What are ten things that all Unitarian Universalists need to know about their faith community? Ten things that are distinctive and unique? Each month, all year long, we’ve been counting down, as a way of celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Unitarian Universalist Association. Now we are down to item number 1!
Item number 1 reflects our shared conviction as Unitarian Universalists that the
sources of truth about sacred reality are many. We believe it. Even though no single religion or way captures the whole truth about sacred reality, still, each one has a piece of it. It’s just like a jigsaw puzzle. The more pieces we have, the more of the whole we can experience. “We receive,” says the Rev. Sara York, “fragments of holiness, glimpses of eternity, brief moments of insight. Let us gather them up for the precious gifts they are and, renewed by their grace, move boldly into the unknown.”
Item number 1 is “The Six Sources”: “The living tradition which we share draws from many sources: (1) Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life; (2) Words and deeds of prophetic women and men which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion and the transforming power of love; (3) Wisdom from the world’s religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life; (4) Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God’s love by loving our neighbors as ourselves; (5) Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit; and (6) Spiritual teachings of Earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.” I love it! We absolutely stand within a tradition of abundance. Ours is a spirituality of adventure!
And what’s especially wonderful about this listing of sources is how in it we can read our growth over time as a religion. Starting with Judaism and Christianity, each source has played an important role in our development as a faith tradition. While in the 1950s to the mid-1980s Humanism was our central and main source, today we are a fully pluralistic people and aspire to draw from all sources in robust ways. Individual Unitarian Universalists will have their favorite Sources, for sure; but as a community striving towards inclusivity and breadth of perspective, our proper and right commitment is in welcoming them all.
Now, at this time I want to point out a curious and wonderful thing: how the previous topics in UUCA’s First Sunday Sermon Series have neatly paralleled our Six Sources:
• In 2008-2009, when our study book was Jonathan Haidt’s The Happiness Hypothesis, the focus clearly echoed our First Source: “renewal of the spirit and openness to forces which create and uphold life.”
• In 2009-2010, when our study book was Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, the focus echoed our Second Source: “Words and deeds of prophetic women and men….”
• In 2010-2011, when our study book was Huston Smith’s The World’s Religions, the focus echoed our Third Source: “Wisdom from the world’s religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life.”
Do you see a pattern developing here? Honestly, I wish I could say that, in the beginning, I began the First Sunday Sermon Series with the intention of covering all Six Sources in order. But as it turns out, it was only this year when I and others discerned the pattern already unfolding in our midst. We were doing something profound and did not know it!
But now we do. And I believe we should continue to allow the pattern to unfold. Let our First Sunday Sermon Series continue to lead us in better understanding the sources of wisdom and truth that animate us as a faith community. It means that in 2011-2012 we will focus on the Fourth Source; in 2012-2013 we will focus on the Fifth Source; and then in 2013-2014 we will focus on the Sixth and final source.
So here and now, let me announce our study book for next year: Marcus Borg’s Reading the Bible Again for the First Time. We simply cannot do better, if we are wanting to understand how we can take the Hebrew and Christian Bible seriously without taking it literally. For Unitarian Universalists, it’s a great read!
The Unitarian Universalist Top Ten. From number 10 all the way to number 1, we’ve taken a look at some need-to-know things about this faith tradition we all love, which has just turned 50 years old this year. Happy birthday, and may there be many, many more birthdays to come!
Rev. Anthony David