Wednesday, September 28, 2016


Driving in to work following the first Presidential debate, I heard a commentator describing the different views of the United States that he'd heard the night before.  Of Donald Trump's he said that it was "negative" and "dystopian," and that it was as if he saw the US as "the skinny kid on the beach with everybody kicking sand" at them.  And a light bulb went off.

None of these are new thoughts, but that image both clarified and anchored something I've heard others saying.  A lot of people in this country feel as though they've become that kid at the beach.   And while not all of them have been used to being one of the most popular kids, they may not have been the big-shot bullies who were busy kicking sand into other people's faces, they were at least in the crowd enjoying the show.  Or, even if not enjoying it, at least knowing that they were safe there, in the crowd, and not down on the sand.

The economy not only crashed for some of these folks, but it has long been transforming in ways that have moved them closer to the country's margins.  And as feminism, and multiculturalism, and a whole host of other challenges and changes to the status quo have come more into the mainstream, these folks who have been used to being near the top of the pile find themselves being more and more relegated to the fringes and the lower areas.

Values, perspectives, understandings that once gave this group clarity, grounding, and a sense of both identity and pride, are increasingly being replaced with confusing new ways of seeing and living in the world.  And "the old ways" are not being outright replaced, they're being challenged or, perhaps even worse, held up for ridicule.

And so the beach no longer feels so safe.  Some of these people believe that they are, now, the ones getting sand kicked in their faces.  (Whether that's unequivocally true or not doesn't really matter.  It feels true to them and so, to the extent that our perceptions are our realities, it is true.)  Others are afraid that they soon will be down on the beach, the place for "losers."

The bullies, of course, are bullies.  We know about bullies.  Very often, perhaps most often, underneath their outward behavior lies an inward fear.  And there are those who actively support the bully -- the bully's "crew."  These folks will crowd around the bully's target, jeering ... sometimes daring to throw in a kick or two of their own.

The majority of the gathered crowd, though, would never dream of actually doing the bullying themselves, and they don't even join the taunting.  They might even think that what they're witnessing is wrong.  But they don't step in to do anything to stop it, rationalizing their inaction with the assertion that nobody's really getting hurt, that the person with the sand in their eyes just can't take a joke or, maybe, for some reason deserves it.

I am coming to believe that it's these people who make up the bulk of Trump's supporters.  They may never have liked what the bully did, but they, themselves, felt safe when the bully was calling the shots.  Everybody knew their place.  The hierarchy on the beach was clear and predictable.  And we feel so much safer when things are clear and predictable.

But now these folks who were once in the crowd either feel that they've become the "skinny kid" on the beach, or fear that soon they're going to be.  And having always given tacit approval to the bullying, they can't help but expect to now be bullied themselves.  And so they look for a bully to come to their rescue, to return things to the way they were before, when things made sense and where they felt safe.

Donald Trump is a bully.  And this bully has surrounded himself with a loyal crew, no question about it.  But it's the people in the crowd -- and not just the ones egging him on but the ones who aren't saying much of anything -- who I really worry about.  I think I can understand their positions, and to the extent I'm right about all of this I can empathize with them.  But they're the ones we have to reach.  They're the ones we have to wake up to the fact that bullies never provided them with safety.  That bullies only care about themselves and that they'll just as easily turn on their friends as they will their "enemies" in order to ensure their own sense of safety and superiority.

As I said, nothing new here.  This analogy has just made it clearer for me than before.

Pax tecum,


Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Through All The Cycles and Seasons

This is the text of the sermon I preached at the congregation I serve, Thomas Jefferson Memorial Church Unitarian Universalist, on Sunday, September 25, 2016.


Of life, 
Born from 
Of light, 
The lens 
Of time, 
And into 
A sea 
Of stars 

That was Suzy Kassem poem, "Circle of Life." 

The Autumnal Equinox was this past Thursday. It's one of the markers of one of those turnings -- the turning of the seasons: spring into summer, summer into fall, fall into winter, and winter into spring again.  The cycle of these seasons has continued, unabated, since the earth tipped 23 1/2 degrees off its central axis about five hundred and seventy million years ago. "Everything turns, rotates, spins, circles, loops, pulsates, resonates, and repeats."   

Most of us are at least slightly tilted off our axis, too.  We, too, go through cycles and seasons.  Ours are not as measured and consistent as the earth's, of course. Roughly speaking, it always takes 24 hours to pass from day through night, and 365 days (give or take) to cycle through the seasons, whereas for us a season might last days, or decades.   

When I was a kid, the singer-songwriter Harry Chapin was telling us that all his life's a circle, and we nodded and sang along: 

All my life's circle / sunrise and sundown/ the moon rolls through the nighttime / till the daybreak comes around.  All my life's a circle / but I can't tell you why. /Seasons spinning round again/ the years keep rollin' by. 
 That sounds kind of right, doesn't it?  Except that it's not. Not exactly. A circle is too neat. Too ordered and orderly. We don't mark the same circuit days after day, year after year -- coming back to the same places we were before, covering the self-same ground to get there.   We live our lives not in ever-repeating circles, but in spiraling cycles. We come back to some of the same places, sure, but coming back to them again we find that they're ever so slightly, and sometimes quite drastically, different because, hopefully, we're different.   Because over the course of our last trip around our own internal sun we've changed.  Grown.  Become someone new.  When Thomas Wolfe said, "You can't go home again," he didn't mean that you couldn't literally, physically return to the place you grew up in, but that if you do you'll find that it's no longer quite the same "home" it was, nor are you the same "you." 

And yet ... 

My brother Paul went to a lecture by the Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield.  At one point Kornfield asked, "Do you ever look in the mirror and, seeing the face that's looking back at you think, 'that's not me'?"  Paul, who had just passed one of those "milestone" birthdays had to say he knew the feeling.  So do I.  Maybe you do too.  "Well," Kornfield continued, "that's because it's not."  Despite all the outer changes that lead our kids and grandkids to look at pictures of us when we were there age and say, "Really?", something stays the same within us.  Something remains unchanging through all of those outer changes ... and all the inner ones, too. 

Those inner changes are what I was thinking about when I said that most of us were slightly titled on our axes.  We may start off spinning straight and smooth, but we don't stay that way for that long.  All throughout our lives we experience things that knock us for a loop, knock us off our feet, knock us off our axis.  Heartaches, failures, illnesses, deaths, the "thousand and one slings and arrows that flesh is heir to."  Yet it's not just the hard stuff, either, that throws us for a loop.  There's a reason people say to "be careful what you wish for."  Those great things, too -- finding that the love of your life loves you, too; aceing that test, that course, that degree; getting the job you'd hoped for; marriage; babies -- all these things tilt our worlds.  And we wobble 'till we find a way to establish some sense of stability in this new position.  We don't, any of us, come round and round again to the same place, at the same time, in the say way.  Spiraling cycles, not static circles -- that's the reality of our lives. 

And yet, through it all, something remains consistent -- something, some one.  There's an "I," a "me," that moves in and through all of those changes.  Even when I look back over my life and see how differently I thought, felt, and behaved in the past, it's still "me" who's noticing the ways I've changed.  This "me" is who is looking out at the face in the mirror, thinking that the image isn't me. 

When French philosopher Rene Descartes wanted to get to the very bottom, the bedrock reality of what is knowable, he peeled away layer after layer of things we think we "know," yet which we really only guess or assume.  I "know" that I'm standing behind this pulpit, speaking to all of you, yet I might actually be lying in my bed, and you all might be characters in a dream.  There's no way, really, to know for sure.  Piece by piece Descartes took apart the edifice of our certainty.  Yet just before he came to the conclusion that there was nothing we could actually claim to know, no reality that we could count on as more than a mere perception, he realized that someone was thinking all these things.  He couldn't know for sure what he looked like, how old he was, where he lived, who he loved, but it was self evident that someone was thinking, and that, whatever else might or might not be true of him, he could know for certain that he was, as he put it, "a thinking thing."  Cogito ergo sum.  I think, therefore I am. 

Many, maybe even most of us probably don't feel comfortable with such a reductionist idea that our essential existence is as "thinking things."  Yet the idea that there is an "essential existence," a "core reality," an "I," a "me," that moves through this life I know as mine -- that probably seems to us self evident.  Yet what is that thing?  Who is, what is, that "I," that "me" who's asking these things?  Who is, what is, that "I" who's listening and thinking your own thoughts about all of this? 

These are important questions, because when our axes are titled in ways we're not yet used to or prepared for, we need to know where to go to find our center.  When we're buffeted about by the winds of change, we need to know what we can hang on to.  For some of us, of course, the answer would be "God," yet that's really not much of an answer because "God" is just a word, a poetic shorthand, and using it doesn't really tell us all that much about whatever it is we think we're referring to when we use it.  So the question of what, precisely, is our center, our anchor, our grounding point remains an open one. 

A few days ago I noticed a full-page ad in Entertainment Weekly for a book called The Forgetting, by Sharon Cameron.  The ad was nothing more than an image of the book's cover, and the words, "What isn't written, isn't remembered.  Even your crimes."  Who wouldn't be intrigued?  It's the story of a young woman named Nadia, who lives in the city of Canaan, where every twelve years every person completely loses every one of their memories. All of them.  After "the forgetting," as its called, people don't know their names, don't recognize their families, can't remember a single thing from the moment of waking up.  So everyone has a book with them at all times, and everyone dutifully writes down everything about their lives, so that when they awake from the forgetting they can remind themselves of what they've forgotten. And over and again they are reminded of these words from what's called "the First Book of the Forgetting:" 
"At the first sun rising of the twelfth year, they will forget.  They will lose their memories, and without their memories, they are lost.  Their books will be their memories, their written past selves.  They will write in their books.  They will keep their books.  They will write the truth, and the books will tell them who they have been.  If a book is lost, then so are they Lost.  I am made of my memories.  Without memories, they are nothing." 
 Can you imagine?  No memories of who you are that are older than 12 years ago?  You may know, the way we know facts from a text book, that this person is your spouse, and these people are your parents, and this stranger you're looking at is your best friend, but you don't actually remember them, not directly, not for more than the past twelve years.  

Some of us come uncomfortably, painfully close.  Anyone who's had any association with Alzheimers or other forms of dementia know well what it's like for someone to lose their memories of who they've been and become "lost."  Yet the situation in Canaan is different, I think, because during those twelve years you are completely lucid, living your life forming new vivid and vibrant memories ... which you know you will forget in no more than twelve years.  The people of Canaan live stuck in a repeating cycle, and are aware of both the reality of their situation and the limits that confine them. 

For the people of Canaan, they live just as you and I do, but they have no "I"  that has traveled with them throughout their lives, no touchstone for when the axis gets tilted. There's nothing to hold on to.  Except, their book. 

Everyone carries their book with them at all times -- tied to them, in fact.  They know that their books are, in that great phrase, "their written past selves" and that "the books will tell them who they have been."  Even in this strange world, people need that.  Need something consistent amidst all the inevitable challenges and changes of life.  Need a sense of identity that can tell them who they've been, who they are, and who they might be.  For the people of Canaan, who have no connection with their past, their books provide them with a "written past self" that helps them navigate the present and points them toward a future. 

What is that identity for you?  What is it that you hold on to when your feet are swept out from under you?  Who is the "you" who looks out at the face the the mirror? 

What gives the plot of The Forgetting its push is Nadia, because she, for some reason, didn't forget during the forgetting.  She remembers.  And remembering, she wants to understand why things are the way they are, and how -- if -- they could be made right.  While the book is written for ages 12 and up, I have to say that I had a hard time putting it down, and really wish it hadn't come to an end.  The plot twists felt completely real, and were completely unexpected.  It was, as my mom hated to hear people say, "a good read." 

What would be in your book?  Who is the "you" you come back to, the "you" who is you, the "you" you can count on when you can't count on anything else.  What, for you, precedes "ergo sum" -- you ... what ... therefore you are?  Our Unitarian Universalist faith doesn't give us the answers to these questions.  It does tell us that they're important to ask. 

There is a danger in what we've been thinking about this morning, that I feel I have to address.   We can get too attached to our anchors, hold too tightly to those things that ground us, limit ourselves by being too bound by what we've been.  It is all too easy to say "this got me through the last axial tilt, so I'd better not let of of it.  Even a little."  We can become almost superstitious about it, like the athlete who insists on wearing the same socks to every game because he was wearing them that time they won.  We can use this sense of "who I've been, and who I am" to fix ourselves in place.  Yet are not meant to be fixed in place.  We are meant to be in orbit -- moving, turning, rotating, spinning, circling, looping, pulsating, resonating, and, yes, repeating, yet never quite exactly in the same way. 

The author of The Forgetting address all of this too, having her heroine write in her book near the end, 
"We are made of memories.  I've read those words every day of my life.  Today I decided that they're true.  We are who we have been.  But it's my choice today that is the memory of tomorrow. It's my choice that determines what I will become.  Not the memories of the past." 
We live our lives not in ever-repeating circles, but in spiraling cycles. We come back to same of the same places, to be sure, but coming back to them again we find that they're ever so slightly, and sometimes quite drastically, different because, hopefully, we're different.   Because over the course of our last trip around our own internal sun we've changed.  Grown.  Become someone new. 

May it be so for us all. 

Pax tecum,


Preachers all know the experience of having to cut a passage (and sometimes more than just one passage) from their sermons.  Sometimes the whole thing is too long.  Sometimes this passage isn't entirely on point.  Often it's one of the passages we really love.  (The sacrifices we make for the congregations we serve!)  Here's one from this past Sunday's sermon:

In 1765 the French literary critic Antoine Leonard Thomas wrote an essay in praise of Decartes and wrote a slightly expanded version of all of this.  It should probably be emblazoned on the walls of Unitarian Universalist churches everywhere. You see, Descartes had not been merely thinking when he had his epiphany.  Specifically, he was in the process of doubting -- doubting everything.  And when he got to the point of doubting his own existence, he realized that the act of doubting required a Doubter and that, in this case, he was the Doubter.  Dubito, ergo cogito, ergo sum -- I doubt, therefore I think, therefore I am. 

Friday, September 23, 2016

Why is it so hard to listen ... and hear?

Last night I attended a public forum hosted by the Blue Ribbon Commission the Charlottesville City Council called into being for the purpose of deciding what to do about the large and prominent statues of Generals "Stonewall" Jackson and Robert E. Lee.  Earlier this year a high school student started a petition to have the statue of Lee removed from Lee Park.  She wrote:
"As a younger African American resident in this city, I am often exposed to different forms of racism that are embedded in the history of the south and particularly this city. My peers and I feel strongly about the removal of the statue because it makes us feel uncomfortable and it is very offensive. I do not go to the park for that reason, and I am certain that others feel the same way."
Last night people from the community expressed their support, and opposition to, the idea of removing the statues.  Some others offered alternative suggestions.  The meeting was, to say theleast, "lively."

One moment in particular struck me.  A man who had grown up in Charlottesville spoke about how the statue of Lee was not only part of the physical landscape of Charlottesville, but the landscape of his life, as well.  He remembered walking through the park as a boy, his father stopping them at the monument to point out that the statute was considered "one of the finest equestrian statues in the world." It was clear that for him, the statue not only commemorates a Confederate General, it memorializes his childhood, his relationship with his father, and the pride he feels for the city he calls home (which, as he said, has something in it so precious as to be one of the finest in the world).

This speaker was white.  Other speakers, African Americans, spoke of other childhood memories -- memories in which they were told not to go into the park because they would not be welcome.  They spoke of the feeling they'd had that this imposing statue, so centrally situated in the city, was a clear and intimidating message to them of their place in the community.  As Zyhana Bryant, the high school student who initiated the petition said, many African Americans feel uncomfortable in the park, and many avoid it altogether.

People who say that "Black Lives Matter" is an unnecessary slogan, who say that the problem it purports to address is one more of perception than reality, who say that it is inherently anti-police and, more generally, anti-white, are missing the point.  It's not just because Black people are more likely to be stopped by police in situations where whites would not be.  It's not just because black people -- especially young black men -- are shot and killed by police disproportionately.  It's not just because the rates of incarceration are so out of balance that it is not only infuriating, it's disgusting and embarrassing as well.  It's all of that, yes, but it's also more than all that.

Last night was a case in point.  A white man said that his fond memories of the statue of Robert E. Lee ought to be -- need to be -- taken into consideration when determining their ultimate fate.  Left unsaid, though no less clearly communicated for that, was that the painful memories of people of color ought not to be considered.  His memories matter.  Their's do not.

And until white Americans are able to really hear, respect, acknowledge, and be moved and changed by the lived experiences of African American, and people of color more generally, then we need to keep repeating that Black Lives Matter.  Until the contributions of African Americans to this country are recognized as being fully as important as those of white Americans -- even when doing so displaces the historical narrative celebrated in the dominant culture -- then we need to keep repeating that Black Lives Matter.  Until we realize that if the "heroes" of white America are not "heroes" to people of color then they are not our heroes, we will need to keep repeating that Black Lives Matter.  Until we -- white Americans -- fully acknowledge (not only with our words but in the way we live) that they -- African Americans -- are not "other than" the us we claim to be as a nation, we will need to keep repeating that Black Lives Matter.

Black feelings matter.  Black memories matter.  Black history matters.  Black lives matter.

Pax tecum,


Yesterday, on the blog of the congregation I serve, I wrote a post expressing my thoughts about the issue of what to do with these statues.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Power of a Promise

It was 1637, and the settlers in what know we today as Dedham, Massachusetts, came together to discuss the creation of a church.  Although the roughly 30 families had already come together to the extent that they were generally able to govern themselves, they had not yet figured out how to worship together.  And that was a pretty important thing back in 1637.

You might be surprised to learn that our impulse to set up “cottage conversations” whenever we have large issues to grapple with was their impulse as well.  For a year those settlers, now neighbors, met in a series of cottage meetings, each one being organized around a specific question.  Given what we know – or think we know – about the religious sensibilities of 17th century New England, we might imagine that the topics for discussion would be things like salvation, damnation, predestination.  We might imagine that in order to come together in forming a church these doctrinal issues would need to be sorted out and that some sort of mutual understanding would need to be reached.

We’d be wrong.  The result of their deliberations was not titled, A Platform of Theological Understandings Gathered Out of the Word of God and Agreed Upon, etc., etc.  Instead, what comes down to us is A Platform of Church Discipline …  In other words, these folks felt that even more important than a unified theological understanding, what was essential in forming their new church was a common organizational understanding.  Not, what would be the common beliefs, but what would be their agreements about how to be together.  (This should come as welcome vindication for the folks who’ve been serving on our Governance Task Force this past year, who know how important their work is but who’ve often felt as if they, alone, have cared about it.)

The Cambridge Platform, as it is more commonly (thankfully) known established the vision of a church built on covenant instead of creed, built on the promises inherent in such principles as investing ultimate authority in the congregation itself rather than in some ecclesiastical role or structure.  The church – the meaning, the very idea of “church”– is defined in the Platform as “a company of saints by calling united into one body by a holy covenant, for public worship of God, and the mutual edification of one another in the fellowship of the Lord Jesus.”  I want to lift up three things in there:

“A company of saints by calling” means people who identify themselves as trying to live a good, moral life.  No outside body or power declares them to be such; they are “saints by calling.”  We could add, they are “saints” by an inner “calling,” an inner recognition that they belong.
Then, the Platform declares that there are really only two reasons for a church to exist – the public worship of God, and “the mutual edification of one another.”  “Edification” is the improving of someone’s morals or intellect; we could say that it involves making someone a better person.  Yet these 17th century New Englanders apparently didn’t think that this was a job for the clergy to do for the laity but, instead, something that they were all called to do for one another – “mutual edification.”  That’s a pretty huge, radical leap from what was more commonly understood at the time, and that’d be more than a little radical in some arenas still today.

But here’s the big one, the thing I really want to make sure we don’t miss:   the church is “a company of saints by calling united into one body by a holy covenant …”  They weren’t called together by God or some other Higher Authority.  And it wasn’t that they had a shared theological understanding; it wasn’t that they agreed on creed.  What brought them together, and held them together, was that they covenanted with one another, that they made promises to one another about the kind of community they were making and how they were going to behave with one another within it. 

The basis of their church is the basis of ours – an agreement to come together in mutual respect, even when we disagree.  What brings us together, and holds us together, are the promises we make to and with one another about the kind of community we are making, and how we are going to behave with one another within it.  Not surprisingly, the settlers who came together and created The Cambridge Platform are, indeed, our religious ancestors.  There’s a direct line from them to us.  When we ask ourselves, as we’ve been doing this month, what it means that we, as Unitarian Universalists, are “a people of covenant” – this is what it means:  that what brings us together, and holds us together, are the promises we make to and with one another about the kind of community we are making, and how we are going to behave with one another within it. 

Earlier we read together the words of our covenant.  I’ve often thought that when someone signs the book to formalize their membership in this community, or when we recognize our new formalized members during a Sunday service, we should have them raise their right hand and ask them:
·         Do you promise to communicate with compassion and respect, especially when we disagree?
·         Do you promise to celebrate diversity and nurture our inclusivity?
·         Do you promise to embrace each of us spiritually and emotionally?
·         Do you promise to promote social justice within our congregation and the larger community?
·         Do you promise to generously support the ministries of the church with time, money and enthusiasm?
·         Do you promise that when someone has fallen short, you will lovingly call them back into covenant, and hope that others will do the same for you?

I wonder if there’d be people who would decide not to sign if they knew that doing so meant saying “yes” to these promises.  And I wonder what it’d be like if during that same New Member Recognition Service the rest of us were asked to raise our right hands and reaffirm our commitment to these promises, too.

There is such power in a promise.  It’s true that commitments can challenge us. Think about New Year’s Resolutions – most of us make them and then break them, and have done this so many times that we hardly ever make them anymore.  Or, when we do, we take the resolve out of them by saying that we’ll try to do this or that but, you know, “I can’t make any promises.”  Making a promise, a commitment, is saying that I’m going to go for it with all that I’ve got; that I’ll resist giving in to excuses; that I’ll make the effort a priority; that I’ll stick with it even when it’s not particularly comfortable to do so or when I don’t really feel like it, thank you very much.  I understand the reality that all I can really ever do is try my best, but a promise is a way of saying that I don’t intend to use that as an out.  As Grand Master Yoda so famously said, “Do or do not.  There is no try.”  That’s the spirit, the heart, of commitment; and commitment is the heart, the spirit, of covenant; and covenant is at the core of our Unitarian Universalist faith tradition, and it’s the heart of who we are as Unitarian Universalists who’ve come together to create this community of faith. 

So we promise to communicate with compassion and respect, especially when we disagree.  And that means, of course, that we’re willing to disagree, that we’re willing to risk disagreeing.  And yet even in this open-minded and open-hearted community we often hold back sharing all of who we are, and how we think, and what the world looks like through our eyes.  I guess we often do this because we don’t want to offend anyone.  I know that we sometimes do this because we fear rejection even in this loving and inclusive community.

The first congregation I served had a Unison Affirmation we repeated each week at the beginning of our Sunday sanctuary service.  There was a line in it that said, “We respect differences of opinion, and strive to be a democratic community.”  More than once I felt the need to challenge them on this, asking, “How do we know we respect differences of opinion if we won’t risk having any?”
Take our prized theological differences, for instance.  How often do we really talk plainly, openly, without inhibiting qualifiers, about what we really believe – especially with someone we know – or suspect – believes something else?  I’ve often observed that we UUs seem to have a theological “don’t ask, don’t tell policy” –  I won’t offend you by telling you that I believe in God, and you won’t offend me by telling me that you don’t.  We appear to respect our differences, even though it looks like that because we try to avoid calling attention to them.  The surface may appear calm and clear, yet underneath it’s all pretty murky.

Here’s the thing – maintaining a semblance of acceptance always … always … comes at the cost of the real thing.  Let me repeat that:  maintaining a semblance of acceptance always comes at the cost of the real thing.  And it makes the next step, the one our faith tradition calls us to, eager engagement with difference, virtually impossible.  You see, I don’t want you to hold back in telling me about your Atheism.  I already know how the world looks to a Theist.  I already understand what a belief in God – what I mean by that phrase, anyway – I already understand what a belief in God adds to my life.  I got that.  What I don’t know is what life without that belief looks like.  I don’t know how your life is enriched by your belief that we humans are all there is, and that reality consists of what we can taste, touch, feel, and see.  Clearly it is, but how it is, is a mystery to me.  And unless you dare to tell me, I’ll never know.  And you’ll never know … for sure … that you can.  We’ll express a respect for one another’s different views, but we won’t actually know them.  So we won’t actually know each other.  And TJMC won’t really be what we say it is, what we tell the world it is, what we truly need it to be.

And that’s just one example of the power in the promises we make that make this community.  Read them over again at some point, and see how challenging they are.  And I’d don’t mean just how challenging it will be for me to really live that way, but also the challenge they offer me to go deeper and live more fully.  The much celebrated “seven principles” of Unitarian Universalism are also a promise, a covenant, a challenge.  (You can find them on the UUA’s website,, or on ours,, or in the front of the grey hymnal.)  These are not statements of what UUs believe, no matter how many times they’re described in that way.  Instead, they are a series of principles, and it is the covenant to “affirm and promote” them which brings together, and holds together, as the Unitarian Universalist Association of Affiliated Congregations.  (The UUA’s full and formal name.)

What it means to say that we Unitarian Universalists are “a people of covenant” is that we are not bound together by shared creeds, but by shared commitments.  Those commitments form our covenant, and that covenant is what makes us who we are.  Or, at least, it can.  It can.  If we trust one another, and trust ourselves, enough to put it into practice, we will make real who we say we want to be.  If we can’t, or don’t, we’ll be just show.  And I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have the real, than the show.

Pax tecum,