Faith, Spirituality, and Religion: Part One

So I’m preaching in Okoboji, Iowa, this Sunday, and I thought I’d use this space to gather my thoughts on the subject: Faith, Spirituality, and Religion from a Unitarian Universalist Perspective. Here’s what I have so far:

Don’t tell my fellow clergy persons, but one of the best parts of my job as a Congregational Life Consultant for the MidAmerica Region of the UUA is that I don’t have to write a sermon every week. Now some of my colleagues would find that problematic because they actually like to write a sermon every week. That kind of minister is what we call a preacher.

And while I do get to preach occasionally, being a preacher isn’t what I would call my primary identity as a minister. I tend to think of myself more as a teacher. So while I was pleased when I was invited last January to visit you all once again, I was especially excited about the question that was proposed to me: “How would you define the essence of Unitarian Universalist faith to someone who does not know.”

The question sounds to me like a learning opportunity—not just for you, but for me, too. Any time any of us gets a chance to think deeply about our religious tradition and share our thoughts is a blessing in my book. So I want to thank you in advance for your willingness to listen to where my contemplation on the subject has taken me.

My strategy for exploring this question starts with an assumption: in trying got explain the essence of the Unitarian Universalist faith to someone who does not know, it’s helpful to put our tradition in a context the listener might understand. That means starting with an apples to apples comparison of our faith with other faith traditions.

To narrow the focus even further, I thought I would compare some specific concepts associated with religious traditions in general; hence the title: “Faith, Spirituality, and Religion from a Unitarian Universalist Perspective.”

Before I look at those concept, however, I’d like to take a detour and talk a little bit about looking at anything from a Unitarian Universalist perspective. A quick Google search found a ton of topics approached from a UU perspective: congregational governance, lay leadership, salvation, spring holidays, religious hospitality, science, technology and society, prayer, spiritual practice, mortality and immortality—all from a Unitarian Universalist perspective.

So what, exactly, does that phrase mean. If “someone who does not know” about our faith tradition is here today listening to me preach about “Faith, Spirituality, and Religion from a Unitarian Universalist Perspective,” are they necessarily getting an accurate view of what those concepts mean to UUs? Probably not.

That’s because embracing multiple perspectives is an integral part of our tradition (which is really what this sermon is about). What “someone who does not know” would really be getting here today is one Unitarian Universalist’s perspective on those concepts. And most importantly, even those of you who think you know what a UU perspective might be on those concepts are getting the opportunity to have your assumptions challenged and/or your suspicions confirmed.

And that’s what Unitarian Universalism is all about: our inherent worth and dignity is enhanced by our free and responsible search for truth and meaning.

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