I started writing this yesterday. And then I got distracted by minestrone and pudding and potlucks and stimulating conversation. Community is good to have.
I very much enjoy Sunday services at the local Unitarian Universalist church. They’re always so uplifting, so focused on positive affirmation, on encouragement and support, on doing good in our own, small ways as opposed to being good according to someone else’s rules, on the search for our own truths and our own beliefs and our own moral codes rather than merely following the text unquestioningly.
Something that has intrigued me for some time is how a group of ppl as diverse in their beliefs as Unitarian Universalists could find anything to agree upon. What binds this group together? In a congregation where you are encouraged to find your own path, what common beliefs and principals bind the community together? Today’s service, which focused on tradition and the passing on of this culture of UU beliefs to the next generations, helps to answer that question: it’s not so much about what you believe as how you believe.
Paul Woodruff’s book on Reverence recently raised this interesting point: doubt and questioning are actually necessary for reverence in religion. About Tennyson, who never explicitly says what he believes in, Woodruff writes, “Doubt supports faith,” and “that he was more religious in his doubt than in his faith.” Then later, in discussing Confucius, Woodruff mentions the sage’s reluctance to state what he believes of Heaven: “Confucius would not resume to speak on behalf of the divine. After all, Heaven itself is able to rule without a word to those below.” Woodruff writes all this to say that reverence is possible across religions, without religion, because of doubt, etc.
And that brings me to my final thought: reverence for the faith of others and reverence for the outwards actions binds this community together. It doesn’t matter what anyone believes in, it matters how they practice their faith. And in the UU community, that means with respect and compassion for others, with service to the community, advocating for social justice, all while searching out the truth for oneself.
It’s funny: I began my quest by questioning the external virtues (see the the beginning of the third paragraph) and focusing on the internal ones, only to discover that the way we act outwards towards our community affects our internal virtues in a crucial way. Always nice to prove myself wrong. It means I’m learning! :p
On a side note, I like the way I began and ended today: a meditation in the morning and reflective reading and writing in the evening. It’s like surrounding my day with Oreo creamy goodness.