelevance.
I love the path that I am on within Unitarian Universalism and constantly seek to build upon the work of those that have gone on before. I remember several years ago when I was serving on the church board in a UU church and we were discussing how to grow our membership. I said that if we would reach out to those disaffected Christians in the local community we would grow. I was told to please keep my opinions to myself. (Believe me I still love those people but I feel sad for the short sightedness and the fear that was driving their response.)
I am blown away by the changes that are occurring in Christianity and the Emergent Church movement. I believe we are moving toward a new Age of the Spirit and it is happening whether we accept the taproot of UU or not. I am so happy for this incredible conversation that continues. My Spirit is soaring.
FEEDBACK ON OUR WEB SITE
July 22, 2010: “I just had a Starr King seminarian contact me about finding a UU Christian Church near Berkley. I directed her to the UUCF website. Then I logged on to see what is on there now. WOW! I must congratulate you all for an amazing site! I spent 2 hours "wandering" through it...
...while staying with a cousin, he spoke about how he no longer feels connected to religion. He's much more liberal and can no longer follow the Church of Christ. I told him about my journey away from it also, and about becoming UU. I urged him to look up a UU Church. Now I'm going to send him the link to UUCF.
Thank you for all the work you've done and continue to do."
Blessings and God's Grace,
June 23, 2010: “I am just writing to acknowledge safe receipt of the 3 books that I recently ordered from you which have arrived exceedingly quickly. In fact, the estimated delivery time for another that I ordered at the same time from Amazon in the USA is around 17 August!
Many thanks for your very efficient service. I also wish to congratulate you on the UUCF website which is most interesting and stimulating."
September 8, 2009 : “I have signed up for a monthly pledge. ... I am a member of the bible study list. My family is the only UU Christians we know. We live in Chickasha Oklahoma. I am an *escapee* from fund. Baptist.
Unlike many UU’s, my husband is ‘working class’. He works overnight at a Wal-Mart. I teach in a urban school in Oklahoma City. We are both very liberal in a very conservative town. I also have a fifteen year old son who we are homeschooling. We aren’t a member of any of the local HS support groups, because I can’t sign the ‘statement of belief’.”
Thanks so much for having the great website!
May, 2009: "The latest issue of the Good News is excellent. I especially enjoyed the sermon, "Something We Do." It is unfortunate that there was not a UUCF group in Little Rock when I abandoned the UU "Church" (about the least church-like organization I know of) years ago.
Keep up the good work. Who knows, maybe the organization will at least acknowledge its roots some day, even if it doesn't return to them."