Some of you may have been with us recently when we heard Rev. Jason Shelton speak at Westside. Jason, who is probably
known best as a composer and musician, spoke about how he is a “minister for music,’ rather than a “minister of music.” He explained how music itself is the ministry, and how he just facilitates its work. Jason also spoke about the importance of honoring all six of our UU sources, in our music, in our spoken words, and in all other aspects of worship and community life.
Most of you have probably heard of the 7 Principles of Unitarian Universalism, but may be less familiar with our Six Sources. They are:
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;
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;
Wisdom from the world's religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life;
Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God's love by loving our neighbors as ourselves;
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;
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.
Jason described the 7 Principles and the 6 Sources as our ‘promissory’ note to visitors. When folks come to meet us, they are expecting that these values—espoused on our websites and other promotional materials—are what we really practice. But what does that really mean?
Here’s what I’d suggest, in keeping with Jason’s words:
First, that we actually include language, music, narratives, and ritual practices from all of these traditions, equally and explicitly.
Second, that we honor them equally, not just with lip service but with sincerely open minds and caring hearts. This means honoring those who believe very differently from us, and truly trying to understand what matters to them.
Finally, it means going outside our comfort zones. It means not just showing up for the things that ‘work’ for us, but also for the things that we don’t understand or feel comfortable with. It means assuming that another person’s perspective may have something to teach us. It means truly treasuring, rather than tolerating, our differences.
As we begin a year of thinking about how we, as a community, might be more present and active in our larger world, it’s good to keep in mind the many facets of our own Westside community. We are a community of practicing Jews and Christians, of pagans and mystics as well as atheists and agnostics. We are people who deeply, faithfully believe in God, and people who are committed to the idea that god does not exist. We are scientists as well as seers, people who believe in past lives, people who believe in heaven, and people who believe that when we die, we are completely gone. We are truly diverse, in reality, not just in theory. Let’s be sincerely curious with one another, then, and deeply committed to the inherent value of each perspective, no matter how familiar or foreign.
I look forward to hearing what sources your deepest values, and what inspires your commitment and faith.