Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Third Principle

A couple of summers ago, the Unitarian Church of Harrisburg offered a series of summer services based on Unitarian-Universalism's Seven Principles.  (For the complete list of UU Principles, check out )  At an organizational meeting of the folks who were to be involved in crafting these services, someone mentioned that our minister had each of us specifically in mind for the Principle for which we’d be helping to create a service.

I mentioned this when I got home, and my wife asked, “What’s your Principle again?”  I said, “Number Three:  Acceptance Of One Another And Encouragement To Spiritual Growth In Our Congregations.”

She burst our laughing.

I laughed too.  To be honest, acceptance is not always easy for me.  Frankly, I grumble.  A lot.  About other people.  I clench up inside and start grumbling when I see somebody driving a big SUV, not to mention ANY vehicle with one of those “W ‘04” stickers.  Or "McCain/Palin."  Or anything anti-Obama.  Acceptance is something I find myself struggling with every day.  But I DO struggle with it, because I don’t want to find myself turning into my father. 

My father raised us in an abusive, intolerant household.  Not a day went by without a slur or an epithet of some kind coming out of his mouth.  Like the character of Archie Bunker from the old TV show “All In The Family,” he was an equal opportunity offender -- he seemed to hate everybody equally.  A long time ago, I made a conscious decision.  I could be like him, or I could get out of that house and live a different kind of life.  I got out.

When I come to the Unitarian Church of Harrisburg, I come to the home I did not have when I was a kid.  When I come here, I find myself accepted for who I am, and judged only by what I do.  Here, I am not just listened to.  I am HEARD.  My personal beliefs are not challenged, no matter whether or not those beliefs are shared by anybody else.  I come here and I get to meet, and be friends with, and listen to, and share with:  Pagans and Buddhists and Jews and Quakers and atheists; recent converts, and lifelong Unitarian-Universalists.  What a gift that is!

The Member Reflection part of the service used to deal, not with the sermon topic, but with “How I Became A Unitarian.”  They were fun and they were all different in the details, but week after week, we would hear, more often than not, some variation on these five words:  “It was like coming home.”

Robert Frost said, “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.”  Well, Unitarian-Universalism is the home I have to go to.  And I’m so honored that week after week, they take me in.

As far as my own personal beliefs go, well, personally, I don’t believe in God, and I don’t believe in any kind of life after this one.  But I’ll tell you this:  I do believe in redemption.  I find redemption in Unitarian-Universalism from my grumbling, from my past, from the worst parts of my self, because I share my journey with like-minded folks.  It's a gift I treasure.

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