By Maria Cory and April Kelsey
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Many will recollect the legendary song, "Colour My World" (1969), written by American musician James Pankow, one of the founding members of the jazz/rock fusion band Chicago. Although this trombonist's tribute to his first love via the influence of John Sebastian Bach's work on the song's creation is not our focus, the song's title and fundamental sentiment are worth applying to our Sunday Morning Forum "lesson."
On this community canvas, attendees painted designs of their favored colors that best represented their thoughts and emotions. Some painted flowers and ribbons; others rendered the well-known Unitarian Universalist chalice or added abstract designs. During this creative flow, Joanne emphasized the importance of expressing one's unique traits and allowing them to connect us to others within a community of caring. This message was reinforced as the painters "interwove" their images on the canvas, creating a tapestry of color and sensation.
Our innovative facilitator also invited attendees to color mandalas ("circle" in Sanskrit) for crafting a paper quilt. These ritualistic symbols, signifying the universe in Hinduism and Buddhism, can be any geometric pattern that represents the cosmos metaphysically or symbolically. Representing wholeness, these cosmic designs suggest our relation to infinity and can be used in meditation.
Interactive classes are indeed community-building within the Fellowship and beyond. We are grateful to Joanne for the tactile reminder of "the bigger picture" as we paint the stories of our lives on the canvas of our world. Pankow was on the right sheet of music! What greater purpose than to "colour my [our] world with hope of loving you" [our neighbors near and far]. May our artistry be harmoniously inspired; may the Masterpiece be the blended beloved community! So may it be!
by Sarah Pierce-Davis
But, lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how politics impacts and is impacted by religious convictions. Because whether we think politics and religion should be intertwined in America—and almost everywhere else—they undeniably are!
Of course, we employ separation of church and state in this country according to our first amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”. And that separation is even more relevant today when some political parties are working to codify their religious convictions into policy and law.
Unitarian Universalist (UU) Minister Jessica Purple Rodela says, “Religion is political. To separate religion from politics renders religion irrelevant and politics lethal!”. She makes the point, “Every one of our Seven Principles is a political statement”! In fact our UU tradition calls us to speak out against and work to correct injustices in our systems and institutions. Ultimately the way to do so is to engage in the political process!
Unitarians and Universalists have long stood at the forefront of those actively working against threats to our world community—be it the fight to end slavery, the struggle for women’s voting rights, or action against Hitler's deadly racism. Unitarians and Universalists marched for civil rights, and more recently as Unitarian Universalists (UU’s) we are “Standing on the Side of Love” in solidarity with our LGBTQ brothers and sisters, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the ongoing struggle against economic and political oppression in America.
Someone else we can always find “standing on the side of love” is Jesus! The true radicalness of his message was that every human being is our neighbor! Every one. Those who think he was apolitical, or only interested in the spiritual realm may have been misinformed.
Why bring up Jesus and the Bible today? Because much of the Bible lines up with our Unitarian Universalist values and our Seven Principles. And even if one doesn’t give authority to the Bible, many people in our society do, which makes understanding how the Bible reinforces our principles a powerful resource in our quest to bring justice, equity, and compassion into the public sphere. If we can speak the language of those with whom we disagree, how much better our chances for productive dialogue!
Not surprisingly, UU’s have thought about this and have spoken eloquently on the subject. One cogent argument (available on the Unitarian Universalist Association website, uua.org) comes from the Rev. David McFarland, serving the UU Cache Valley Congregation, Logan, Utah:
"The Bible is holy scripture because it is the living document and the foundation of many important faiths, including Unitarian Universalism. To abandon the Bible would mean alienation from one of the world's most important influences on religious thought: liberal and otherwise. Unitarian Universalism, as a tradition with radical Christian roots and many members from Jewish and Christian backgrounds, offers liberal interpretations of the Bible, which can bring inspiration and solace to all."
The Rev. McFarland goes on to say that our UU Principles are saturated with biblical concepts and ideals. He notes, for example, that our concept of respect for the interdependent web of all existence can be found in ideas throughout the Old Testament Psalms and the Prophets, originating with that same God of Genesis who declared the goodness of creation.
We might also find the Bible relevant due to its twenty centuries of centrality in Western European, Middle Eastern, and American civilizations—touching law, art, music, literature, architecture, and geopolitics.
In reviewing the biblical principles that inform my politics and my Unitarian Universalism, I discovered that although Unitarian Universalist spirituality is living and unbound, it still draws from Hebrew and Christian scriptures as well as science, nature, philosophy, personal experience and ancient traditions.
In liberal religion, “revelation is not sealed”. Truth is personal and evolving. This is spelled out in our Fourth Principle, which encourages “a free and responsible search for truth and meaning”. It is in stark contrast to the traditional Christian belief that revelation was sealed after the Apostolic Age, and that Truth is absolute, fixed and unchanging. We can read the scriptures with the new eyes of our liberal faith and seven principles: There is still inspiration and wisdom to be found in the Bible.
Speaking of truth being personal, the brutal Roman oppression and corrupt collusion of the priestly class in first century Palestine shaped Jesus’ worldview. I am still a follower of Jesus because despite being confronted with evidence to the contrary everywhere around him, he still managed to recognize and preach the inherent worth and dignity of all humans, and the interdependent web of all existence. He preached Love and he preached Justice. And according to Jesus, Love and Justice are inseparable! His sayings and parables are full of stories pointing out that we are all one human family, and that our “neighbor” truly is every other human being—most especially, those less fortunate than ourselves.
I’ve found that our Unitarian Universalist First Principle—the inherent worth and dignity of every person—is directly in keeping with the Bible’s “loving your neighbor as yourself”. It follows that when any group is oppressed or disenfranchised it becomes our sacred and moral duty to act against injustice even if only to become more aware of how we may inadvertently benefit from or perpetuate it. It further follows that if we humans are part of the interconnected web of all existence, then harm to any strand of that web impacts and impoverishes the whole. Therefore, we must act.
I’ve also found that the phrase “fear not” occurs 74 times in the Bible. So, when a politician or a political party tells me I am to fear and defend against others who don’t look and act like me, I know that message to be the exact opposite of the Bible’s message from the Old Testament through the entirety of the New Testament.
Next, the word “love” occurs about 538 times in the Bible (depending on the translation). Most of the time it’s in the form of a commandment to love others—or an affirmation of God’s love for us!
Even the Old Testament, or Hebrew Bible, which is rejected by many UU’s for its violence, says this: “Protect the person who is being cheated” (Jeremiah); “Do what is just and show constant love” (Micah); “I command you to be open-handed toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land” (Deuteronomy); “Treat the stranger who sojourns among you as the native among you and love him as yourself” (Leviticus).
The New Testament is equally explicit calling us to, “Love our neighbors as ourselves”; “Do unto others as we would have them do unto us”; and “love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us” (Matthew and Luke). 1 John reinforces, “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?” The Bible explicitly and repeatedly calls us to “follow the way of love and seek all spiritual gifts” (1Corinthians)!
When looking at political candidates, we might ask ourselves are they speaking the politics of love or of fear? Is there an emphasis on finding common ground, or is the focus on all that separates us? After all, George Washington himself said, “We have abundant reason to rejoice that in this land the light of truth and reason has triumphed over the power of bigotry and superstition...” Elsewhere, he stated, “I had always hoped that this land might become a safe and agreeable asylum to the virtuous and persecuted part of mankind, to whatever nation they might belong”. There is a long road ahead to even begin to live up to those ideals and UU’s will help make it happen.
Isaiah perfectly expresses a liberal religious and political voice when he says: “Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes!”
In Unitarian Universalism, we talk about how we can make the tent as big as possible to encompass all our diversity both politically and philosophically. I suggest that the Bible has a progressive voice, which can add to the conversation, and help us build a religion and a world where there is room for all!
Sarah Pierce-Davis is a member of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Peninsula. She chairs the Caring Committee, is a member of the Leadership Development team, an organizer for the spring yard sale, and an active member of her hospitality team.
By Maria Cory
The Evangelical movement has been marked by its union of four emphases: on the Bible, on the cross of Christ, on conversion as the entry to the Christian life and on the responsibility of the believer to be active. Acknowledging that this vast subject could provide enough content for copious forums, April stepped us through the political, religious and psychological climate surrounding a number of significant published declarations, to include:
In Evangelical Thought: John Wesley and Jonathan Edwards, author Frederick Dreyer states: "What John Maynard Keynes once said of ranting politicians in the twentieth century works for ranting preachers in the eighteenth: 'Mad men in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler a few years back.' Faith, like thought, is a historical event that occurs in a specific historical context and ultimately it must be explained in that context. It may be our deepest wish to think like St. Paul, but it is hard to do so in ways that St. Paul would have understood. Few men can insulate themselves against the intellectual influence of their time."
In light of extreme confirmation bias in our everyday lives, forum participants noted how challenging it is to extrapolate truth and positivism from the media or from any source of communication. Worthy is our time to engage in historical study and contemporary application, including the exegesis of sacred texts and the hermeneutics of all forms of communication. Faith is a deeply personal experience; and one's perception—one's truth—is one's reality until someone or something changes that understanding. Relationship takes time and a willingness to open the door of our minds (and our hearts!).
The propensity to prove "my way is right, so yours must be wrong" may be difficult to surrender. In some ways, it seems a natural desire to know one is on "the right path"—not necessarily regarding solely spirituality, but in all things in life. Topics like April's enlarge our frame of reference. After all, As Unitarian Universalists, we assert that our tent is large and inclusive by welcoming and respecting diversity in this faith journey.
In the spirit of this season of gratitude and generosity, let us continue in self-education to know and reach out to those who remain strangers to us. After all, the heart of the Beloved Community, for which we strive to create here on earth, would suggest there is room at the table!
Grow in Wonder – Connect in Love – Engage in Service – Inspire Generosity
By Maria Cory
Our thanks to Dr. Sandford (Sandy) Lopater for bringing ”Historical, Religious, and Philosophical Origins of Our Sexual Attitudes" to our Forum discussion table. As a Professor of Psychology at Christopher Newport University (previously, Christopher Newport College), from 1974 – 2015, our fellow congregant has helped shape the attitudes of many a student.
Like all attitudes, noted Sandy, sexual attitudes have something to do with three things: thinking, feeling, doing—which is why it is so challenging to change a mind-set, and subsequently, behavior. "Sexual drives are seemingly innate, natural and instinctive. The biopsychosocial approach to sexual behavior involves the interacting influences of our biological selves, our interpersonal relationships, and the social codes and culture in which we live."
The lens of history again provided insight to understanding our present and molding our future. Areas highlighted include:
With religion having a profound effect on what one discerns as "normal, appropriate, right, and wrong," sexual values in this country have been closely aligned with our Judeo-Christian heritage. The facilitator noted that students are surprised to learn that some of the most significant influences on American sexuality are not current manifestations, but date back thousands of years (e.g., the male dominant tradition, premarital intercourse prohibitions, masturbation). Indeed, our sexual attitudes and expressions continue to evolve.
During this month of great thanksgiving, Gratitude is in hearts and deeds of many. We can be especially grateful that doorways are opening to transform repressive and oppressive sexual attitudes and behavior through increased opportunities to learn about and understand perspectives and actions different from our own.
If living out this process and our values transforms our lives and our world, that is reason enough. Mama told me so!
You may have noticed a memorial display set up outside made by our 9:30 a.m. class students in support of the White Supremacy teach-in. We learned that at least 90 people were lynched in Virginia after the Civil War. Students were also invited to view the movie “Marshall” to further their understanding of the Civil Rights Movement.
This year’s Festival of the Season will be held on Saturday, December 2nd from 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. We will have crafts to make, cookies to decorate and the sanctuary tree to trim. Thanks to Jim Sanderson, we’ll have plenty of cards for the children to sign for seniors at local care facilities. Let us know if you have a friend or family member at one of the local nursing homes, and we will deliver personalized cards to them.
For the last few years, we have offered a RE-Gift store at our Festival of the Season. If you have gently used items that would make nice gifts for someone else, please plan to donate them to the RE-Gift store. If you have items that didn’t make it in our last yard sale, now is your chance to give them another life. The store is open to everyone of all ages. Please plan to bring items to the RE room at the Fellowship from now until December 2nd.
See You in the RE!
By Maria Cory
Sunday Morning Forum is pleased to have welcomed the Reverend Andrew Millard to its podium upon return from his sabbatical this past week! Pastor Andrew's November 5th presentation carried special emphasis because in England the date marks the "Guy Fawkes Night" celebration, when bonfires and fireworks help commemorate the foiled attempt in 1605 to blow up Parliament and the king.
The annual ceremonial burnings of effigies have often been viewed as acts of thanksgiving, but a more thorough historical appraisal offers insight into the inter-religious conflict and political oppression of that time.
History often repeats—a trite but true statement! However, an obvious deduction is to learn from our past so that we may improve the future. Using England's historical illustration as a backdrop, the facilitator invited the class to discuss the importance of religious freedom in our own age.
These and more questions were explored, but all led to a similar conclusion. Unlike some other countries, the United States affords rule by the people versus rule by a monarchy. In affirming Unitarian Universalist's Fifth Principle—the right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large—we claim a voice and a means to effect change! How appropriate a discussion during this election week!
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., paraphrasing Theodore Parker, said: "The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends towards justice." Teacher and students agreed: Cast your ballot; be an active voice! May coming to the table in a spirit of understanding and peaceful compromise be the gateway to true Freedom!
By Maria Cory
Our UU Fellowship would agree! A hero came along to Sunday Morning Forum this week when Brad Harper rendered an enthusiastic presentation about "The Hero (and Heroine's) Journey."
"What does it mean to be heroic?" opened Brad.
Having the courage to face our fears, to explore the unknown and to take action, answered a number of participants. These responses echoed the sentiments of educator, author and world mythology expert Joseph Campbell: "The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek."
Looking at the common structure of some of the greatest heroic stories, Brad gave a comprehensive account regarding self-discovery, living a fully realized life and "following our bliss," as Campbell describes. Multi-stepped wheels for both the Hero's and Heroine's Journey helped illustrate this quest for wholeness—a quest that calls one to a deep internal journey of transformation which is as important as the external adventure—bringing our Conscious and our Unconscious into balance.
"I've lived this journey in the process of getting to where I am now," said Brad. "My method of presentation may have been flawed, but I believed in my vision!" he added referencing a lifetime dream of becoming a published author.
Brad expressed his gratitude regarding people who have helped him grow and gain wisdom along the way—both in his personal trek and in realizing his aspiration to publish a written work. "A Knife in the Fog," slated to be released in October 2018, is the culmination of his hard work and perseverance. What adds to the exuberance he conveys is that a sequel, “Queen's Gambit," is charted to be in print and on the shelves the following year!
"Each of us in our individual journey(s) to grow, to achieve, to create something larger than ourselves, has taken the journey. I am in the presence of heroes," Brad proclaimed humbly and thankfully to his friends who join him in this voyage of faith.
The feeling is mutual.
Brad’s joie de 'vivre and strength of character are gifts to our Fellowship. Grateful for the champions throughout all time, we remain joyful that this hero came along….
"Dreams are hard to follow
But don't let anyone
Tear them away
There will be tomorrow
In time you'll find the way.
And then a hero comes along
With the strength to carry on
And you cast your fears aside
And you know you can survive
So when you feel like hope is gone
Look inside you and be strong
And you'll finally see the truth
That a hero lies in you."
Excerpt from the song "Hero," written by Mariah Carey, Walter Afanasieff
Happy birthday to all our members born in November!
If you are a member and have a birthday in November that we overlooked, please contact Bobbie Schilling; firstname.lastname@example.org.