When the Spirit Says

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When the Spirit Says

         There is a hymn in the Singing the Journey Hymnal that says that when the spirit moves within you, you have to sing, shout, dance, or do what the spirit says do.  I like the tune and the jazzy feeling to it. 

        My personal theology is a naturalistic religious humanist with theistic tendencies.  As such, I am not certain that God exists, but if there is a God, then we humans are in partnership to co-create the beloved community here on this earth at this time.  The only God I can embrace is a God of Love who is always urging us toward greater love between each other and our planet. 

        Spirituality is both an inner focus as well as an outer one.  I personally don’t pray much since I don’t think that those thoughts are being heard by any higher power.  I do reflect on things when in the spirit of prayer in church.  My reflections are more often tuned to gratefulness for my life and the connections I have with others.  Or they will be focused on someone I know and sending my thoughts of healing and comfort for what they are enduring.  When I offer corporate prayer I usually address the Spirit of Life which enfolds each one of us. 

        We humans have been seeking answers to the big questions since we gained consciousness.  Every religion that has ever existed has tried to grapple with these persistent questions of existence.  The big three are: Where did I come from?  Why am I here?  Where am I going?  These are questions that science cannot answer, only religion.  Each of us must discover for ourselves an answer to each of them that is satisfying to each of us.  Those answers will differ based upon a variety of factors such as where we were born, who raised us, and what experiences we have had in our lives. 

        I have chosen Unitarian Universalism as my path to discover my answers to those questions.  My religious community is a test pad for my exploration of my connections to others and the divine. Here I can try new things and see whether they fit with my understanding of who I am and my place in the world.  I can experiment with spiritual practices such as meditation or art and decide how that affects me.  I can be mindful of all that is around me and learn new ways of relating to others and the universe. 

        All of this is part of spirituality.  I have a book in my library titled “One Minute Wisdom” written to help one deepen the sense of spirituality.  I close with an excerpt. 

 

Spirituality

Even though it was the Master’s Day of Silence, a traveler begged for a word of wisdom that would guide him through life’s journey.  The Master nodded affably, took a sheet of paper and wrote a single word on it: “Awareness.” 

The visitor was perplexed.  “That’s too brief.  Would you please expand on it a bit?”  The Master took the paper back and wrote: “Awareness, awareness, awareness.”

“But what do these words mean?” said the stranger helplessly.  The Master reached out for the paper and wrote: “Awareness, awareness, awareness means AWARENESS.”

Yours in the Faith,

REV DR RICHARD SPECK SIGNATURE

The Future is Among Us

UU Youth

       Over the years that I have been a Unitarian Universalist minister I have heard people in congregations say that religious education and inclusion of youth and young adults is an important value to them.  I also have observed how often the actions within our congregations speak louder than those words of inclusivity.  The actions that I have seen tell me that children need to be strictly controlled to keep out of the way of adults, youthful opinions are not welcome, and worship doesn’t include youth and young adult needs. 

        Lest you think I am being overly harsh, take a good look at your own congregation.  Identify any way you can find where youth are included in the work of the church.  The Youth Ministry Working Group Report of 2009 lifted up some pathways that should be created, or made explicit, in congregations:

  • planning, participating in and leading worship
  • engaging in spiritual reflection and discernment through small group ministries or other programs
  • singing in the choir and providing instrumental music in worship
  • providing religious education to children
  • co-facilitating youth-adult faith development programs
  • providing and receiving pastoral care
  • serving on committees and boards (in addition to youth-specific and religious education committees)
  • helping to plan and lead social service and social justice projects

 

When it comes to our young adults, how connected are they to the life of the church?  Are there young adults on the board or leading committees?  Do they participate in the social activities and worship?  Is there programming that addresses the particular needs of people who might be entering the work world, finding a mate, starting a family, or learning how to live a moral life in a complex media-saturated environment that elevates greed over goodness? 

While it has been thirty years since I was a young adult, I do remember how I had to work at being welcomed in a UU congregation.  I was embraced by my peers and tolerated by my elders.  Is this still true for your church or fellowship?

I discovered this article at the UU Planet site.  It discusses the needs of a young adult with children in one congregation.  Perhaps it will stimulate some discussion within your congregation on what can be done to be more inclusive of young adults. 

http://uuplanet.org/2013/06/13/reaching-out-to-and-involving-young-adults-and-families-with-children/

Unitarian Universalism has been known as a faith where people have come from another religious tradition.  But we also have a solid core of youth and young adults among us.  These people are our future and are with us right now.  How we integrate them into our communities of faith will help determine what Unitarian Universalism will be in a generation.  If we do the right things, they will stay and prosper and bring their energy and talents to strengthen our faith.  If we ignore them and do not provide their needs, we will follow the path of other major denominations and sink into oblivion.  It is your choice.  What will you make?

Yours in the Faith,

REV DR RICHARD SPECK SIGNATURE

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This Thanksgiving hymn is one of my favorites.  Here is the first verse:

Come, ye thankful people, come,

raise the song of harvest home;

all is safely gathered in,

ere the winter storms begin.

God our Maker doth provide

for our wants to be supplied;

come to God’s own temple, come,

raise the song of harvest home.

        The hymn was written in 1844 by Rev. Henry Alford, an English churchman.  As I understand the hymn, we are to give thanks for a good harvest.  The hymn in our hymnal only has two of the four verses in the original text.  The expanded text talks about our lives and our work as the harvest for God. 

        What does it mean to be a thankful people?  Every religion that I have ever studied has a component of being grateful and offering thanksgiving within that religious tradition.  Within Judaism gratitude is a central part of worship and in how one lives one’s life.  The prophet Mohammad said, “Gratitude for the abundance you have received is the best insurance that the abundance will continue.”  And gratitude is at the heart of Christianity.  Buddhism lifts up the gratitude for what your parents have done to nurture you into adulthood. 

        What are the ways that we can show our gratitude to others?  In searching the web, I discovered a site that discusses 50 ways to show gratitude.  I like this quote from the site.  “At the heart of it, Thanksgiving in particular calls us to see people with the deepest appreciation for the gifts they’ve given us. Some gifts are more immediately obvious than others—the type that come with praise, affection, and genuine esteem.”

        Here are just the first ten ways from the site, http://tinybuddha.com/blog/50-ways-to-show-gratitude-for-the-people-in-your-life/:

1. Share a specific example of something they did for you and how it made a difference in your life.

2. Do something little but thoughtful for them—like clean up after Thanksgiving dinner!

3. Give a long, intimate hug; or if you know they don’t like hugs, stick out your hand for a handshake to cater to their preferences and make them smile.

4. Tell them you’re there if they have anything they want to talk about—and let them know they have your full attention.

5. Give them something of yours that you think they would enjoy, and let them know specifically why you want them to have it.

6. Invite them to do something you know they’ve always wanted to do.

7. Encourage them to try something you know they want to try, but haven’t yet because they’re scared.

8. Offer to do something you know they don’t enjoy doing, like organizing their closet or mowing their lawn.

9. Compliment them on a talent, skill, or strength that you admire.

10. Look them straight in the eyes and say, “You make the world a better place.”

As we enter into this fall time of giving thanks, I want to express my thanks to all of you who give of your time, talent, and treasure to lead our congregations, do the ministry that is before you, and keep our churches, societies, and fellowships growing and vital.  May you be blessed with an abundant harvest and celebrate with others this season.